Friday, 29 April 2011

Predicting visitor numbers

The nightmare for developers and promoters is a new theme park with the rides operating, the music playing but no visitors anywhere in sight; a new museum with the doors wide open but the galleries and halls empty of visitors. Imagine a newly opened restaurant, the staff all bright-eyed and eager but not one customer at the tables. Chilling visions for anyone who develops a visitor attraction or leisure venue in the belief that people will flock through the doors in numbers great enough to ensure success.

There are probably few if any cases where absolutely no one came to a new attraction, but one can think of any number where not enough people turned up and the attractions slowly faded away.An article written in 1999 by Rob Hall of Envirometrics in Australia addressed the issue of forecasting visitor numbers and it contained thought provoking comments and some useful principles for considering this knotty and difficult subject, even though written 12 years ago. It can be found here.

Carefully conducted surveys of the market,  rigorous profiling of the resident population within various drive times of the attraction,  combined with focus groups can give very useful indications of future market response. History has shown however that unless the sources of information are interpreted with skill, there is a high risk of expecting more visitors at the door than will actually arrive. It sometimes needs a strong minded consultant with a well argued case, to convince the client that he (or she) if not 'barking' then is at least being over optimistic!