Flow was proud to attend the first annual conference held by the African Association of Visitor Experiences and Attractions (AAVEA) at the Radisson Red Hotel in Cape Town on 21 and 22 August 2019.
The event was a metamorphosis of the former annual Attractions Africa conference, which for the past five years gave professionals in the attractions industry the chance to meet and learn from each other.
At Flow, we count many in the attractions industry as friends, partners and clients. It was valuable to connect with existing clients like the Two Oceans Aquarium, Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company and the Apartheid Museum, as well as to learn from, listen to and engage with representatives from other great attractions, such as the V&A Waterfront, uShaka Marine World and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa.
One takeaway theme from this year’s conference was to take an introspective look at ourselves as leaders and grow our own emotional intelligence for the betterment of our organisation. Mikael Ahlerup from the Lund Group in Norway encouraged delegates to work alongside their teams, learning from them and inspiring them to enrich their visitors’ experiences.
Christine Tworeck, a business coach with a background in attractions, summed it up so well when she said “an engaged workforce draws from the organisation a sense of belonging, a sense of identity and a sense of meaning”.
The call to look inside ourselves was continued by Tinyiko Mageza, executive marketing manager for the V&A Waterfront, in her inspiring talk on Generation Y, or millennials. “Date your data to really mine the insights that will bring better value to the younger generation,” she said, adding: “See the vulnerability in everyone and there you will find insight.”
One of the challenges of maintaining interest in attractions is relevance, and this is even more so in the museum space. Wayde Davy from the Apartheid Museum spoke of how you need to maintain the integrity of the storyline – you can’t change the facts to make it more relevant, but you can use the stories of the past to ask real questions about the social issues of today.
The Apartheid Museum is using public engagement with young people to help them understand just how relevant the apartheid story is to their lives, but also to assess how the museum can better frame its offering to remain relevant.
Accessibility and exclusivity
One of the hot topics of the conference was how attractions offer broad accessibility and inclusivity in a changing socioeconomic landscape. Kate Rivett-Carnac, in her talk on “De-privileging tourism”, spoke of how attractions professionals need to advocate for everyone’s right to recreation and recreational spaces.
Most of the speakers explained how they have prioritised their local markets and made their attractions more accessible to all. This not only makes ambassadors of locals, but enriches the experience the attraction offers.
AAVEA chair and seasoned attractions consultant Sabine Lehmann said it best when she talked of managing attractions as “part art and part science”. Providing an experience that brings joy and fulfilment to hundreds of thousands of tourists every year is an enviable job, but without a keen eye for business and sharp attention to detail it can all go horribly wrong.
Many attendees learnt a lot from one specific session, where everyone shared stories on some of their failures and the tremendous learnings that come from mistakes in all shapes and sizes. Once we have learnt from our mistakes, we need to focus on our wins and see them as stepping stones to success. Lehmann reminded attendees to get in touch with the metrics for success.
For Flow, it was valuable to see how success is measured in this space – that it isn’t just about the feet through the door but, rather, the measurements of engagement, such as “dwell time” and customer feedback. This gets us thinking about how we can use the digital and technological platforms we work with to measure and package these as insights for our attractions clients.
No one can deny that the attractions space is a hard-working and innovative engine for the tourism industry, and Flow promises to be right beside our clients to drive success in this sector.