Exploring the Future of Guest Experience in Response to COVID-19

Index

Introduction by Nicole Cutrufo

*illustrations by Dayna Safferstein

The travel and entertainment sector is among those most affected by the COVID-19 emergency. We’ve gathered professionals and researchers from multidisciplinary fields passionate about Guest Experience. We’ve come together to share our skills with operators in this industry. As we prepare for reopening, travelers are emerging from their homes with a new wariness of the world around them. The needs and experience of our customers are at the very heart of this industry. So we’ve explored the future needs and behaviors of customers.  We’ve also looked at trends and best practices in selected countries.

We conducted an interdisciplinary analysis. Our goal was to collect insights to better understand how to satisfy the needs of customers and set the best strategies. 

Doitwell specializes in the management of projects in the field of Guest Experience. Together with our Clients (hotels, museums, attractions, theme parks, tour operators), we have been re-imagining the post-COVID-19 customer journey. To support our analysis, among other initiatives, we recently carried out a survey to study customers’ future needs and behaviors. This was done in collaboration with Dynamitick, a company specializing in Artificial Intelligence solutions for pricing and customer analysis. The online survey collected the opinions of Italian travelers, asking questions to identify their fears and needs around their next trip post-COVID. 

Compliance with hygiene/sanitary rules, social distancing, and average attendance at an attraction were  important to the respondents.


Key Takeaways:

Respondents attach considerable importance to compliance with health and hygiene standards (63%) and safety standards (54%). Importance is given to respecting safe distances (58%) and mandatory mask usage (39%).

Survey respondents indicated that when they’re doing research on their next attraction post-COVID, they’ll be looking for information on safety precautions. They placed importance on maximum capacity of venues, possession of health certificates and disinfection protocols.

Interviewees attach high importance to having the on-site staff responsible for ensuring compliance with safety and hygiene standards (46%) and clear indications on social distancing (32%).

What did Italians prefer before Covid-19?

The majority of survey respondents (52%) said they would generally book online via the attraction’s website. Previously, they would have purchased without worrying too much about the information presented (40%).  The main difference between pre- and post COVID’s customer behavior is the need for information to build trust and satisfy the need for information.

Before COVID, during the experience, the three aspects considered most important were the quality / price ratio (67%), the care and maintenance of the attraction (53%) and the waiting time before entering (49%). After COVID, 94% of those interviewed would be willing to return to visit the attraction.  (88%) would be convinced to visit if a free upgrade was offered. 30% of respondents appreciated attractions that provided online experiences during quarantine. These included virtual tours, direct on social networks, recreational or educational activities. Pending new provisions from the Government for the reopening of attractions, theme parks, museums, more than two-thirds of those interviewed are ready to leave home for new experiences. They just want a reduction in the maximum allowed capacity, information on sanitization procedures occurred and possession of health certificates³.

So what are the important aspects for tourism or entertainment experiences? 

From these findings we can see how safety will be more and more important for Guests. Safety may come first. But creating and consistently delivering a “Guest Experience” rather than a patient check-in, will also be important. 

The Borghese Gallery, Alcatraz or new popular attractions in Orlando’s large theme parks have always been an organized experience with online booking systems and virtual queuing. Tourism operators should not be afraid to imagine a new way to visit attractions and monuments. 

This article is available to all operators as we want to help professionals to stimulate problem solving and get closer to the needs of post-COVID visitors. For this reason we have included insights from specialists from Australia, South Korea, Italy, United States. They are from different disciplines and  will share their thoughts on the post-COVID customer experience.

This period has taught us the importance of relationships and sharing for a common good. So we have brought together ideas and food for thought to study the best strategies to put the guest at the center of the experience even after the COVID-19 emergency.


Nicole Cutrufo, Founder Doitwell, Orlando, Florida

Guest Experience Strategist and University Lecturer of Guest Experience Management in Rome, Italy. Nicole helps companies to design, streamline, and execute digital strategies that put guests at the center — to create amazing experiences and drive strong business results. Having worked around the world in the US, Italy, Germany, and France supporting large brands (Disney, Universal Studios) as well as supporting startups, She specializes in content strategy, ecommerce, conversion funnels, guest experience, apps, reviews, and more.


