The Return to Fun: 10 Theme Park Marketing Tips to Attract More Visitors
The world is definitely ready for some good old-fashioned fun, and tourism is back with a vengeance! For theme parks – the actual epicenter of fun – there’s a huge opportunity right now to attract crowds.
But with attractions all opening back up at once, what would make an eager traveler choose your park over another? That’s the question.
At the end of the day, it always comes back to theme park marketing – both online and offline. Digital marketing is an incredibly effective and economic way to promote your theme park. But the non-digital aspects of your marketing efforts will never become irrelevant.
In this post, a mix of both: a total of 10 ways theme parks can grab the attention and loyalty of visitors eager for a return to fun.
When you think about marketing, no doubt you first think about digital marketing – all the ways you can promote your theme park online. Here are five of the most effective digital marketing tactics for theme parks.
To make sure all your digital marketing efforts are worthwhile, first things first: optimize your website. This might sound like marketing jargon, but a well-done website is critical for down-to-earth reasons.
In general: make sure your site loads quickly, works flawlessly, and makes intuitive sense to people landing on it for the very first time. Do all the buttons and links work? Are there hangups in the checkout process? Having an optimized website is a baseline for any theme park looking to attract new visitors today.
If you don’t have your own hashtag, are you even a theme park? Not these days. From #findyourfun (Fun Spot Orlando) to #magicishere (Disneyland), smart theme park marketers come up with catchy hashtag slogans to use across social media platforms.
Visuals, too, are key to grabbing people’s attention as they scroll. Imagery can have a huge impact in an endless feed of distracting posts, and people are far more likely to remember information that was paired with imagery in a post. That includes graphics, memes, and photos, but more importantly, it requires video. According to Hubspot, video has become the primary form of media used in content marketing.
One of the most effective and inexpensive ways to promote your theme park these days is by encouraging your visitors to post about their experiences with you. We call this user-generated content, or UGC, and it can include things like selfies taken with theme park characters or against striking backdrops.
According to the Online Marketing Institute, 85% of people consider the UGC they see in their feeds more authentic and persuasive than traditional marketing or advertising. It’s the best possible way to increase brand loyalty and engagement via social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
But be careful encouraging your visitors to video themselves on rollercoasters and other rides. Safety first, as you know. Instead, create specific opportunities to encourage visitors to take photos and videos at intentional moments: suggest views, backdrops, and characters that would be most picture-worthy. This helps get visitors invested in sharing the story of your theme park, which is a big marketing win.
A classic example of this kind of marketing is Disneyland, which is well known for its roving character actors. Visitors to the iconic theme park can get a photo snapped with any number of characters, from Cinderella to Cruella De Vil.
In one respect, theme parks have it easy with marketing, because it’s never hard to find the right target audience: families during school holidays, friend groups on weekends, school outings. To make the most of this obvious segmentation, take advantage of the highly specific targeting available with social media advertising.
Social media ads can be targeted toward the exact audience you’re trying to reach with a digital marketing campaign. When advertising a loyalty program, you can also dial in on an audience within a certain geographical radius of your theme park, or within specific demographics: say, parents of young kids with a history of purchasing tickets to events online.
With all the high-tech ways to reach consumers today, email is still king. It’s consistently ranked as one of the most highly effective marketing platforms – not surprising, with the number of global email users expected to reach 4.48 billion by 2024.
Email is a great way to stay on the radar of people who’ve visited your park in the past or have it bookmarked for their bucket list. To grab the attention of visitors-to-be, standard practice is to offer a promo code or another perk for signing up for the newsletter.
Email marketing in general is a low-pressure, regular reminder of the fun to be had at your venue. It’s also a pretty low-stakes marketing method, with email marketing software being fairly inexpensive, email addresses easy to obtain through your registration process, and templates making design possible for anyone.
Just be sure you’re following the rules of email marketing regulation, which your email software provides guidelines for.
Digital marketing is incredibly effective, but it only works if you have something to promote in the first place. That’s where offline marketing efforts come in. Here are five ways to underpin your digital marketing efforts with substantial marketing tactics and programs.
As summer winds down, depending on which hemisphere you’re in, it’s a good time to think about off-season promotions. As you design these, think about what will be most enticing to visitors. For instance, 20% is nice, but would “$20 off” sound more appealing? Also consider listing the “standard” price alongside the discounted price for extra impact.
Once you have promo deals designed, show them off. Gardaland, a popular amusement park and resort in Northeast Italy, currently has a 20% off summer offer in action – the promo is one of the first things you see when you visit the theme park’s website.
Use all the digital theme park marketing tools at your disposal – not just on your website, but on all of the digital channels we mentioned above, including social media and email marketing.
Consider developing a prestige program like Disneyland Paris’s Disney Premier Access, which allows members to skip the lines at popular attractions like Big Thunder Mountain and Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain. The Land of Legends theme park in Istanbul offers a special annual pass called the Legendary Card: 365 days a year of unlimited entry. These sorts of loyalty programs bring in new visitors and, importantly, get them to come back.
Who takes advantage of unlimited passes and premier access? Locals, a lot of the time. This makes this theme park marketing tactic especially important in a time when travel restrictions are still in effect in plenty of places. Marketing your loyalty programs to local audiences is a smart way to capitalize on your efforts year round – not just during peak holiday seasons.
Offering a deal on group visits such as birthday parties, family reunions, school field trips, and corporate outings can bring in a whole group of people at once. Elitch Gardens in Denver works to co-create parties with visitors, and even has a sales team established to help organize the events.
To position your theme park as the best place to hold an event or celebrate a special occasion, drive home all you have to offer:
In fact, depending on your venue and resources, you may have the ability to offer exclusive events at a higher fee.
Pro tip: Hosting an event at your venue is just one way of tapping into a new audience using partner marketing. Get more ideas for advanced partner marketing strategies in this free e-book.
Right now, it’s safe to assume that if your attraction is open, it means you’re taking precautions to keep visitors safe and healthy. That might mean things like extra sanitization measures, mask requirements, social distancing efforts, and hand sanitizers spread throughout the facility.
While your safety measures might be a given, promoting them offers your visitors extra assurance that you have their health in mind. Consider posting your COVID protocols front and center on your website, in your email marketing communications, and on social media profiles.
Check out how Disneyland Paris goes into detail about its enhanced health and safety measures on its website. During summer 2021, Gardaland currently requires an EU digital COVID certificate for entry. If a visitor doesn’t have one, they’ll refund the cost of their swab.
“As we make our return to travel, trust and visibility are incredibly important for people right now,” said Stacey Leasca, travel journalist, when interviewed for the Tiqets ebook The Immediate Future of Tourism: Strategies for Recovering Strong This Summer. Leasca and the other experts interviewed all agreed that post pandemic, trust is the new currency of tourism.
Of course, when you work with an online travel agent (OTA) like Tiqets, you get more exposure by virtue of their built-in audiences, which are generally rather large. In a typical OTA partnership, the OTA gives you a dedicated page on their site that can be easily surfaced in a search.
OTAs offer a few other particular advantages in your marketing. For instance, they often have blogs and other promotional material where they promote their attractions. They may also allow you to set up OTA-specific special offers for your visitors, such as a “skip the ticket line” entry to Gardaland Amusement Park.
At Tiqets (an OTA), we spent a large portion of the latter days of the pandemic supporting our attractions with virtual tours of their venues, which were promoted on the Tiqets site and social media platforms. Tiqets’ most recent summer campaign, Summer of a Lifetime, encouraged people to get their spark back with the best museums and attractions around the world and prominently featured the venues we partnered with in the campaign.
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