We are five weeks into tracking weekly intentions to visit cultural entities. A trend has emerged.
Could things change? Of course. But for now, intentions are moving in a positive direction.
Another Monday in the world of the COVID-19 global pandemic is here – and with it, another data update on intentions to visit cultural organizations. This week suggests a clear trend and potential good news for cultural institutions. Time marches on, and US residents appear to be particularly mindful of the passage of time and what it means in terms of their lives’ interruptions.
It’s been another big week. Coronavirus deaths in the United States have doubled since this time last week to over 20,000, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson spent time in intensive care due to the virus. US officials are weighing the risks of reopening the economy – and even Dr. Fauci is discussing the feasibility of summer vacation. Another six million people filed for unemployment for the second week in a row.
Last week, the trend remained consistent that people intend to start visiting cultural institutions within three months, with a full return to normal visitation patterns within six months.
So, have intentions to visit cultural institutions changed since last week?
Intentions to visit cultural organizations are growing stronger, and the trend is apparent.
Today we are providing a one-week update and sharing information collected through April 11th. The data quantifies the US adult public’s intentions to visit 84 unique cultural organizations within the United States – from art museums and aquariums to theaters to symphonies. This is our fifth weekly update of this metric. For the week ranging from April 5-11, the data and analysis summarized below represent an additional sample of 1,950 adults.
We’ll show you the national data update and then dive into the regional segments we introduced last week.
A brief reminder of what “intent to visit” means, and why it matters right now.
Unlike mere interest in visiting an organization, research shows that intent to visit aligns closely with actual plans and visitation behaviors. Visitors’ stated intentions to visit an organization within a defined duration have historically proven a dependable indicator of actual visitation behaviors, and are a generally reliable gauge of likely attendance.
One’s intent to visit is among the best available metrics for reliably predicting behaviors. It helps us understand people’s plans for future visitation at any given time, and further aligns these intentions to a specific chronology. This metric not only quantifies the strength of intentions to visit an organization but also identifies the duration within which one intends to manifest this intention.
Exhibit and performance-based entities across the nation are closed. Like other enterprises at the moment, their financial strife is making headlines. This interruption of our regular operations begs multiple questions:
When we reopen, will people come back?
When do people think that they’ll come back?
How is the current environment – at this moment – impacting future plans?
And, critically, how is this changing over time as the US public learns more about the virus?
Is it changing at all?
Updated data on intent to visit cultural entities as of April 11th
As usual, let’s start with the data for 2019 for comparative context – especially because April historically experiences increased intentions to visit cultural institutions as people begin to plan summer vacation and related activities. We frequently remind readers that it is often difficult and takes time to shift perceptions and behaviors surrounding an entire industry, and you can see it firsthand here. You’ll notice that recent intentions to visit closely aligned with intent to visit in 2019 until the arrival of COVID-19. Yes, it takes a lot for something to change these numbers and they are generally stable year over year.
The upticks from January to February and then in March to April in 2019 broadly observe seasonal trends. They are the result of folks more actively making Spring Break plans. This is typical and expected, and you can see that 2020 abides by these same trends prior to the escalation of COVID-19 in early March. Generally speaking, we historically observe relative near-term intentions to visit (i.e. less than six months) increase as the calendar turns from March to April as people start earnestly making plans for their summer vacations. Related, the summer months often represent the peak period of visitation for many cultural organizations.
Please note that the data for 2019 is shown for the end of each month. This is not the case for the 2020 chart, which is cut by week starting on March 13th – the date the US declared a national emergency due to the global pandemic.
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Washington State on January 20, 2020. This diagnosis did not then impact visitors’ intentions to attend visitor-serving organizations. However, there was a dramatic decline in near-term intentions to visit cultural organizations as observed on March 13. Pay special attention to the blue bars in the charts and their dates to see how intent to visit has been trending in the last five weeks.
Intentions to visit cultural entities within the next month and three months have increased since last week.
While things could certainly change, take a look at that lovely five-week trendline! Time is marching on, and it’s bringing with it increasing near-term intentions to leave the home to have cultural experiences again. Many folks in the US have been at home for a while now, and the expectation of the end of their self-imposed quarantine may be drawing nearer.
We observe a notable increase in the one-month intent to visit metric. While this metric remains depressed when compared to the same approximate time period last year, it has reliably increased during the course of the past two weeks. This finding again affirms the expected duration of significant Coronavirus-related business interruption as falling within three months.