Safety of Guests and Tourism Employees by Courtney  Riall Mallory

New health and safety procedures will be some of the most anticipated  changes in the guest experience at tourism locations. At Doitwell we have a client base in the United States and Italy. But we’re focusing our attention on the practices and policies in some Asian countries to get a sense of the innovations being created in the Tourism Industry. Countries such as China and South Korea are already showcasing new health and safety guidelines for all guests and staff.

I’ve witnessed some of these changes as I live in South Korea. I’ve seen how the future of guest attractions will change in reaction to the recent pandemic. 

When COVID-19 was spreading in China, attractions on Korea’s popular tourist destination, Jeju Island implemented measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Visitors were asked to wear masks and stay at least two meters from each other at all times. Thermal cameras were stationed at each entrance and hand sanitizer was sprayed into each guest’s hands upon entry. 

As we have seen, measures such as these are becoming standard for most public sectors. At the early stages of COVID-19, South Korea shut down many major attractions in Seoul⁴ and Jeju Island. However, the tourism driven economy of Jeju didn’t shut down completely. Due to the extra measures, I felt safe traveling to locations such as the Osulloc Tea Museum and the Bunker de Lumieres art exhibit.

In China, new protocols were put in place when museums started to open. “We do the disinfection (sic) everyday according to the [official] sterilising protocols, and all the working staff has been trained beforehand,” says the Shanghai Power Station of Art spokeswoman.“They also shall keep 1.5-metre distance during their visit,” “and protective masks are required(…)”⁵ I predict each major attraction will have their own small health and disinfection units. These will be similar to the one the Shanghai PSA has set up in their own museum.

The health and safety of families will be essential to consider when the tourism industry opens up. What happens when one family member is sick and not able to attend an attraction park due to a fever? What crisis management plan does the attraction have for the individual and their travel companions? Across the board, families might appreciate personal sanitation kits at places such as restaurants and house rentals. We’ll expect to see specific signage clarifying the process and frequency of cleaning and disinfecting. How will parents feel when their kids want to meet and greet with a character at an attraction? It always ends with a hug or high-five. What will attractions do to keep that joy but add some health and safety measures to it? 

Something else to consider is that “behind the scene” staff at hotels, museums, and attractions will now be in the spotlight. Their roles, processes, and techniques may come under more scrutiny. Guests will research the sanitation regimens of attractions, hotels, airlines and museums before visiting. Before these locations can handle the flow of people, staff need to feel comfortable there are safety measures and sufficient health equipment in place. 

Besides these measures, controlling the flow of traffic and number of guests allowed each day may be an effective tactic. The survey results showed future customers are researching information about things that may affect guests’ comfort levels when visiting a location. This includes security, new health norms and the anticipated average attendance. The Forbidden City in Beijing, China, which is opening soon, is one example of how attendance will change. They will limit visitors to 5,000 people per day, compared to 80,000 in the past. 

From a project coordinator perspective, I see more dynamics playing into the needs of our Tourism based clients. I see projects requiring advice and guidance from medical or sanitation professionals. More companies will want to have the “clean and safe” stamp of approval for guests to see and want to to book for their next vacation. 

A lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic is that the appearance and thorough maintenance of a safe and healthy environment will encourage guests to visit.  It will also keep staff feeling safe and committed to their work.


Courtney Riall Mallory, Doitwell International Project Coordinator

Courtney is an International Project Coordinator based in South Korea. Her academic background is in Event and Hospitality management; and most of her career has focused on domestic and international conference and meeting planning for associations in Washington D.C. Her current projects involve connecting clients’ projects with international consultants at Doitwell.


Communication and content post COVID-19 – early reflections by Angela Pickett

I lived in Beijing during SARS, so when COVID-19 first emerged, I thought it would be similar. I could not have been more wrong.

COVID-19 will change the focus of copywriting and content creation in the travel industry. At this early stage, I see two key changes. We’ll need to convey more health and safety information, without detracting from the highlights of an attraction. We’re also likely to see a change in guests, as international travel restrictions see people travelling closer to home.

We would once have considered the cleaning standards of a venue to be unspoken. But now we need to consider how we convey this information to guests. Copywriters will need to work with user experience and graphic design experts to develop easy to understand content. This might include using icons to share information about wearing masks, cleaning, social distancing and limits on guest numbers.

