With the busy summer season over, this is a good time for tour and attraction operators to reflect on how their booking infrastructure handled the influx of visitors, both from domestic and international markets.
Crowds, no space, long lines and fully loaded attractions inhibit a positive overall experience for visitors.
At a certain point, museums, parks or attractions leave the visitors’ “comfort zone,“ even if they have not yet reached their capacity limit. This is a critical issues since the experience is known to play an important role in ratings, recommendations and the decision to visit again.
Lost revenue potential due to infrastructure overload
Staff are busy nonstop, all tables are occupied and visitors lose the desire to wait in lines:
Since it is no longer possible to meet all of the guests' needs when a particular attraction is at full capacity, the operator loses revenue.
In other words, there is an operational revenue maximum. The same visitors would very likely consume more at a different time in a more relaxed environment for the existing infrastructure.
So although excess demand may initially seem desirable for suppliers, it often represents lost revenue potential. Those tours, activities and attractions that recognize this potential and manage it intelligently will be able to position themselves far better economically.
At the micro level, the same picture emerges: peak occupancy rates result in both negative effects on the visitor experience and lost revenue potential, such as in the sale of merchandising or catering. The goal here is therefore to create incentives and communicate them accordingly in order to guide visitors into the comfort zone or to optimally exploit sales within the framework of the existing conditions (personnel, warehouses, points of sale, supply infrastructure) and to minimize lost potential.
Flatten the curve: how to make the best use of high demand
While an offer or a destination is struggling with overtourism when viewed through a macro lens, there are, with few exceptions, always periods or partial offers with free capacities at the same time.
The key management strategy in dealing with overtourism must therefore be to balance (permanent) peaks in demand by redistributing them to either off-peak periods or with alternative offers.
This is the only way to increase the number of actual users or tickets purchased.
Implementation of the above points requires two things above all: real-time knowledge about ticket bookings as a basis for decision-making and a digital, technical infrastructure that encompasses the entire user experience - from discoverability to the booking itself to the redemption of the ticket.
For example, modern booking systems first provide a clearer view of the number of tickets sold or seats available, ideally including all distribution channels, such as the company's own website, online travel agencies, Google Things to Do or reseller networks. Intelligent forecasting tools additionally help simulate future utilization peaks. Added to this are insights into customer segmentation, which allow incentives to be developed from this in the first place to optimize utilization.
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The rest, simply put, is audience flow management through incentivization and communication. First of all, this again includes making free capacities visible to potential customers on all sales channels, a feature of most modern booking systems that is now firmly integrated (albeit at varying levels of quality). This added visibility provides better visitor guidance and aids the purchasing decision.
Another decisive control element is, of course, price, or more precisely, the active optimization of price categories. As before, lower prices are a great incentive for filling less popular times. Conversely, price increases at peak times can help significantly reduce the number of visitors and thus make the experience more pleasant for the remaining visitors - without any loss of revenue. Especially after COVID regulations and getting used to positive experiences in less crowded attractions, many customers continue to value privacy or smaller groups - and are willing to pay extra for this exclusivity.
While dynamic pricing is a clear indicator to your guests of your peak times, it is still a good idea to explain any such measures to prevent overtourism in a clear and appropriate context. Overtourism, price adjustments and steering approaches should therefore be understood as part of marketing communication.
The technology is there; the mindset needs to change
The use of visitor management tools was made necessary by COVID and now can be put to use for a positive purpose.
This technology to deal with crowds and capacity issues is available, has proven its worth and has already been implemented in many places.
What is now missing is the change in mindset of operators, who should use these new tools to optimize their offer - sometimes in a completely new and possibly counterintuitive way.
A good mix of different ticket categories and dynamic time window pricing is made possible for any operator of attractions and destinations thanks to digital booking systems. This, with the added help of digital interfaces to OTAs, reseller networks and search engines, has laid a solid foundation for macro-level visitor routing.
Hear from Tiqets, GetYourGuide and others at The Phocuswright Conference 2022 in November