Years of taking my famiily around days out and attractions around the UK has taught me many things – one of which is that places which sell themselves as ‘family friendly’ are often way off the mark. Having parent and baby parking and chicken nuggets on the menu does not cut it. Not every place can truly call itself family friendly.
Today, we have a guest post from Carly Straughan of QLINE Consulting, an experienced tourism consultant who has spent years helping attractions to be able to cater for their target markets.
So what is it that can help make the difference to families on a day out?
Here is Carly with five ways that can make an attraction family friendly…..
1 – Show, don’t tell
For many families the first interaction they will have with your attraction will be through online content, whether that’s social media or a friend or family member who has previously visited or through an online search for things to do in your area.
Images speak louder than words and can go a long way to providing the information families need to know if the attraction is right for them. If your attractions are more suitable for older children to partake alongside adults then show older children and adults enjoying those things together. If there are age restrictions it makes no sense to be showing families who wouldn’t be able to enjoy their day fully with you.
By including images of families enjoying your attractions on social media and your website you clearly show what you are about and make it easy for prospective visitors to see that they will also be able to enjoy a day out at your visitor attraction. Whilst images of your attractions may look cleaner and tidier, they don’t ease parents’ minds and allow them to imagine themselves enjoying the attractions easily.
Take away any potential worries by showing guests how they too can enjoy your attractions, what clothes are suitable (are families in your photos wearing wellies? Trainers? High heels?) and what ages can play in what areas. The easier it is to imagine my family playing together the more likely it is I will understand the attraction and want to join in.
2 – Safety First
For any family looking to book leisure activities their first concern is going to be how safe they feel putting their limited family time in your hands. Whether that’s physical safety such as a high ropes course or water-based activity, or the simple fact that they are spending their hard-earned money and time with you to make memories, they want to know they put their trust in the right people.
Focus your attention on any online reviews that mention safety or risk as a priority. Any content which makes families consider that they may take a risk by visiting you needs to be addressed first. Whether the responsible adult is conscious of this or not, they are going to make a decision based on how safe they feel putting their families in your hands.
For families researching how to spend their leisure time, online reviews really are worth their weight in gold and good reviews which highlight safe, enjoyable experiences will always make parents feel they have made the best decisions. Back those online reviews up with responses were possible (such as replying on TripAdvisor) and by supporting those positive experiences with your own online content. If lots of your reviews mention a clean, safe environment then make sure your website photos and social content indicate that it’s important to you too.
3 – Booking Bliss
It goes without saying that if it’s difficult to buy tickets for your attraction then people will be less likely to buy, but have you thought about how you can actively encourage bookings by making it as simple as possible to get through the purchase process?
Small changes such as adding a booking button at the very top of your website home page, adding a ‘Book Now’ link on your social media pages and making sure there are as few clicks as possible before paying will encourage time poor parents to choose you over a competitor.
Don’t overcomplicate your booking pages; keep them clear of additional details and links to other pages which may distract from completing the booking. If there is information that is required to be shared such as ages of child tickets, height restrictions or other important details think carefully about where this information is given so that it can be read during the transaction as needed but doesn’t detract from the overall ease of booking.
If your booking system currently has more than six clicks between the home page and payment page it’s time to try and remove some of those pages!
4 – What do your FAQs say about you?
For time-poor parents planning their leisure time can be a stressful experience. The ability to easily find information which is important to them helps massively reduce the anxiety parents feel when planning to spend time out with their families. Your FAQs should be searchable from your own site and SEO optimised so that Google can offer them instantly amongst search results.
I would highly recommend compiling a list of your regular queries on your Google pages, social media feeds and calls you receive. For every question that is brought to your attention there are likely hundreds of potential customers wondering the same thing.
Regularly take stock of your FAQs and update them. Up to date FAQs ease anxious parents’ minds and should remove most potential visitors need to call you. Many parents do not have the time or energy for follow up phone calls and will simply go elsewhere if they can’t find the information they need. Or worse, they will find incorrect information from sources you can’t control such as online reviews and outdated personal blogs causing issues once they are on site and reducing their enjoyment of your attraction.
5 – Feeding Time!
Most families will tell you that whilst they are interested in what they can do whilst they are visiting you, they are most conscious of having time to recharge during their day. Kids need feeding and, without a café or picnic area, it might be difficult to attract a family market.
Make sure you include information on how I can feed my family, where I might be able to enjoy a picnic, and what types of food I should expect to be able to buy once on site. Simple additions to your menus for different ages, baby food preparation areas and the ability to bring your own food will reduce anxious parental minds as they try to plan their day.
And don’t forget that adults need to eat too, a menu of yummy sandwiches might bring joy to an under 10 but adults bringing along their families will need feeding too. Multi-generational families travelling together are becoming more common and you will need to make sure that everyone is catered for in one space. Grandparents’ expectations are going to differ from parents and kids too so try to cover as many bases as is practical.
Also pay attention to how you describe that food offering. There is a big difference between hot dogs and organic sausages on sourdough bread in the minds of consumers even if the way you make or sell them doesn’t change. What types of foods are your customers looking for? What foods are going to make your customers want to spend more time and money with you?
Carly Straughan began her career working in tourist attractions on a 3-month contract until she found a “real job” and almost 15 years later she is still here. She now works with museums, arts and heritage, and tourist attractions worldwide and she is a passionate supporter of the industry