Social distancing is likely to become the norm. We expect many travellers to look for less crowded destinations with more outdoor space. This may become a more important selling factor than the history of a destination. It will also reduce the capacity for many attractions. How can we share this information? How do we manage expectations about pre-booking limited tickets? How do we share information about cancellation policies?

As people choose destinations closer to home, how do you make local attractions as appealing as an overseas holiday? As copywriters, we’ll need to dig deeper to uncover fresh stories and content to entice visitors back.

Speaking with colleagues highlighted some perceptions around travel for Australians. Some expect governments to keep domestic and international borders closed for some time. When borders open, some will be reluctant to travel overseas for many months, if not years. Some are more worried about getting sick on a long flight than at the destination. Others said companies offering smaller tours on spacious vehicles or dedicated airport pick-ups will be more attractive.

The current crisis has also highlighted the limitations of cancellation policies and consular support. As an ex-diplomat, I have seen first-hand how traveller expectations about government support are often unrealistic.

The Barossa Valley is a popular tourist destination due to our reputation as one of Australia’s premier wine regions. In mid-March two separate international tour groups tested positive for COVID-19. These clusters caused the virtual lockdown of the region, including all wine tasting, restaurants and bars.

Some businesses have been quick to adapt, focusing on online sales and takeaway. Venues are still closed, and we don’t know when that might change. Some have been better than others at keeping their customers updated.

Speaking with people in the industry, we expect there will be changes to operations. Looking at wine tasting, (add image) we expect limits on the number of people allowed in a venue at any time. For this reason, pre-booking a tasting might become the norm. But what about other changes? Will we ever be comfortable with the idea of people tasting wine and spitting? Will visitors expect staff to wear gloves or masks during tastings?

At this early stage, these are just some issues copywriters need to consider. As we plan for attractions and borders to re-open, we need to consider the specific information needs of guests. Surveys and research around the keywords travellers are searching for will be important. This will ensure that we’re providing updated content that helps travellers make their purchasing decisions.

As copywriters, our content will need to strike a fine balance. Enough information to make a place sound appealing and safe. But not so much information about health and safety to make them reconsider travel altogether.

We’ll need to stay up to date with the regulations that apply to our tourism clients. We’ll need to work with others including marketing specialists and social media experts to provide regular updates as we emerge into a post-COVID19 world.


Angela Pickett – Ex-Diplomat, Tourism Copywriter

Angela Pickett is a freelance copywriter based in Australia.  After a 15 year career as a diplomat with postings in China and Vietnam, Australia and her family moved to the Barossa Valley. After running her own trade consultancy and working for a local winemaker, Angela launched Angela Pickett Copywriter in 2019. Angela works with business, government and not-for-profit clients, helping them to write the words they need to connect with their customers, wherever they are in the world.


Engaging guests when they are at home: a social media branding story by Carissa Baker, Ph.d

COVID-19 had an instant, indelible impact on all of us, and I am no exception. I research theme parks, and I live in the Theme Park Capital of the World: Orlando, Florida. The global pandemic effectively shut down my city and crippled the attractions industry. Most of my students are in hospitality, and many have been furloughed or lost their jobs permanently. Considering the loss of life and uncertainty about travel during this time, I was not expecting to find a truly positive tourism story. Not only did I find one, but it will certainly impact the future of brand management in a crisis (as well as when things are back to normal) and remind destinations that even when closed, they have a superpower: social media engagement.

In a recent webinar on the impact of COVID-19 on global tourism, travel research CEO Olivier Henry-Biabaud observed in his data that sentiment towards the theme park and attraction sector was increasing quicker than in other sectors. He speculated that this could be because they were some of the first to translate their experiences online. It is impossible to truly replicate virtually the multi-sensory landscapes of a theme park, the walks through history possible in a museum or heritage site, or the physical interaction with nature at a zoo or science center. 

What some of these organizations have been doing, however, are proving to be just as powerful. Through the use of creative social media, attractions have been leveraging their relationships with guests to keep their brands in the forefront. In return, fans have demonstrated brand loyalty by inventing their own virtual experience. The creation of miniature, virtual experiences for guests stuck at home is proving to be a beneficial way to connect to people and encourage quicker returns once the attractions reopen. Significantly, the content from guests themselves reveal the emotional connections we build with brands, the need for participation with these brands, and the power of inspirational consumers to spur conversion.

