15th June 2020

10 ways to make your visitor attractions website COVID secure

Martijn van der Heijden
Head of Strategy

A man and woman wearing face masks standing 2 meters apart in front of a large painting
Photo: Stadel Museum in Frankfurt, one of the European museums that has reopened 

UK zoos are opening from 15 June, with plans for other visitor attractions ‘soon thereafter’. However, a visit during this pandemic will be a different experience. How can attractions communicate this to visitors, before they book a ticket, during, and afterwards? 

For Deeson and its clients in this sector, I searched for guidance, gathered examples in the UK and Europe, and collected inspiration from other sectors. Here’s 10 tips!

1. Communicate what’s new

The best way  to "communicate a commitment to supporting the Government Guidelines on Covid-19 in public messaging." (guidance by UK/Irish Zoos and Aquariums) is to be specific about what has changed for people visiting a specific attraction. Start high level, then address more detailed questions people might have. Some of the issues I see mentioned frequently:

  • how visitors can keep distance, also upon entering and exiting.
  • if there is a one way system in place, and what this means. 
  • what visitors can bring and what not
  • what parts of an attraction might be closed, including shops, cafes and restaurants and toilets. 
  • why visitors need to buy a ticket in advance, and how they can.
  • what extra cleaning regime there is in place.

The Kroller Muller museum conveniently divides its guidance in ‘before your visit’ and ‘during your visit’. If you look for completeness, the Corona protocol page of the Dutch amusement park Efteling wins. It even has a separate section on the toilets!

Looking at other sectors: the reopening page of retailer John Lewis strikes a great balance. Clear, well laid out, and visuals with safe but smiling people.

2. Be flexible where you can

During lockdown cultural institutions and visitor attractions have gotten a lot of sympathy from the audience, it would be foolish to squander that by being stricter than necessary. 

I appreciate how the Design Museum in Den Bosch is clear about when not to visit, but is flexible about changing a pre bought ticket: “Please don’t come to the museum if you are suffering from health problems. Previously booked tickets can be rescheduled for a later date without difficulty.”

3. Make it visual

Guideline 39 of the safe reopening protocol of Dutch Museum Association protocol says “Use text in combination with imagery (icons) where relevant and possible”. 

ZSL London Zoo uses icons on their site and offline.
ZSL uses icons on their London and Whipsnade Zoo websites.

Although icons are most powerful if people have seen them before, especially social distancing illustrations lend themselves perfectly for a bit of playfulness.

How Lost Gardens of Heligan communicates social distancing completely on brand

Part of the social distancing poster of The Lost Gardens of Heligan, a botanical garden in Cornwall. Thanks to Bernard Donahue from ALVA for sharing.

4. Show a preview video

Video already was a great way to show visitors what to expect. Now it can provide even more reassurance and guidance by going through a visit step by step. 

The Painshill Park & Trust created this good video that shows what the visitor can expect.

5. Update your online ticketing system

Where previously some attractions sold tickets valid for an entire day, or (in case of zoos) whole seasons, now they need to sell tickets for specific time slots in order to manage the number of visitors. Due to social distancing the maximum number of visitors is also lower. For example Kew Gardens is currently admitting only a third of their normal maximum number. At ZSL’s London Zoo we realised there might thus be a bigger demand and we put in place a queuing system for their online ticketing. More about our Covid work for ZSL in a separate blog soon.

6. Don’t forget members and pass holders

Many people become a member or get a year pass for an attraction to be able to just walk in whenever they want. This is not possible under most countries’ guidance. So attractions have to make sure they communicate this clearly, for example via email. Anthony Rawlins came with an interesting suggestion: ask members booking a ticket to already pay for next year’s membership, as a way to support an attraction in these times.

7. Update your terms and conditions

A boring but important detail: make sure you review your terms and conditions, update them where necessary, and make sure visitors agree to them when buying a ticket. This at least includes giving consent with the hygiene measures and health issues policies. I am wondering though if one should require people to sign a waiver to avoid attractions held liable for possible infections - as the organisation of a Donald Trump election rally did...

8. Send a pre-visit reminder

People are forgetful. So reminding them of the changes close to their visit can be very useful - and it might be worth looking for different channels like SMS to make sure you really reach your visitors.

Airline KLM does a good job by sending an SMS reminder 2 days before a flight.

Airline KLM does a good job by sending an SMS reminder 2 days before a flight.

9. Inform on site

The Rijksmuseum offers 3 one way routes, and points visitors to use their multimedia tour app on them. I expect to see more attractions encouraging visitors to use their phones on-site. For example, for finding out what services are open/closed, to virtually queue for a specific exhibit, or to pre-order food.

You don’t necessarily need to have an app for this! A few (mobile optimised) pages on your website could also do the trick. If you offer free wifi at your venue, you could even set these pages as the start pages once a visitor logs in.

10 Show why people should visit

The homepage of Blenheim Palace makes clear what visitors need to do, uses icons, addresses members, and still show the beauty of the attraction.

Blenheim Palace makes clear what visitors need to do, uses icons, addresses members, and still show the beauty of the attraction.

With all this thinking and talking about Covid-securing a visit, one may easily forget what people are coming for! The fun of an attraction, beauty of a garden, splendour of a historical venue, art and reflection at a museum. The shared experience of being away with their family. So in all communication, let us not forget to show what makes a place worth visiting. Mention what’s on view, show pictures with people in them, include the luscious views in a video.

Finally: let's not get the focus on reopening diminish the attention for online engagement. During lockdown cultural institutions have been very creative and successful in offering content, competitions, and commerce online. Digital departments have won in visibility and voice internally. Don't let us loose this. For inspiration, check our previous blog A Grand Day In? Visitor attractions in a time of lockdown.