Across the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally impacted almost every aspect of our lives – including how, when and where we spend our leisure time.
Having been around as a business for over half a century, we have seen our industry successfully manage through all manner of circumstances, and it has always bounced back. Now too it is reawakening; it can and will adapt to thrive yet again.
A constant, binding feature of our industry through the decades has been a basic human need for shared, rewarding experiences – be they museum galleries, theme park rides, or attractions. Visitors crave authentic experiences that make emotional connections; unique interactions in time and place that cannot be replicated remotely on a small screen. The pandemic has done nothing to change that.
The big question now of course is: how? How does our industry continue to provide for that need in a safe, welcoming way? How does it encourage and excite visitors to return after these long months of lockdown? And how does it plan ahead for a successful future?
Sarner is here to help our clients navigate the challenges and seize new opportunities. Our teams are busy working with our clients, strategising and designing for the short and medium terms.
A few things are clear. First, immersive experiences are here to stay. Visitors still have an undiminished appetite for shared multisensory experiences that deliver on emotion and learning. Communal concepts and delivery mechanisms may have to adapt and evolve to new circumstances, but we understand how enabling technology and strong storytelling can achieve this when united. The beauty of this combination is in its adaptability – from reorienting visitor flow and interactivity, to telling stories in a different way or in a completely new environment. Reinvention can lead to a better visitor experience.
As the attractions start reopening, the challenge for many will be making sure remobilisation is achieved safely for staff and visitors alike, while not compromising on experience and value-for-money. Short-term strategy may seek to achieve a happy medium: to cover costs and maintain a safe, satisfying experience that rebuilds visitor confidence for the future. But now is also an ideal time for owners and operators to go further, taking a good look at all aspects of their visitor offering and ask: what can we do better?
We’re able to advise and assist our clients in many ways right now. We’re helping them solve the challenges of social distancing in queuing and circulation. There is a balance to be achieved between controlling visitor flow while still allowing visitors to feel in charge of their journey and confident about their safety. Mapping, interpreting and understanding numbers, movement and behaviour as visitors re-engage with content will help provide solutions in the here and now, but also inform strategy for tomorrow.
We’re also offering advice on ways to keep AV, interactive and tactile content safe but just as rewarding. Minimizing touch doesn’t have to mean sacrificing the quality of experience and education. Touchscreen exhibits may be reimagined, although potential alternatives like gesture technologies and visitors' personal devices also bring their own new challenges. Immersive environments already lend themselves very well to contactless but engagement-rich experiences. Projection mapping techniques and motion sensors create dynamic, magical spaces that transport visitors without any physical contact. More broadly, attractions will continue to find success through the adoption of immersive, content-driven design to create deep, meaningful connections to their stories.
With all of its regrettable downsides, we hear so much talk about the potential for this pandemic to steer us towards positive change and growth, and our industry is no exception. Sarner is here to help our clients adapt, innovate, and reach beyond traditional structures to attract the new diverse audiences of the future.