Dozens of major attractions, from Disney theme parks to local museums, have taken to social media to communicate messages about their brands. These messages range from “we’ll be here when you return” to “we are a part of your family memories.” Content includes educational and behind-the-scenes videos, aesthetic tour videos, virtual versions of live in-park entertainment, messages from executives, live cam shots of animal habitats, and the sharing of theme park food recipes. Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram have been common platforms, but in a particularly imaginative move, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, with help from a Smithsonian scientist, did an instructive seminar on the popular video game streaming platform Twitch. They explored insects while playing the wildly popular Nintendo Switch video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Other have also used this video game to replicate their sites.

In these cases, attractions are bonding with fans and potential consumers. And they’re playing an educational role during the quarantine period. With strategies such as sharing prized recipes or behind-the-scenes videos, attractions are inviting former visitors into the workings of an organization and sparking curiosity in those who have not visited before.

If the official videos from attractions are beneficial to brands, this is surpassed by the trend of visitors participating through social media content creation. Developed by fans and families disappointed they missed their visits, content has included ride recreation videos, physical attraction models, food images, memories, and humor. Of particular interest are hashtags such as #HomemadeDisney, #HomemadeUniversal, and #HomemadeThemePark. 

This content has been made sometimes out of boredom or with a purpose to make people laugh or smile, but the practice illustrates the nature of our participatory culture. We want to contribute, and that includes by connecting with and co-creating our favorite brands. An executive at Disneyland in California explained that the parks appreciate when guests “recreate [their] favorite Disney Park experiences in [their] very own living rooms”.

In a time of doubt, these recreations can spark an interest in destinations from those who have yet to visit. For those who have visited, they can evoke the meaningful experiences of the past. These places, once physical locations we traveled to that represented something special outside of our daily home life, have now become, in a sense, virtual homes with communities surrounding them. Even once the COVID-19 pandemic passes us, organizations can think about the guest experiences created through virtual placemaking. Social media may be utilized to engage with visitors and to continue to promote the brand in deeper ways than we imagined. Preliminary research has proven that these virtual spaces are indeed popular.

Previous visitors and fans of attractions should be perceived as co-creating experiences, ones that may be persuasive in convincing others to visit. I am hopeful that my actual home, Orlando, will recover and welcome tens of millions of visitors in the future.

Nonetheless, I will not forget these compelling virtual homes created during COVID-19. It will be fascinating to see whether this form of engagement, these virtual homes created by organizations and fans, will continue once the crisis is over. I expect that now that real liveshave been enriched by virtual destination homes, they will only grow.


Dr. Carissa Baker – Assistant Professor, University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management

Carissa Baker is an Assistant Professor in Tourism, Events & Attractions at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management in Orlando, Florida. She received her Ph.D. in Texts and Technology from the University of Central Florida. Her primary research focuses on narratives in the theme park space. She presents at academic conferences or themed entertainment industry events and publishes interdisciplinary work on theme parks. Dr. Baker has taught and researched in China in addition to having two stints as a visiting scholar at Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.


The Power of Technology Over a Pandemic by Christina Chuchara

In our high-tech world, there are various ways we use technology to create a trusted, safer, and healthier environment. You may not have realized, but many experiences used virtual queues and online booking before COVID-19. It may be a dramatic adjustment for some companies, but others will see it’s a new way to operate.

The Borghese Gallery in Italy, and Rise of the Resistance in Orlando, Florida manage limited entrance capacity with virtual queues and online booking. Attractions can implement social distancing by seating guests appropriately. Examples are loading every other seat on roller coasters and in showroom theaters. Marking the ground with where to stand while waiting in lines and watching parades is another way to keep distant.

Virtual queues provide guests a specific time-frame to visit an attraction, removing congested queues full of people. This can be set up online – guests will be notified when it’s their turn to proceed to the attraction entrance. Virtual queues give guests the opportunity to enjoy the walk through experiences without the crowds. Virtual queues and online booking are safe approaches post COVID-19.

Technology can expand a company’s target audience for experiences as links can be shared via social channels and email. Social media is another way companies can promote their experiences, and display links for online booking. Although we are facing a pandemic, companies can use social media to present positive images of experiences that are open and within guidelines. Companies such as Shanghai Disneyland have posted videos on social media of workers sanitizing areas to provide a safe environment⁶. This ensures cleanliness for online viewers, and it creates excitement when people see their favorite attractions, knowing the company is getting ready to open.

