Attractions worldwide struggle with managing the great ebbs and flows of tourism demand, particularly in the period that I have come to call “super peak season”. For many attractions, those 25 days of the year account for almost 20% of their visitor numbers. This “super peak season” consists of the summer school holidays (18 days) and the Easter week (7 days). Attractions need to focus all their energy and efficiency on ensuring these super-peak days are well managed. But accommodating such a large influx in visitor numbers is not a simple task – as building costly infrastructure for just 25 days a year is often not possible nor economically viable.
Here are some tips as to what can be done.
- Capping daily capacity
Attraction managers usually view capacity management only from a health and safety point of view but they should also consider that if 20% of their annual visitor-ship have a poor experience during peak periods, how does it negatively impact business from a word-of-mouth marketing point of view? It may feel counter-intuitive to turn business away at the ticket office but capping your visitor numbers during peak days ensures all on site have a better experience. This improves your social media and word-of-mouth ratings and has the added advantage of encouraging visitors to plan and book in advance – thus providing you, the attraction manager, with advance information.
- Increased staffing
Hiring seasonal staff is essential, not just for the extra six months of the tourism season, but another set of seasonal staff just for the super peak period. Well-trained, highly visible and enthusiastic staff are essential to ensure that your super peak season is a success. Students are often keen to obtain work experience and the trick is to sign up staff for both December school holidays and Easter. On-boarding (training) staff is a time-consuming and costly process, but remains significantly more cost-effective than building infrastructure that is not required for the remaining 340 days of the year.
- Focus on the bottlenecks
All attractions have bottlenecks – whether it is at the ticket office, toilets, parking facilities, or soda fountain. Focus on identifying where they are and then managing and increasing the throughput at that point. The bottlenecks are the areas where you can make the greatest difference to your business.
- Spread the demand curve
Hotels, car hire, bus companies and airlines have long charged differing rates, depending on demand; even restaurants provide half-price specials in their pre-dinner slot. Now attractions are starting to consider this too. The aim is to shift and spread the demand curve so that visitors are spread throughout the day and week, thus providing a better experience for all on site. The aim, important to note, is NOT to increase the price just because it’s the season; this will backfire as the experience you are providing has not changed.
Consider offering reduced fares during the quietest times of the day (Table Mountain Cableway offers half price at sunset), or offer reduced fares for pre-booking online (City Sightseeing Hop on Hop Off Bus gives a reduction for online tickets - allowing them to pre-plan the day, and even the Kruger National Park now allows pre-booked day visitors to manage capacity flow). Some sites provide an early-bird special to encourage early arrivals.
- Be prepared
Review your peak season operations whilst the season is still fresh in everyone’s minds; i.e. within the next few weeks. What worked and what did not work? Where were the bottlenecks? Remember to ask the staff on the ground for feedback as what is planned on paper may work out very differently in practice. Now is the time to brainstorm improvements and to plan how to do a trial run through Easter. This gives you time to do a final review and change plans before summer 2017 … before the whole cycle starts again.