Longer-term intentions still remain stable, suggesting that the public still currently perceives the COVID-19 crisis as relatively finite in its duration and effects on their attendance behaviors. The research indicates that people are still expecting the current phase of self-quarantine and telecommuting to significantly impact their lives for between the next one to three months, and to return to regular attendance behaviors within six months.
Whether the public is right or wrong about all of this remains to be seen. One might argue that it may not matter that people intend to leave their homes if people are still forced to remain inside of them by government mandate. Data suggests otherwise. If people intend to visit you, then they are planning their visit. It’s the task of cultural institutions to remain top of mind so that these visits may be realized if entities are able to reopen during this time.
Updated variance by region
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is nuance and variance by regional markets. America is a complex and diverse place – it stands to reason that similar complexities are represented in the findings. This is our second week tracking intentions to visit for these specific regions.
In the charts below, we’ve shared data for the most populated geographic areas in the United States by percent population. Since commencing research concerning the impacts of COVID-19, our data collection processes have endeavored to be representative of United States. Thus, as a function of representative data collection, we currently have collected more samples from more populated states and regions. As we continue to collect additional data, we’ll be able to further regionalize the findings and add more states and regions.
In many cases, we’ve also grouped states together by both their geographic proximity and attitudinal similarity. For example, surveyed respondents in California, Oregon, and Washington indicate similar intentions to visit cultural entities; thus, they have been collectively aggregated and defined as a unique cohort. Where attitudinal variances have been observed within a region, this region has been accordingly segmented. You’ll notice this in the case of North Carolina, for instance. One might be tempted to group North Carolina with its fellow southeastern states of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. But, take a look at the chart: Intentions to visit cultural institutions duration varied for North Carolinians when compared to persons residing in their neighboring southern states for the week of April 4th.
Again, it’s helpful to start with a look at intentions to visit by region on April 30th, 2019 for comparative context.
As you can see, some states indicate different levels of intentions to visit even during a non-pandemic time-period. Not every region has equal access and/or interest in cultural organizations. We frequently observe that regions with greater densities – both in terms of population and cultural enterprise – have higher near-term intentions to visit cultural organizations. This makes sense, as it takes a lot less time to plan a visit to an organization across the street than one that is a road trip or airplane flight away.
Here’s where things stood this last Saturday, April 11th, 2020:
The research shows a significant range of attitudes based on regional sentiment, with a general correlation to how much that region is currently impacted by COVID-19 and the timing of its associated restrictions. While the national data is helpful for a broad diagnosis and the sector as a whole, COVID-19 is not impacting regions equally at the moment. The regional variance may be especially apparent when we take a look at the significant change we’ve seen in the last week for some regions.
Here’s the change since last week in intentions to visit by contemplated region for both the one-month and three-month visitation horizons:
Intentions to visit within one month is up for all regions except Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina, which remained generally stable. This region is the exception again when we consider intentions to visit within a three-month duration. This time, it is the only region shown with decreased intentions to visit cultural institutions on the whole. This region has been one of the latest to act in terms of COVID-19 restrictions, and it may be that decreased intentions to visit are “catching up” in these states.
Of course, these metrics are subject to change as the actualities and perceptions surrounding the “on the ground” condition evolves. However, people generally expect things to get better as time passes. Intentions to visit within one month are still significantly depressed, but the increase over time is good news for cultural institutions eager to reopen, and intentions to visit within three months is also moving in a positive direction.
This deserves an exhale…
This week’s findings are good news! Intentions to visit cultural organizations are growing stronger, and people expect things to largely pass within the next few months. The trend is currently moving in a positive direction. It’s the best news we’ve seen in five weeks!
This doesn’t mean that things will necessarily be the same when institutions reopen. In fact, many things may be different. Though intentions to visit cultural organizations on the whole may recover, research shows that demand for different types of cultural organizations is being redistributed. People report that they are more likely to revisit some organization types more than others.
Our ability to thrive may depend upon how safe and comfortable we make people feel and how effectively we engage visitors during closures. The trust we’ve cultivated as an industry may be more important than ever before. There may be a whole host of new practices and operations and expectations of which we cannot yet be sure.
…But experts and seasoned leaders all over the industry are stepping forward to share resources and help prepare organizations for whatever may be on the horizon.
We intend to keep doing our part as well by reliably delivering you high-confidence research.
We’ll be back on Wednesday, and we will next update to this metric on Monday, April 20th.
Be safe in the meantime, readers.
Here are the COVID-19 data insights for cultural entities that we’ve published thus far. Don’t want to miss an update? Subscribe here to get the most recent data and analysis in your inbox.