While intentions to visit remain depressed across the United States, they are notably lower in the immediate near term in the nation’s hot spots for the coronavirus.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, national metrics dropped a bit this week as the United States continually logs record highs for coronavirus cases.
Across the board, intentions to visit cultural organizations remain low when compared to historic values. Intentions to visit cultural organizations within one week have not been this low in the United States since the first week of June – despite more institutions being open now than were reopened at the start of that month. While this probably isn’t shocking to most, this metric remains an important indicator of how people feel about visiting cultural organizations.
In the absence of national health policies, we’re largely observing shifting regional reactions to the virus driving intentions to visit cultural organizations. In the coming months, there may be ebbs and flows regionally based on local perceptions and behaviors surrounding the virus, as well as case number surges in certain areas.
Today we are providing a one-week update and sharing information collected through July 11, 2020. 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 July 5-11, the data and analysis summarized below represent an additional sample of 1,778 adults.
A brief reminder of what “intent to visit” means, and why it matters.
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?
Updated data on intent to visit cultural entities as of July 13th, 2020.
We’re changing up our charts this week in hopes of making them easier to assess.
As we’ve been monitoring this metric for the last eighteen weeks, you may have noticed that there have not been significant changes in intentions to visit cultural organizations within one year or two years – even when values were the lowest upon the declaration of the national emergency on March 13th. This is great news! It indicates that people intend (and have intended) to fully return to their more usual attendance patterns in terms of overall cultural participation at a time before six months from now.
This matters, because it means that we’re not seeing people swear off visiting cultural organizations forever because of the coronavirus. They reliably do not think that the pandemic will jeopardize their plans for those who intend to visit six months out. Because these metrics have remained at historic values throughout the pandemic thus far, we’ve removed them from the weekly charts. (Don’t worry. We’re still monitoring them, and we will let you know if they change.)
Whether the pandemic really will impact plans to visit in six months remains to be seen. Remember that this metric demonstrates what people are planning on doing given current information and their predictions surrounding the current state of affairs. I won’t tempt 2020 and brainstorm reasons why any of these intentions (or those further out) may not possibly be realized for reasons currently unforeseen. That’s not a fun game furthering this data analysis, so let’s skip it.
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.
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. While intentions to visit within three months historically peak in May due to their encompassing the summertime months, one-month intentions tend to peak in June.
This is what things look like during a non-pandemic year:
Now let’s take a look at 2020. We’ve been tracking this metric for eighteen weeks now and it’s been getting busy and difficult to read. To that end, we’ve updated our 2020 charts to show the data for the end of each month (similar to the 2019 data), as well as the most recent data cut that takes place every Saturday. In this case, it took place end-of-day on Saturday, July 11th.
Near-term intentions to visit (within one week and within one month) are notably depressed compared to last year, and three-month intentions took a dip this week.
One-week intentions to visit cultural organizations remain depressed. Intentions to visit cultural organizations within one week returned to the levels experienced at the end of May. This is not the best possible news, as – depending on the region – potentially more cultural organizations are open to the public now than were open in May. (That said, on the whole, many more organizations still remain closed than are currently open.) Intentions to visit within one week are particularly depressed in states currently observing spikes in COVID-19 cases, as you’ll see in the charts below.
One-month intentions notably lag behind 2019 values. 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 usually see around this time as people historically are still making and enjoying summertime plans. On the whole, 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 experienced a slight decrease this week. Three-month intentions to visit historically lower a to a value of 23 by end of July, and therefore this movement may not be entirely COVID-19-related and is likely impacted by seasonality as well. In short, fewer people generally intend to visit cultural organizations in the fall than in the summer, and the fall months change within the one-to-three month timeline right now. But, looking at the trendline for three-month charts below, this decline may still be potentially concerning. What remains to be seen is if this is a short-term decline related to the recent uptick in positive coronavirus cases or a signal of a more durable shift in leisure behaviors.
As a reminder: Even though intentions to visit cultural organizations are increasing, on the whole, demand for organization types is being redistributed. The coronavirus has impacted which cultural enterprises are most likely to regain attendance – at least in the near-term.
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.
Last week, we added representative data from Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia to the map with the metric we’d been tracking for North Carolina.
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, July 11th, 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 coronavirus cases are increasing.
Let’s break this down, shall we?
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.
The chart below compares intentions to visit cultural organizations as of June 30, 2019, and this last Saturday, July 11, 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 – especially in regions most impacted by increased coronavirus cases. People in the US generally do not intend to visit cultural organizations this week.
As you can see, one-week intentions remain significantly depressed compared to this time last year. 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 in the last few weeks, as well as in the region consisting of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico. At a value of 2, these numbers indicate that plans to visit cultural organizations in these regions are extremely low, despite having a comparatively large number of cultural enterprises open compared to other regions. 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, as well as the DC, Maryland, and Virginia region where some cultural enterprises are beginning to reopen.
As coronavirus cases have increased in California and more stay-at-home orders were announced and some reopenings delayed, intentions to visit within the state decreased from the bump we observed two weeks ago. It is likely these conditions impacted the number for the entire California-Washington-Oregon aggregated region.
Intentions to visit in one month by region
Though much closer to historic values than one-week values, one-month intentions to visit still have not recovered for any region.
One-month intentions to visit usually increase by the end of May and June. This year, these intentions did not nationally recover for the end of May (historically 16), and they did not recover for the end of June (historically 18). In other words, intentions to visit cultural organizations within one month remain depressed across the United States.
We’ve been tracking one-month and three-month changes by region for fourteen weeks and this chart was also getting rather cluttered. To that end, we’re showing the data for last week, and then every other prior week.
(It’s not a typo. There are fewer bars for the Minnesota-Iowa-Missouri-Nebraska-Kansas region because we added it to the charts later than the others.)
Intentions to visit in three months by region
As you can see, the combination of typical seasonal trends coupled with emerging COVID-19 outbreaks may be taking its toll in terms of people making plans to attend cultural organizations in the next three months. This said, while we observed a slight decrease, people generally indicate intent to resume their more normal visitation patterns around this time or shortly after – with the caveat that we are able to evolve operations to make them feel safe.
Fewer people generally intend to visit cultural organizations in the fall than in the summer. Three-month intentions to visit historically lower a to a value of 23 by end of July, and so some decrease in three-month intentions to visit would be expected now or in the coming weeks – even in a non-pandemic time.
The duration and magnitude of this impact of the pandemic remain to be seen in this metric. Will we be able to “flatten the curve” and abide by better public health practices? Will states again hastily scramble to re-open? Will therapies and treatments become more widely available in the near future? Does a vaccine loom on the horizon? All of these factors are unknowable – yet incredibly important for the future of cultural entities.
You can see the three-month intention to visit trendlines below for each region.
On the whole, there is a general correlation between regional increases in transmission of the virus and decreased intentions to visit. This may be the emerging norm in light of the lack of national health measures or policies surrounding the spread of the coronavirus. State and regional nuance may become increasingly important for framing cultural organizations’ expectations.
As usual, we’ll be here and we’ll keep you updated.
We’ll see you here on Wednesday with more data and analysis. Be safe in the meantime.
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.