Making decisions will be easier for guests as they can check reviews of the experiences through the media. Online reviews provide a glance of the company’s reputation for the whole world. TripAdvisor has presented a positive impact from taking the virtual route while booking and experiencing attractions. These reviews display ways consumers can present positive and negative reviews for an experience which will influence others when making decisions on where to go. Alongside virtual bookings, virtual tours have also grown during this pandemic⁷. Many companies have utilized Instagram and their own websites to display artwork. The Borghese Gallery provides audio tours which creates social distancing to avoid large groups in small spaces. Through research, this has been a positive experience for guests⁸.

From the surveys, we learned the value of reputation. Guests place importance on having on-site staff responsible for hygiene, safety standards, and clear indications with social distancing. We don’t know when experiences will open again at full capacity, but with a limited capacity, guests will feel safe and can enjoy the experiences rather than worrying about who they encounter. The London School of Economics and Political Science developed an app to virtually observe how people are socially distancing⁹.

According to the survey results, people feel most comfortable when visiting large, outdoor attractions such as nature parks. This includes social distancing in an open area, and minimum hands-on contact with items. While circumstances may be unpredicted, the power of technology can develop new ways to travel through experiences without fear.


Christina Chuchara : Social Media and E-Reputation Specialist

Christina Chuchara developed her guest service experience from working for the Walt Disney World Company in Orlando, Florida where she is currently located. Along with her position at Walt Disney World, she is working on her Master’s Degree, and enhances the digital reputation of clients internationally as a Social Media and Reputation Specialist for doitwell. Christina supports clients developing their guest experience standards and procedures. She facilitated training for the opening of a new theme park in Bologna, Italy


New scenarios for working as a tour guide after COVID-19 by Selenia Morgillo

*Data emerged from a sample of guides who work in Rome 

The tourism sector post-COVID-19 will be a new experience for the world. 

Recently the internet has been full of articles, questionnaires, and interviews about COVID-19 and its impact on tourism. But there were no questionnaires about the future of tour guides, especially in Italy. So I decided to give a voice to this important group within the tourism industry. 

I’m a licensed tour guide in Italy and I work in Rome. I know the tourism sector and the category of guides specifically. The job of the guide is particular.  It takes empathy, positivity, and pure passion for what you want to explain and convey to the customer. The guide is one of the first people the customer meets. They’re there when the journey begins and the guest arrives at the attraction they’ve dreamed of visiting for a lifetime. I created an open,  anonymous questionnaire so the guides could really express their ideas. And then I analyzed the thoughts and future projects.

In Italy, there is no national register, which makes it difficult to know how many people are tour guides.  But it’s estimated there are approximately 3000 licensed guides (mostly women), in the greater Rome area. The guides are affiliated with trade associations such as Federagit and Agtar within Rome.

Guide are freelancers, and it’s purely seasonal work from March to October. 

COVID-19 had a dramatic impact on the professional and personal life of tour guides in Italy. In cities like Rome, these jobs are sometimes overwhelmed by mass tourism, which has become more common in recent years.

The pandemic we are experiencing has frozen the entire tourism supply chain. Tour Operators have canceled all the tours for the entire 2020 season. 

They hope to be able to start again soon. But the problem is understanding when it will be possible to welcome guests again. Studying the Istat data of the tourist movement in Italy in 2018 for example, Rome is the main destination with 29 million tourists. Germans are the biggest group of visitors to “Bel Paese”, followed by Americans, French, British and SPanish tourists. We could say that Rome is a lifestyle, it’s fashion that never ends, that’s why tourists love it more and more. We’ll probably have to wait until 2023 to match 2019’s tourist numbers. 

While waiting for everything to return to normal, Italy, like many countries will need to focus on domestic tourism.  And tour operators need to organise themselves so they are able to provide a safe experience for visitors. They need to convince visitors that Italy is a safe place to visit. 

Some people have proposed a special health passport that shows a tourist is immune and can travel safety. 

Whenever tourists do return to Italy, and Rome in particular, new projects and measures will have to be implemented to guarantee the safety of visitors and tour operators. People may prefer smaller scale tourism with smaller groups of tourists. And some tour operators will use this negative experience to create something positive.  As a guide, I think a tour with eight people  is the key to success for an unforgettable experience.

