Near-term intentions to visit cultural organizations remain depressed across the United States, with more encouraging data continuing to suggest a hopeful return to more normal behaviors within the next few months.
Like last week, we’re in a strange spot. Between people being unable to visit cultural organizations in states that are still closed and COVID-19 cases on the rise in states that have reopened, there’s a holding pattern in people making plans to visit cultural entities within the next month. This is especially true in the immediate near term as intentions to visit cultural organizations next week remain low across the US.
The numbers aren’t optimal. Near-term intentions to visit (within one month and especially within the next week) haven’t recovered compared to this time period last year, and it appears as though they may be unlikely to recover until most all cultural enterprises have reopened. But the numbers do evince a measure of stability that has been heretofore elusive.
Why are we still providing weekly updates if things are stable for now, you ask? Because there are still two conditions that may impact intentions to visit cultural organizations on the horizon for cultural executives to watch:
- For better: We’re still mostly talking about what people intend to do – not what they’ve done yet or are actively doing. The reopening of cultural organizations in DC, NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, and other major metro markets known for their respective densities of cultural enterprise are likely to impact national intentions to visit and provide meaningful insight into behaviors. There’s talk of some major cities reopening cultural enterprise in as little as the next couple weeks.
- For worse: Coronavirus cases are increasing in several states that have reopened. We don’t know yet how these increases may impact intentions to visit cultural organizations, nor do we know the public health impact of these recently observed increases. We need to keep watching it to learn of its potential impact on leisure and discretionary planning efforts.
Facts matter – especially during times of uncertainty.
That’s why this is our 15th week publishing these Monday updates and things are stable, but we’re still here.
We know that we have a near-term need to do whatever we can to bridge the gap to a more normal future. We expect this bridge will have to span somewhere between one and three months, based on the most recent data. We also have a sense of what measures we should consider – such as what will help make people feel safe and comfortable – to help pave this pathway to more normal times.
Today we are providing a one-week update and sharing information collected through June 20th. The research 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. For the week ranging from June 14-20, the data and analysis summarized below represent an additional sample of 1,866 adults.
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 June 20th
While intentions to visit within three months historically first peak in May due to their encompassing the summertime months, one-month intentions tend to peak in June.
A good way to think of these scalar values is as a measure of the relative certainty of an intended behavior being actualized. Thus, a value of “1” would indicate no intentions whatsoever to visit an organization, whereas a reported value of “100” would suggest that the respondent was essentially waiting in line for the doors to open.
Please note that the data for 2019 is shown for the end of each month in the 2019 chart. This is not the case for the 2020 chart, which has been cut weekly since the announcement of the national emergency on March 13th. This is what things look like during a non-pandemic year.
Now let’s take a look at 2020. The chart was getting a bit crowded and difficult to read, as we’ve been tracking this metric for 15 weeks now. The chart below includes the data at two-week intervals in an effort to be kind to your eyeballs. You can go back to any past week and revisit the data.
Near-term intentions to visit are notably depressed compared to last year.
One-week intentions to visit cultural organizations remain depressed. Intentions to visit within one week are low across the nation because a majority of entities remain closed, and people are less likely to plan to visit entities next week that they are certain will remain closed. Intentions to visit within one week are low in states that have reopened due to spikes in COVID-19 cases and uncertainty surrounding the virus. We may not see one-week intentions recover until more states have reopened alongside our having a better handle on the virus and a better understanding of how to safely coexist alongside the risk. Simply, immediate near-term intentions may not recover until visiting cultural entities is a normalized behavior again and a thing that people “do” post-COVID-19 closures.
One-month intentions lag behind 2019 values. In these metrics, an increase or decrease of even one value is significant. There is a notable delta between the value of 15 that we see in one-month intentions to visit right now and the historical value of 18 that we historically see in June. These depressed numbers may demonstrate some unease regarding COVID-19 prevalence, as well as uncertainty as to when cultural entities will reopen in some states.
Three-month and six-month intentions remain stable. We continue to interpret this to be an encouraging forecast. Despite uncertainties, people intend to return to the cultural experiences that they enjoy. People intend to visit cultural organizations at more usual levels again within the next few months. (However, it’s important to keep in mind that demand for certain cultural experiences is being redistributed and making people feel safe may be prerequisite for securing a visit.)
Updated variance by region
In the charts below, we’ve shared data for many of the most populated geographic areas in the United States. 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.
Again, it’s helpful to start with a look at intentions to visit by region at the end of June 2019 for comparative context. These are the values we’re going for:
As you can see, some regions indicate different levels of intentions to visit even during a non-pandemic timeframe. This makes sense. 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 a cultural organization.
Here’s where things stood this last Saturday, June 20th, 2020:
Intentions to visit within one month have not recovered to their value from last year for any region – open or closed. Intentions to visit within three months have generally recovered or are within one value.
Intentions to visit in one week by region
While regional one-week intentions to visit cultural organizations can provide signals to inform expectations, it’s the one-week intention to visit your own organization that matters most. From a coronavirus-related perspective, this includes considerations unique to your organization type, local perceptions and tolerances related to COVID-19, your organization’s messaging during its closure, and your own audiences’ sensitivities to risk. Here’s what you should consider to determine one-week intentions to visit your own organization.
Again, however, the regional data can provide directional insight. The chart below compares intentions to visit cultural organizations as of June 30, 2019, and this last Saturday, June 20, 2020. You’ll note that one-week intentions to visit have not recovered – even in the states that have started to reopen their cultural institutions. On the whole and even for individual regions, these numbers are low. People in the US generally do not intend to visit cultural organizations this week.
Now let’s look at changes in intentions to visit within one week, and compare this week to the last four. As you can see, one-week intentions remain significantly depressed compared to this time last year – even in states that are further along in reopening. These numbers may remain significantly depressed due to uncertainties surrounding the virus.
You’ll note that one-week intentions to visit cultural organizations in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina have decreased. Despite having a comparatively large number of cultural enterprises open compared to other regions, all three of these states have seen (and are still seeing) an increase in coronavirus cases.
Intentions to visit in one month by region
We’ve been tracking one-month and three-month changes by region for twelve weeks and this chart was also getting rather cluttered. To that end, we’re showing this week and last week, and then two-week increments before then. As usual, you can visit the article for any of the last twelve weeks for a deeper dive.
(It’s not a typo. There are fewer bars for the Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas region because we added them to the charts later than the others.)
This looks okay without context, and it’s not bad – but remember that one-month intentions to visit usually increase by the end of May and June. These intentions did not nationally recover for the end of May (historically 16), and they have some speedy growing to do to recover to last year’s national values for the end of June (historically 18).
Intentions to visit in three months by region
Now let’s look at three-month intentions to visit. These metrics have stabilized over the last several weeks, and they’ve recovered!
This is news! People indicate intentions to resume their more normal visitation patterns within three months – with the caveat that we are able to evolve operations to make them feel safe. These numbers are tracking nicely alongside historic levels!
We’re in a holding pattern until states reopen and/or current spikes in COVID-19 cases settle.
Keep your eyes peeled. We may see changes as more states start to reopen in the coming weeks. Remember that intentions to return to out-of-home leisure activities within the next few months are currently still high.
We’ll continue to keep you posted, even when the message is simply, “Hang in there for now.”
Here are the COVID-19 data insights for cultural entities that we’ve published to date. Don’t want to miss an update? Subscribe here to get the most recent data and analysis in your inbox.