10 Ways to Become the Go-To Attraction for Repeat Visitors

Joslyn McIntyre

February 24, 2021

For most adventurers, attractions like Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and Madame Tussauds are bucket-list items – places you have to visit at least once, but don’t necessarily visit every week. This status as must-see tourist attractions served certain venues well – they didn’t need to focus on attracting repeat visitors. Until it didn’t.

In 2020, tourism hit quite a hiccup. According to National Geographic numbers, before the pandemic, global travel was an $8 trillion industry, with 1.5 billion people traveling every year worldwide. By mid-2020, things looked bleak. Tourist arrivals had fallen globally by over 65%.

While temporary, for attractions used to drawing in crowds of tourists and first-time visitors, it’s been an uncertain time, forcing venues used to tourist traffic to do some soul searching. That quest ultimately leads back to one place: close to home, where locals available for repeat visits and others within easy driving distance are an audience prime for the picking. 

But how to suddenly pivot to appeal to repeat visitors as well as intrepid tourists still venturing forth? And is it worth the effort? Won’t things go back to normal soon?

They will. But even without a pandemic in the picture, it makes sound business sense to aspire beyond the travelers’ bucket list to be an everyday attraction for local folks. Even as travel picks up again – and inevitably booms – repeat visitors will always be a high-value asset.

To draw in local staycationers, daytrippers, and a wider variety of visitors in general – and to get them to come back again and again – here are ten ideas.

1. Reward the loyalty of returning visitors

Get loyalty from your customers with a free gift.

If you want to entice returning visitors, step one: reward them for their loyalty. Maybe not an innovative idea, but certainly an essential one. 

Perhaps your venue already offers an annual membership, and that’s great, but not everyone is ready to go big after their first visit. There’s a vast gulf between a one-time ticket and a whole year’s commitment. 

A baby step is to offer a discount to repeat visitors within a certain period of time. Or better yet, create a loyalty program with incentives.

This is a model a lot of retailers and service companies use, but it hasn’t been widely adopted by most events and attractions – which is odd, because it works. In fact, Nielsen says 84% of consumers worldwide are more likely to choose retailers that offer loyalty programs, and 75% say discounts and freebies are the perks that matter most.

To translate, the loyalty model for an experience-based business like yours might offer things like first dibs on tickets to new exhibits, special entry to VIP events, and other frequent-attender perks. Or, it might simply mean something like “Come ten times, get your eleventh entry free.”

2. Hand them a door prize when they exit

Exit sign on a tree.
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

Another way to attract repeat visitors: offer a door prize as they leave. Instead of a swag bag, offer a gift that will bring them back: “Thank you for coming – and when you come back, the first drink is on us.” Nobody likes to waste a drink ticket!

You might also extend this concept to other freebies such as parking, exhibit entry, and snacks. Use your imagination and offer things they can slip into their pocket or purse. People will often come back for these types of loyalty incentives.

Alternately, consider a virtual door prize. If you capture email addresses during registration, capitalize on that data to automatically send a “Please come back!” email when the visit is over, including a promo code for their next visit. A poster with a barcode positioned at the exit is another way to tune folks in to their virtual door prize.

3. Create a recurring “locals-only” event

People standing at a market inside a big building.

The California Academy of Sciences has long held a Thursday evening “Nightlife” event for locals that attracts a hip local audience eager to mingle among the flora and fauna. Drinks are served, DJs invited, and a lively crowd follows.

The weekly mix-and-mingle, which requires a ticket for entry, usually follows some sort of science theme, but it’s distinctly an evening meant for socializing rather than educating. In fact, Nightlife has a reputation as a see-and-be-seen event – with a lot of highly instagrammable backdrops. While most exhibits are open to browse, for locals, the focus of the event is on the social milieu.

For your particular museum or attraction, an adults-only evening party might be a similarly good fit, or you can explore other options – for instance, monthly lunch-hour classical concerts or Friday-night movie screenings. Work around your operational capacity, but be creative.

4. Host a free or heavily discounted locals day

Women walking in front of a wall of tickets
Photo by Dylan Mullins on Unsplash

Once a week or once a month, consider offering locals a steep discount on entry to your attraction. This might seem counterintuitive to profits, but it breeds loyalty among nearby crowds and builds momentum for your business. 

Xcaret is banking on returning visitors to stay afloat in this time, so this group of amusement parks in Mexico currently gives local residents a 40% discount – a generous offer those in the region have been grateful to take repeated advantage of in a time when they can’t travel and are looking for fun things to do.

Another version of this idea might be to offer free entry once a week, with paid access to limited-time-only exhibits. Giving locals free entry to the main area brings a crowd, and that builds momentum for the paid experiences, as well as for repeat visitors.