Visiting an attraction in a small group has so many advantages. The guest gets to know the guide and as a guide, it’s obviously easier to manage a small group of people. 

It is a new challenge for each of us who work in this sector. I love to define the guide as an “ancient person” in the positive sense. The guide loves to tell stories and to interact, and often prefers the tools of the past to the new digital transformations. The challenge will be to reach the Guest with an experience that we currently define “touch free”.

The use of a microphone for the guides and radio for customers with strictly disposable earphones will be essential. Most of the interviewed guides said they were able to buy a personal microphone. Even in a technologically advanced era, it seems that the “old tools”, tested after several years, are still practical and adaptable. At the moment, there does not seem to be much confidence in apps that can be installed on smartphones, and used via WIFI in order to become “receiving radios” to listen to the explanation of guides. Undoubtedly training by tour operators is the basis of this revolution. Even the most expert guide must be trained in these new work processes, with a view to continuous learning throughout their career. If the digital revolution is real, efficient, and well done, we’ll only get better at our jobs.

Tour operators seem to be well anchored in their roles and recognize more than ever at this moment the fundamental contribution they can contribute to the success of a tour. The ultimate goal will always be to add a personal touch to tours, which make the customer experience unforgettable. Tour operators can make use of some technology but can’t be replaced by it. 

In a time of great difficulty and uncertainty, Tour operators are the ones who have the most intimate knowledge of their sites, who can help customers, who can make them feel safe and secure. Tour operators will be an important part of implementing these new measures ate attractions.

In the end, there  is still a desire to take the opportunity to create a new Rome. A Rome that is not just the usual tourist circuits but other equally beautiful and important places. We will try to educate the tourist before they arrive,  sharing attractions that are not just limited to the Colosseum or Vatican Museums. 

I dream of a media campaign worthy of an Oscar which it tells of the infinite power and charm of Rome. Have you ever thought of closing your eyes and finding yourself in one of the largest imperial thermal baths? It is not a dream but it is the complex of the Baths of Caracalla, 20 minutes from the Colosseum. How many times have you thought about the genius of the Romans and been amazed by their construction skills? After many centuries, those constructions are still there in the park of the aqueducts within the Appia regional parks.  The proposals shared by the guides are endless, believe me, because endless is the Eternal City.

Being an integral part of this sector,  one thing I know for sure is that guides will never give up. On the contrary, we’ll find new solutions to continue giving the best to customers who visit the  “Bel Paese”.


Selenia Morgillo: Tour Guide, Art Historian, Attraction Expert doitwell

Selenia’s background is a mix of art and tourism with a bachelor degree in Conservation of Cultural Heritage, a Specialist degree in Art History and several Masters in the sector. She is a Licensed Tour Guide and Attraction Expert at Doitwell. If on one hand she travels to check security, organization, management into Museums, Theme parks, Cultural Attractions on the other side she has focused on giving the best experience to customers during their journey, through the care of every single detail and her big passion for Art, Archeology, Architecture, Photography and Italian Food. Selenia is an author and producer of the blog for doitwell. Born in a small town near Naples, Selenia currently lives and works in the “Eternal City” of Rome.


Transparency & Opportunity: UX and Post-Pandemic Guest Experiences by Dayna Safferstein

COVID-19, which has already drastically changed the way we live, is also going to drastically change the way users shop for experiences. The process of planning a vacation, which used to be filled with anticipation and excitement, will now be charged with new emotions – including fear, uncertainty, and distrust. 

Post- COVID-19, it will be up to UX designers to study users within this new landscape. We’ll need to understand their emotional journey throughout their experience with digital and physical products. The industry will shift dramatically. It will be up to UX designers, among others, to help set and manage customer expectations about attractions. UX designers, as creative problem solvers, will be uniquely poised to find opportunities amid changing limitations. 

Survey results indicated that customers will be reading copy more closely in a post COVID environment. Users will be looking for reassurance that attractions are taking hygiene and social distancing seriously. A valuable addition to any attraction’s descriptive copy could be a “How Will This Be Different?” section.

