What do our visitors really want?

  • 02 December 2014 | Saambr | Category: Research

This is a question often asked by managers of many different attractions: aquariums to nature reserves, science centres to museums, tourism-based attractions such as whale-watching charters, and environmental education facilities.

Most facilities spend large sums of money every year, trying to make sure that their attractions are world-class and that visitors have a wonderful experience. Each day thousands of visitors pass through hundreds of tourist attractions throughout Southern Africa, but do we really know what they are thinking or what they would like?

"Understanding your visitors" was the theme of a recent workshop that Professor Roy Ballantyne of the University of Queensland conducted jointly with uShaka Sea World conservation strategist Judy Mann. The workshop was hosted by the Two Oceans Aquarium and attended by 34 participants from a wide range of attractions in the Cape Town area.

Participants at the research workshop held in Cape Town at the end of November 2014

 

The workshop covered the theory of visitor research and gave participants the practical skills required to undertake basic research within their facilities. Combining theory with practical activities ensured that participants left with a far deeper appreciation of why understanding their visitors is important, and how to go about gathering the information that is needed to reach visitors more effectively.

The workshop was positively received, with many calls for similar workshops to be held in future. As one participant said: “It is very rare that one walks out of a training session as satisfied, excited and full of ‘to-do list’ ideas as we did yesterday.”

With ever-challenging budgets it is essential that visitor attractions use every opportunity to connect with their visitors. Whether our attractions are aimed at helping to save the world, save a species, inform our visitors about our natural wonders, or simply letting visitors forget the realities of their daily lives, getting to know their needs will help every attraction to achieve its goals more effectively.

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