As some states prepare to reopen, those that already have are experiencing decreasing intentions to visit.
It seems that just when things look like they might be stabilizing (though at depressed values), something emerges (or reemerges) and plans to visit museums and performing arts organizations in certain parts of the US take a hit. It seems that 2020 really is the year that just keeps on giving…
The coronavirus case count is increasing rapidly in the United States. We saw the record highest number of coronavirus cases in one day on Thursday. Testing sites are overwhelmed in some states. Arizona, Florida, and Texas are our country’s new epicenters, with Florida increasing its number of cases fivefold in two weeks. Reopening was paused in Texas. Only two states – Connecticut and Rhode Island – were reporting a decline in COVID-19 cases last week. Meanwhile, many states are moving forward with plans to reopen. There’s a lot happening here, and it can be overwhelming and confusing… perhaps especially for leaders of cultural organizations aiming to reopen while keeping guests safe.
And the data shows that it’s confusing for potential visitors as well…
Intentions to visit cultural organizations in the next week remain significantly depressed across the country when compared to last year, and one-month intentions to visit have not fully recovered, either. In the absence of national health policies, we’re largely observing shifting regional reactions to the virus. Some states are open and some are not. Some states (mostly, the ones that have reopened) are experiencing dramatic increases in COVID-19 cases. We generally observe increasing (though still relatively depressed) intentions to visit in states reopening, and decreasing intentions to visit in states that have reopened and are now experiencing significant upticks in coronavirus transmission.
All considered, these regional variances serve to effectively cancel out any sort of national trendline this week – meaning that regional and state nuance is becoming increasingly important to understanding the engagement opportunity. This regional variance is likely to remain true. In the coming months, there may be regional ebbs and flows based on the perceptions of local factors.
Today we are providing a one-week update and sharing information collected through June 27th. 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 21-27, the data and analysis summarized below represent an additional sample of 2,112 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 27th
While intentions to visit within three months historically first peak in May due to the time period 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 16 weeks now. The chart below includes the data at two-week intervals, as well as last week’s values for comparison. You can go back to any past week and revisit the data.
Near-term intentions to visit (within one week and within one month) are notably depressed compared to last year. Intentions to visit within three months decreased this week.
“This looks stable compared to last week! You said that intentions are decreasing due to an increase in coronavirus cases!” They are. The importance of regional and state data in the absence of national health policy will become clearer as we discuss regional intentions to visit in the charts ahead. This national data is an aggregate of trends in all 50 states.
One-week intentions to visit cultural organizations remain depressed. Intentions to visit within one week are low in most regions because a majority of entities remain closed across the nation. 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.
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 intentions to visit decreased nationally this week as last week’s bump in longer-term planning was overpowered by the coronavirus. What’s happening here – as you’ll see in the coming charts – is that decreases in intentions to visit in states currently experiencing coronavirus spikes have shifted national intentions to visit in the three-month timeframe. This is potentially alarming and may suggest a reticence on the part of visitors to solidify planning efforts until they believe that the outbreak is being better managed.
Updated variance by region
We’ve been sharing 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.
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 27th, 2020:
Intentions to visit within one month have not recovered to their value from last year for any region – open or closed. The differences compared to last year are especially notable in regions where the number of coronavirus cases is increasing…
Intentions to visit in one month by region
We’ve been tracking one-month and three-month changes by region for thirteen weeks and this chart was also getting rather cluttered. To that end, we’re showing the data for every other week. As usual, you can visit the article for any of the last thirteen weeks for a deeper dive on that week.
(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.)
Remember, 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 not recovered for the end of June (historically 18). Intentions to visit cultural organizations within one month remain depressed across the United States. This is especially true in those states that are now epicenters of the US coronavirus pandemic – such as Florida, Texas, Utah, Arizona, and South Carolina, to name a few. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of these states are those that have already reopened to a greater extent than the rest of the nation.
On the other end of things, intentions to visit within one month have generally remained stable or seen an uptick (in the case of Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York) in regions preparing to reopen cultural organizations. For this reason, national intentions to visit cultural organizations within one month “canceled out” this week, and no change was seen in the national number.
Intentions to visit in three months by region
Now let’s look at three-month intentions to visit. People generally indicate an intent 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 still tracking nicely alongside historic levels nationally, though we lost last week’s bump in three-month intentions to visit. That bump likely took place on a national level due to pent-up anticipation that the virus would be better under control in three months.
On a regional level, signs point toward a bleaker story in some states. Fear over the coronavirus appears to have dramatically decreased even longer-term intentions to visit cultural organizations in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and Texas. There’s also a notable decrease in the region consisting of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico.
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 a dive into what you should consider for your own organization.
The chart below compares intentions to visit cultural organizations as of June 30, 2019, and this last Saturday, June 27, 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.
As you can see, one-week intentions remain significantly depressed compared to this time last year. This makes some sense. A majority of cultural organizations in the US remain closed, and states with reopened cultural organizations are experiencing a spike in coronavirus cases. For those states that are reopened, it stands to reason that some potential visitors may be especially careful as their home or neighboring states make coronavirus headlines.
You’ll note that one-week intentions to visit cultural organizations in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and Texas have decreased, as well as in the region consisting of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico. Despite having a comparatively large number of cultural enterprises open compared to other regions, all of these states have seen an increase in coronavirus cases.
On a national level, this may overpower some of the visitation anticipation that we’re seeing in the Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York region, and well as the California, Oregon, and Washington region and the DC, Maryland, Virginia region. (It’s worth noting that these numbers are still far from historic levels, even with that “anticipation bump” as some of these states consider reopening this week.)
While California is also increasing rapidly in coronavirus cases, there is not an observed decrease in one week or one-month intentions to visit. This is potentially attributable to two factors: First, while the raw numbers of coronavirus cases are up in California, it is also the most populated state. When considered in the context of positive cases per 100,000 residents coupled with the level of local testing, California does not currently present the same level of dire forecast as do other parts of the United States. Second, related data suggest that California residents are far more likely to comply with prevailing public health recommendations (such as face coverings) when compared to other regions. Collectively, these factors seem to mitigate the perceived risks of visiting cultural enterprise for Californians.
There is a correlation between regional increased transmission of the coronavirus and decreased intentions to visit cultural organizations in those areas.
State and regional nuance may become increasingly important for framing cultural organizations’ expectations in light of the lack of national health measures or policies surrounding the spread of the coronavirus.
We may see changes as more states start to reopen, stall openings, and/or as the coronavirus spreads or slows down in the upcoming weeks.
We’ll be here with the data.
Be safe in the meantime, and we’ll see you on Wednesday with more data and analysis.
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.