5. Evolve your experience over time

All types of attractions can take a page from the museum playbook: rotating exhibits frequently so fans are apt to visit more than once. By offering changing themes and experiences, there’s always something new for repeat visitors to enjoy.

Even better if those experiences are unique and memorable – which is why many venues are starting to create immersive experiences. IDEAL, a digital arts centre housed in a historic cinema in Barcelona, immerses visitors in an audiovisual experience with shows such as  Barcelona Memoria Fotografica, which translates to “photographic memory of Barcelona.”

Check out our webinar on immersive experiences to hear how IDEAL uses technology to keep local visitors interested and attract international visitors when they can visit again.

6. Become a culinary destination

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

One of the most potent types of memorable experience you can offer, of course, is culinary. Be the zoo that makes the best chili dogs in town or the only museum around with chef-quality brunch. 

“Yes,” you think, “but we are not a restaurant, and our cafeteria is not up for that kind of transformation.” There is always a way! For instance, bring in a local guest chef or hire a food truck. Partner with community culinary notables and you get not just a great eating experience, but a boost in marketing to their own fans.

The Retreat Farm in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA, transformed its sleepy venue – essentially a petting zoo for children – into a community social anchor when it invited local food trucks to show up on Thursday evenings. From June to September, dozens of eclectic food trucks circle around the Retreat Farm green, guest bands play on a makeshift stage, and hundreds of people of all ages show up to dance, eat, and socialize. The Food Truck Roundup put the Retreat Farm on the map for a lot of community members who now make Thursday nights a weekly visit all summer long.

7. Pivot into a rebrand for kids, families, or couples

Speaking of families, they’ve had it rough in the last year, with many schools closed for in-person learning and parents with far fewer options in terms of educating and entertaining their kids. They’re looking for fresh options, and that could be you. Is there an aspect of your attraction that’s ideal for positioning as a family-friendly experience?

Becoming known as a destination for all ages is a smart long-term strategy for attracting more types of people and returning visitors. A lot of venues, for instance, rake in regular extra revenue as a space for children’s parties.

Along the same lines, there’s an opportunity for a lot of venues to capitalize on the pandemic craze for micro-weddings. Your space may not have been right for hosting big crazy weddings in the past, but now that much smaller, more intimate weddings are the thing, consider the possibilities. You could become the hot new destination spot for betrothal.

8. Become your local mental refuge

Another timely way to position your attraction? As a place of respite, refuge, and safety. This is a smart strategy for a time when people are generally nervous and overwhelmed. Be the experience they can safely enjoy because you’ve instituted strong health and safety protocols specific to a pandemic, but also because the experience itself lets people cut loose and relax.

Of course, one of the main safety strategies venues are asked to employ during a pandemic is social distancing. Venues that used to count on profits from packing in crowds now must limit the number of people who are onsite at once. This creates a dilemma. A lot of venues are managing the challenge by instituting reservation policies and systems that spread crowds out over a larger period of time. Another option is to raise ticket prices for a more “exclusive” experience that’s guaranteed to be crowd-free.

Keep in mind, too, that building a reputation as a sanctuary during a troubling time will pay dividends later when crowds – and profits –  return to normal. In fact, there’s a psychological principle called mere exposure effect that causes us to enjoy things more if they’re already familiar. We’ve done it once; we know it’s safe, we can relax and get more out of it. So this is a strategy that will serve you beyond 2021.

9. Extend your reach with a strategic, data-founded approach

Many of these tips are great for attracting new and repeat audiences – but only if you know how to get the word out. Social media is obviously ideal for spreading awareness of your venue and experience, but you have to go beyond merely posting to your existing audience if you want to attract more and repeat visitors.

Lean into social media targeting to create paid advertising that will reach specific demographics, such as those within an established geographic area or a particular generation or interest group. For instance, if you want to attract a younger crowd of returning visitors, there are plenty of solid strategies you can use on social media to do so: targeting, hashtags, hands-on storytelling by your expert in-house talent.

10. Team up with local partners

You can be sure that there are other local organizations eager to widen their outreach, too. Partner with them to create a united front of local tourism. Government and tourism organizations are often willing to pitch in to these efforts as well, since helping out local businesses boosts the economy of the entire area. 

In the Czech Republic, cultural sites have banded together to offer half-off entrance fees for locals. With multiple venues in the mix, this type of campaign can gain traction quickly, using word of mouth as a powerful marketing driver. 

One more bonus tip that encompasses all of the above and is probably pretty obvious: offer a great customer experience every single time. This is by far the best way to foster visitor satisfaction that translates into returning visitors.

And that experience, of course, includes the ease of finding and buying tickets online. First order of business: become the easy go-to venue of choice for locals who know they can save a spot easily through your app or website. Make their experience easy, safe, and memorable from beginning to end, and repeat visitors just might become your new business model.

Learn about how the right online ticket booking software can prepare you for a post-pandemic world.

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