For attractions with lots of repeat customers, such as theme parks, properly managing expectations can mitigate disappointment. For instance, helping parents prepare their kids for not being able to hug their favorite characters during a Meet-and-Greet

For once-in-a-lifetime experience, like visiting a foreign country, this kind of transparency could soothe uncertainty. It might even help convince a consumer to buy a ticket to a faraway place. If I’m traveling halfway around the world to visit a place I’ve been dreaming of for years, I want to do and see everything. Offering transparency around how attractions will be different will help customers decide whether to purchase that ticket. It will help them set their expectations and mitigate disappointment. They’ll be reassured that you are indeed taking this seriously.

Understanding your attraction’s limitations post-COVID can also help you find hidden opportunities. For instance, by reducing the volume of people at an attraction, customers may feel less overstimulated. It may help visitors form a deeper connection with your attraction. Kyoto, Japan used this tactic to market “Empty Tourism” during the pandemic. They advertised a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have some of the most beautiful places in the world all to yourself. Another way that COVID restrictions could add value would be wider adoption of virtual queueing. If customers sign up for a time slot for an attraction or ride in advance, they’ll spend less time waiting in line, and reduce close human contact while waiting. 

I had a trip to Japan planned for early April that I had to cancel due to the pandemic. While trying to cancel my tickets on the phone, I had two vastly different experiences with two different companies. My airline allowed me to place my name and number in a queue. They called me back around 2 hours later. This experience was completely stress free. In comparison, my interaction with my travel credit card company was a nightmare. They do not offer virtual queueing, so I waited on hold for close to five hours. In the end, I decided to sacrifice the cost of my flight from mainland Japan to Okinawa.  Virtual queueing can offer a similar experience for customers at a physical attraction. It helps keep people safe while decreasing their wait time and stress. 

Working from home for the 9th consecutive week, I’ve started watching webstreams of places around  the world I wish I could visit. Yesterday I was in New Orleans, last week it was Tel Aviv. This pandemic will not change the inherent human desire for adventure; it will only make it stronger. 

In this new landscape, UX designers will become increasingly important. Not only for helping tourism operators empathize with their clientele. But we’ll be able to help find opportunities for safer and more meaningful digital and physical experiences in the face of adversity.


Dayna Safferstein, UX/UI Designer, Denver, CO.

Product Designer for Charter Communications and freelance UX Designer, Brand Designer, and Illustrator. Dayna specializes in design for the hospitality industry, creating cohesive and memorable experiences that highlight a brand’s mission and streamline the user’s experience with a product, event, and/or physical space. She’s collaborated with Doitwell in the past on a UX redesign of a major international tour company’s online experience.


Sources

1 Results from the research: “The perception of the value of experiences after Covid-19’s emergency” conducted in April in Italy and U.S. online, 847 surveys completed.

2 Italy has recorded a strong number of cases of Covid in its territory with 217.000 total cases registered in the first two weeks of May, following Spain and the U.S.

3 from the research: “The perception of the value of the experience after the Covid-19 emergency”

4 List of Closed Attractions and Canceled Festivals due to COVID-19

5 China, South Korea and Japan start to reopen museums after strict coronavirus lockdown

6 Theresa Hudzinski

7 Museum Coronavirus

8 Tripadvisor

9 Educational lesson or walkthrough videos:

10 Aesthetic or uplifting ride through and fly over videos:

11 Theresa Hudzinski

12 https://blooloop.com/features/museums-coronavirus-social-distancing/

13 https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g34515-d17735125-Reviews-Star_Wars_Galaxy_s_Edge-Orlando_Florida.html#REVIEWS

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g187791-d522812-Reviews-Galleria_Borghese-Rome_Lazio.html

14 http://www.lse.ac.uk/News/Latest-news-from-LSE/2020/d-April-20/Social-distancing-app-developed-by-students-and-alumni-goes-live

15 https://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/turismo-ritorno-crescita-2023-ADpWU3M

16 https://www.ilmessaggero.it/economia/news/coronavirus_turismo_crollo_verticale_del_settore_in_italia-5155970.html

17 https://www.ttgitalia.com/stories/the_matador/160500_il_turismo_dopo_il_coronavirus

18 https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/15/travel/q-and-a-coronavirus-travel.html

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As doitwell’s attractions expert and blog editor, part of my role is telling the story of the company. It’s my job to convey the company’s spirit, what we like and how we can help improve guest experiences.

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