What do we have in common with Visitor Attractions?

Last week I was sent to London, and not for something I had done, but for what was happening down there. While most museum professionals were attending Museums Association Annual Conference I found a conference upstairs in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre where the visitor services managers from museums were attending. The Annual Visitor Attractions Conference (VAC 2009) brings together everyone who has an interest or involvement in visitor attractions, be they amusement parks, zoos or museums, together with their supporters like Museums Galleries Scotland, research organisations and PR companies.

Joanne has attended in previous years and while I was a little unsure what would be involved the (long) day proved to be very informative. There were excellent presentations and copies VAC2009 homepage. As a taster, I think the following were the best and a little information on what they said:

• Lesley Morisetti, AECOM on benchmarking data they have been doing in the sector, good to see average spend in museums is slowly increasing year on year, but needs more work

• Sue Wilkinson, The National Trust. How they have dealt with the recession by focussing on one measurement – customer enjoyment. Also had a ‘sneak preview’ at their rebranding due to launch next year

• Nick Varney, Merlin Entertainments Group – second biggest visitor attraction group in the world (started in Oban!) walked through their history and what he would like to see the government do to make visitor attractions contribute even more

• Chris Haslam, Travel writer for Sunday Times spoke on how to get him to publicise your attraction in the Sunday Times. He looks for three things in press release, 1. Wow factor 2. OMG effect and 3. Makes him laugh. His slides were helpful and worth a look

These events are also great opportunities to network and see who else is out there. I met a range of people, including researchers, see recent post by Heather, learned a little about the National Maritime Museum’s upcoming exhibition plans, and how Chatsworth House is coping with the economic situation. I am happy to share more information with anyone interested, drop me a comment and I will reply.

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