Investing in attracting tour groups is an increasingly futile endeavor for museums. Here’s the data and what to do instead.
Many visitor-serving organizations increasingly bemoan the challenges associated with the leisure group tour market. (This being a different attendance category – and revenue line item – than school groups.) Typically, visitor-serving organizations have salespeople dedicated to the process of soliciting tour groups. In other words, their job is to get group business.
This business has been in decline – and the data suggests that it’s not because the salespeople suddenly got bad at their jobs. It’s because people do not want to go on group tours. This makes sense: Ours is an era of personalization- every experience is tailored. Group visits are the exact opposite – every experience is standardized.
Your organization isn’t imagining things: It’s harder to attract leisure tour groups today than in the past. Here are three, data-based reasons to utilize full-time staff (FTEs) in a way that is more likely to drive actual visitation than futilely increasing investments in the leisure tour group market:
1) People do not think group tours are a fun way to visit a museum
The Y-axis in the chart above indicates the mean scalar variable response so as to indicate the level of agreement with the statement on a 1-100 scale. Anything much below 60 tends to indicate a level of disagreement (i.e. “not fun”).
Perception of the enjoyment of museum visits through group tours not only started out at less-than-impressive levels when IMPACTS began tracking the metric in 2008, perception has since been in steady decline. This is also the case in regard to group tours to zoos and even cities, suggesting that it isn’t the museum group tour that’s “broken” – it’s the group tour concept itself. Similar data exists for sporting events, aquariums, theme parks…you name it. Again, the personalization trend is at odds with the standardized experience of group tours – regardless of the venue.
We decided to look into this a bit more, and the outcomes to this inquiry were also extremely telling (although perhaps altogether unsurprising)…
2) Group tours do not likely have a sustainable future
Like the previous chart, the data above also demonstrate a mean scalar variable response so as to indicate the level of agreement with the statement on a 1-100 scale. Again, dipping below 60 tends to indicate a level of disagreement (i.e. “not fun”). The data here is unassailable: The market – and especially millennials – do not think group tours are fun.
Millennials represent the single largest generation in human history and will make up the largest consumer segment of the market for the next 40 years at minimum. These folks don’t think group tours are fun – and their perceptions are declining rapidly. “We aren’t trying to attract millennials with group tours anyway,” you say? Well, the general market (even excluding millennials) doesn’t think group tours are much fun either.
This trend toward the negative perception of the enjoyment of group tours – like most evolution within the industry – mirrors the general market preference for more tailored experiences. On social media, the ads that come up in your newsfeed are picked just for you. Email has evolved to become a more personalized way to tell important stories than an opportunity to “spam” with broader messages. Audiences want to decide what they think of organizations for themselves. Today, everyone’s a curator. Group tours embody the opposite of these market preferences – the regulated, homogeneity of a common experience.
3) There are areas in which staff resources for group tours may be reallocated in order to truly drive visitation.
I think it’s interesting that some organizations that claim to not be able to afford to augment their social teams still maintain group salespeople. The alternative use of those same funds would likely have a better ROI more broadly engaged to support the communications effort.
Digital engagement isn’t the only area in which data suggest alternative investments may yield more visitors and donor support. Indeed, any position that supports more personalized experiences has been proven to drive both reputation and satisfaction levels within institutions. Investing more in front-line staff and deploying personal facilitated experiences is an urgent need that many institutions are overlooking.
In short: Museums often have full-time staff dedicated to managing a program that many folks don’t even want. At the same time, there are data-supported audience “touch points” that may not be receiving adequate investment. Once a month, one of us at IMPACTS seems to get asked, “What can we do to improve our leisure group business?” The answer is: Get out of the group business (and get into the personalization business)!