Research seeks to help build trust and confidence in reopening

AIM spoke to Bernard Donoghue, Director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) about the Attractions Recovery Tracker, their pivotal visitor sentiment research that seeks to understand how organisations can build the visiting public’s trust and confidence during the coronavirus crisis. 

Commissioned by ALVA and led by Decision House, the Attractions Recovery Tracker research is conducted online using representative samples of the attractions-visiting public. It seeks to cover two practical issues: how should visitor attractions physically present themselves on re-opening to build public trust and confidence, and what communications messages should be put out to build that confidence and capture the public mood. 

The first of an anticipated four to five waves of the research was published on 30 April, with the second released on 22 May, timed to follow on from recent UK Government announcements around relaxing the lockdown.  

Whilst the research necessarily covers a broad range of attractions, there are some strong and consistent messages that are of importance to all, according to Bernard. 

“Our members are all very different. For some, likely to open first, such as parks, gardens, zoos and safari parks – they have their reopening strategies in place, they want to make sure that they are very visibly demonstrating their commitment to safety and best practice.  

One of the strong things that came through in the first wave of the research is that visitors want front of house staff to be actively policing social distancing measures. They are very confident about staff at visitors attractions doing the right thing and behaving in the right way, but less confident of their fellow members of the public doing that, so there’s a real onus on that first wave of visitor attractions that open to get it right. If they don’t, that may well effect how all visitor attractions are perceived.” 

As ever, front of house is of critical importance, a challenge made greater by the fact many teams may have been furloughed for some time. 

“Many front of house teams have been furloughed for the last six or seven weeks and are coming back to that really vital role. Getting it right, behaving professionally and warmly and doing all the things they normally do, but also that policing aspect, that’s a big responsibility.”  

ALVA are also drawing on lessons from abroad, where lockdowns may have already eased. 

One of the things we’re looking to do with our webinars is to get directors of museums, galleries and visitor attractions in parts of the world where they have already re-opened to talk us through how they managed that, what the effect has been and what they’ve learnt. Regardless of the size of the visitor attraction, big or small, everybody is facing very similar things. For example in terms of staff morale, many have been forced to be away from buildings and collections that they desperately care about, it has a mental health impact – it doesn’t matter if you are the V&A or a very small civic museum. 

Whilst acknowledging the challenges, Bernard remains positive about the future.   

I see this as an opportunity to create our own more perfect normal – abandoning inherited practices to engage with our staff and visitors in more authentic, honest ways and to stress the importance of what we do and the value that has. All the public are saying we are the places they want to come back to first and that they miss most and that is a huge responsibility but also a great privilege.  

Read the Attractions Recovery Tracker here  

Bernard Donoghue will be speaking at AIM’s virtual conference, Roads to Recovery on Thursday 18 June. Book for this session here.