Confirmation that England's social-distancing rules are coming to an end on 19 July, also being dubbed ‘Freedom Day’, will be welcomed by many frustrated Brits who have faced continued restrictions these past 16 months. But with just over 48,161 new daily COVID cases confirmed and Health Secretary Sajid Javid declaring it, “a new phase of continued caution”, the ongoing mixed messaging can make it confusing for businesses to know what the right thing to do is for their customers. The British Medical Association (BMA) has advised that we “keep some targeted measures to control the spread of Covid-19 in place after 19 July in England, amid a continued worrying rise in case numbers.”
Whilst the health and safety of staff and customers remains paramount, is there a risk of losing custom by continuing to impose safety measures that aren’t a legal requirement? Research signifies not. Analysis conducted by transaction and customer engagement technology provider Omnico, who surveyed 4,063 UK and US consumers, saw 62% of respondents say they will book or visit elsewhere if safety measures aren’t satisfactory. This is echoed by findings from Decision House who are currently undertaking regular visitor confidence and sentiment research across the UK for Association of Leading Visitor Attractions’ (ALVA). Their survey showed 75% of the attraction-visiting public are not ready to remove COVID-19 safety measures.
Visitor Attractions are feeling challenged to rebuild visitor confidence that they are a safe place to visit, with many feeling like there’s a long way to go before they can return to ‘normal’. So how do venues and VAs rebuild trust, protect the health and safety of its visitors and staff without alienating those seeking an experience that’s the same, if not better than before? With ALVA releasing its voluntary reopening guidance, we’ve examined 5 safety measures that venues will be likely, and wisely, continuing to implement.
1. Reduced capacity
Maintaining a reduced capacity in order to avoid overcrowding will enable venues to retain some control around social distancing. For the hesitant visitor, they’ll feel reassured by less crowded spaces while those wishing to eschew social distancing won’t feel ‘controlled’. Using signage that encourages visitors to respect a comfortable distance with others will help strengthen this measure. While reduced capacity obviously has an impact on revenue, it’s an important step in rebuilding trust and delivering a good experience all of which will lead to future custom.
Indoor seating areas may also need to stay reduced to maintain distanced space as well as easy to follow one-way systems. Venues may even wish to go one step further by allowing visitors to determine their own comfort levels for interaction from staff and fellow visitors. This Wisconsin grocery store made use of colour-coded wristbands to aid consumer confidence.
Keeping up a high-level of visible sanitation is important for maintaining a confidence in prioritising health and safety. Cleaning teams should be front and centre, showcasing the great job they’re doing to keep everyone safe. Keep sanitising stations readily available around the site and encourage conscious hand-washing with signage. Sanitised notices may still be used to signify a clean and safe area to sit in cafes and restaurants to encourage more people to spend time and money in these areas.
3. Booking requirements
Considering timed entries to help spread the flow of visitors evenly will help increase the safety of the site. Varying prices across different times of the day could be a good way to nudge people towards less-busy times and assist with visitor flow. Mandatory online bookings, especially during busy periods such as weekends is also good practice to manage capacity.
“I am happy to go as long as it’s a bookable ticket so I know it won’t be too crowded”
Offering some time slots available for ‘walk-ups’ will appease those who prefer flexibility.
“During the school summer holidays we will continue to ask members and visitors to pre-book visits so we can make sure the flow of visitors around the zoo is well-managed. Members can additionally visit without pre-booking any day from 3pm when the zoo is quieter. “ - ZSL London Zoo
4. Face masks indoors
It appears the majority of the public will still be adhering to face mask protection inside. Data Duopoly’s recent poll on LinkedIn & Twitter showed 87.8% would remain cautious and still use face coverings. Ongoing requests (whilst obviously can’t be enforced) to wear a mask in enclosed, indoor spaces (unless a visitor is exempt from wearing one), will be a comfort to any anxious visitors. This is especially important where adequate ventilation and distancing are often not possible
5. Hands-free technology
As customers remain concerned about touching shared surfaces, technologies like QR codes and contactless kiosks can be used to limit public interactions. Implementing a contactless system such as in shops, cafes or the car park not will not only make visitors feel safe, but also provide them with a sense of control. The efficiency of these systems will also reduce waiting times, potentially freeing up staff who could add value elsewhere.
Virtual queuing is also being implemented in many venues. Universal Studios has been using a virtual line system that allows guests and others in their party to schedule a time to go on specific rides, eliminating the congested queues of pre-COVID times.
Digital improvements could also see an uplift in spend. Research undertaken by Oracle around theme park consumer trends showed 41% of families would love to interact via a dedicated mobile app for ordering of food & beverages, with 52% saying they would buy more if they could avoid queues and order ahead. This was increased to 60% for millennials.
Improving digital capability is a measure that’s almost become mandatory and expected to outlast the pandemic. As Omnico states, “using technology to better manage the flow of visitors can guarantee stringent levels of safety for both staff and customers – while also ensuring that capacity is always optimized.” This is precisely what Data Duopoly aims to achieve with its XplorIT product. It offers visitors a personalised experience to better discover and navigate venues while identifying pinch points in real time, re-routing visitors to prevent congestion and maintain social distancing. Oracle’s research also showed 60% of respondents said they would like to see hotspots on a map in order to avoid the busiest places in the park proving there is very much an appetite for this type of technology. Our nudge notifications also manage visitor flow by offering discounts from nearby food & beverage vendors.
Overall it’s important that venues and attractions are being open and communicating clearly about the safety precautions in place which will provide the much-needed comfort visiting-public are clearly seeking. Deana Scott, Chief Executive Officer at Casino and Hospitality consultancy Raving Consulting, agrees and adds “managers need to be out there, training employees, inspecting the premises, and providing reassurance to customers during their visit to ensure they come back.”
Whilst you’re always going to have some visitors that pushback against safety measure requests, particularly if there is no longer a legal requirement, there’s definitely a strong appetite for them to remain as research has shown. Having a strong health and safety presence as a priority during this critical time provides an opportunity to build deeper and lasting relationships with your visitors and could be the difference in seeing initial hesitant visitors returning for months to come.
 ALVA Attractions Recovery Tracker (wave 9, 17-22 June 2021)  Q. Please tell us in your own words how you currently feel about visiting attractions after they have re-opened to the public. ALVA Attractions Recovery Tracker (wave 9, 17-22 June 2021)  Data Duopoly LinkedIn & Twitter poll 13-15 July 2021 41 respondents