Nothing cuts quite like having to sit in front of the board, funders or even the team to explain that visitation is only a fraction of what it was this time last year. A year ago, this would have been an inconceivable reality. Today, we have to explain that it’s actually good news. At least the venue is able to open, or was for a while. Welcoming visitors back is good for staff morale. Weekly growth was 200%… even if we only doubled from a few visitors a day. It’s something.
The middle of any journey is always the messy part. The starting line a distant memory, the finish not in sight yet, unexpected twists and turns creating a squiggly line as we find a path forward.
Navigating the messy middle demands data: for better or worse, this is where things are. This is how they’re trending. This is why. This is what we’re doing next. Facts, context and goals form the data story visitor attraction leaders need to inspire and empower their teams into recovery, here are three ways you can begin to do this.
Inspire a solution focused culture by refocusing metrics
Given the numbers are so dramatically unusual, visitation statistics may mean little to the wider team. Instead, the easiest way to meaningfully measure visitation performance following reopening is as percent of normal compared to this time last year.
For example, last week, visitation was at 23% compared to the same time last year. This week, visitation is at 26% of normal, meaning our weekly Recovery Rate is 3%.
Notice in the example above, we’ve grouped visitation by week to simplify calculations. A 7 day rolling average will help smooth out the bumps, such as the fact that weekends are likely to compare better than weekdays due to a reliance on staycation marketing in the absence of tourism.
Given ‘rolling average percentage of normal’ is a bit of a mouthful, at Dexibit we’ve tagged this the ‘Recovery Index’, and its week on week or month on month growth the ‘Recovery Rate’.
These two metrics are central to the data story of recovery: shifting from absolute visitor volume to a focus on recovery growth helps refocus the team’s emphasis on the solutions to power recovery, rather than dwelling on the problem of where things are now. They’re also worth making a permanent home for how your team leads on visitation performance, given this approach is just as useful a metric in normal times as year on year growth.
Recovery index for a venue (visitation compared to the same time last year) based on their 33rd day of reopening and compared to other visitor attractions. This visualization shows how visitation has recovered over time. Available for free on Dexibit’s Dashboard tool. *uses demo data
Empower teams by giving context to data
Inherently, despite the optics, numbers which describe negative growth or even physically seeing less visitors than normal will seed concern amongst the team. Although as leaders we often want to protect our teams from pain, sometimes what they need is the reverse: exposure to the problem empowers teams to generate ideas which resolve it.
The important ingredient here is context: orienting the team to the right problem and giving them insight to fuel innovation. For the recovery data story, this is where benchmarking has a part to play. The right problem is not whether the recovery index or rate ‘feels’ good or bad, it’s how it compares that counts.
- Is the venue doing better or worse than its neighbors, or industry peers?
- Is it growing faster or slower?
- What tactics are those ahead on the curve employing and where can we set our expectations on the same?
- How do they compare with what we’re experimenting with and do we pivot or persevere?
- What results are those further along the journey seeing and what should we prepare for next?
The great thing about benchmarks like Recovery Index and Recovery Rate is that these are great equalizers between visitation – an apples to apples comparison can be achieved no matter the venue’s size or the complexity of how it counts visitors. At Dexibit, our free dashboard tool includes the ability to compare to the global sector, local venues or a peer group of your making – a great way to put performance into context to help orient your team.
Motivate goal orientated individuals
In a diverse group of people, providing the push of problems together with the pull of goals helps appeal to a range of individual motivations. A return to the normalcy of setting north star visitation targets is important for a high performance team and again helps rally others around the recovery mission, though in the face of COVID-19, need to be adjusted for the reality of recovery with a short range given the continued uncertainty.
Goals can also be set on recovery specific challenges such as health and safety, visitor happiness or financial sustainability – such as a week without a capacity breach, a day without a queue complaint or achieving break even on the variable costs of opening. Goals help the team stay strategically aligned, lean and agile.
As we battle forward in bringing back visitors who are both safe and happy, ensuring financial sustainability and powering growth, data stories help strategically align our team to the recovery mission.
By inspiring a solution focused culture with recovery related metrics, empowering teams with the context of benchmarks and motivating individuals with goals, our visitor attractions are better equipped to navigate the messy middle of the COVID-19 journey.