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10 Considerations for Capacity Management

Updated: May 28, 2020 | Share on LinkedIn

Capacity management and timed ticketing is likely the new normal for your attraction, whether you’re still planning your reopening or have already reopened. Through the panelists on our Webinar Wednesdays series and the discussions we’ve had in helping many of our attraction customers plan their reopening strategies, we’ve picked-up many of the capacity management considerations you need to make in preparation for the big day.

What should your capacity be?

Everyone is asking the same question. And in some situations, the answer may come easy, and from your local or regional government. For example, in yellow status, you’re legally only allowed to admit 25% of your max capacity into the venue.

In other cases, it may be a complete guess. In others, it may be a complete educated guess. As a starting point, focus on the one area of your venue which always gets the most congested. Estimate: on a normal pre-COVID day, what percentage of your guests are in that area at any given time? Now re-estimate: what is the number of guests that should be there at any given time with new social distancing and cleanliness rules in place? Then do the math from there.

For an easy example: If 10% of guests are always at the hippo enclosure, and to maintain social distancing there you can only have 20 people viewing at any given time, then there should only ever be 200 people in your park at any given time. Of course, if you start controlling the number of guests at the hippo enclosure, you can start increasing your max capacity.

For almost all venues, it’s also a financial decision. Given operating expenses, what capacity supports staying open, and how can you change your procedures to accommodate that.

Intervals of entry

Many attractions are limiting the number of guests allowed in to their venue within a certain time period, and then allowing a portion of those guests through the gates in intervals during that period. For example, 200 guests can enter in any given hour, and those guests are admitted 50 at a time in 15 minute intervals during the hour. But what are the right intervals?

If your attraction offers a full day experience, you need to determine how many guests you can admit and still maintain appropriate social distancing and cleanliness standards. If your guests follow a pattern of arriving in the morning, and leaving in the afternoon, or coming around noon and leaving in the evening, then consider splitting your day into a morning session and an afternoon session. If your dwell time hovers around two hours, give or take, you likely want to sell a timed ticket and have guests arrive at that time.

How to handle members/passholders

Members/passholders typically just show up, flash their pass, and enter your venue. But that won’t work as well in the new normal as you strictly manage your capacity. You need to be able to predict who will show up, and when.

Many attractions are requiring their members/passholders to purchase free tickets online prior to entry. Some are configuring their ticketing software to have a certain number of tickets per admission interval only available for purchase by members. Or, they’re setting aside certain times or days just for passholders. Our customers are reporting that their members-only availability is selling at 80-100% capacity, while general admission is lagging behind, especially during traditionally slow times.

Account for special scenarios

For example, do you let in children under three without a scan? Make sure you figure out a way to manually count them, get them into your system, or multiply your attendance by an average factor to make sure you are accurately counting the number of guests in your venue.

Dwell time

Dwell time is important because it tells you when your guests will leave your venue, which in turn, helps you estimate how many guests you can admit in any given time period. So what is the average amount of time guests spend in your park? Some attractions determine this number through surveys at their exit points or research through geolocation and GPS. If you don’t know your dwell time, here’s a starting point.

Count entry and exit scans. Most attractions count ticket scans and the number of guests associated with that ticket. Upon exits, counts are usually done with a turnstile, or an attendant with a clicker counter. Once you’ve captured both counts at the end of a certain period, you can assess the average amount of time a guest spends in your venue.

But, actually, forget about turnstiles

Traditionally, a lot of us do use turnstiles for entry and exit. But many venues are eliminating these because it will be too difficult to sanitize the bar after every use. If you have the resources, you may want to transition to contactless ticket scanning at entry and optical counters or thermal sensors at exit. Many of these devices can be programmed to work with your ticketing system, or you can develop your own reporting. Or, go the easy route, and just make sure you have a good ol’ fashioned human monitoring exits in some way and sharing that data with your team.

Moving guests through your venue

One of our customers is considering wristbanding their guests. A certain color wristband indicates to staff when that guest entered the venue. If a guest is overstaying your average dwell time, you can kindly move them through the experience and out.

Another of our customers has a popular experience within the venue. In order to move guests through the tour without causing bottlenecks, they are assigning a timed entry to the experience 90 minutes after they enter the venue. Messaging on the ticket and signage on location helps guests understand when they can arrive.

Still other venues are laying out a prescribed path through the venue, like an IKEA store. They are even going so far as to move, or remove, certain features or experiences that always draw crowds or cause bottlenecks – making sacrifices for social distancing.

Using managed capacity to your advantage

Traditionally, attractions try to fill their space – whether it be a roller coaster car or people mover or the like. However, guests will likely no longer accept being placed on a ride or confined space with other parties. We’ve seen some attractions using this to their advantage.

One of our customers operates a scenic cable car experience. They’ve used new rules and perceptions to their advantage. What used to be an upsell VIP experience – a private cable car for your party – is now the standard offering, and they leaned into it with appropriate marketing. Now everyone gets a VIP experience!

Another customer has already reopened at limited capacity. Initial reviews on social media from their guests are overwhelmingly positive. One thing guests love about the new experience? It’s not crowded!

What if guests arrive early? Or late?

If you sell timed tickets, you will always have guests who arrive earlier, or later, than their assigned admission time. You want to address this before your guests arrive at your venue.

Post a message clearly on your site when guests are purchasing their tickets. In order to maintain optimal cleanliness and social distancing standards, it’s important that guests don’t arrive too early or late because this disrupts the well-orchestrated flow of your entrance experience. You can also use a CRM product to send auto pre-arrival emails to guests who have purchased a ticket. Reiterate your message in these emails, and also highlight your new procedures and even parking directions.

Some attractions are using their ticketing software to build a grace period into the timed ticket. Guests can arrive fifteen minutes early, and still enter the venue as long as maximum capacity isn’t reached. They can also arrive late at any time, and the ticket is still valid, again, as long as maximum capacity isn’t reached. A strategy like this helps reduce strain on lines at your gate, and also reduces guests coming to the service counter looking for help or refunds because they didn’t arrive exactly on time.

If guests do need to wait to enter during their admission time, make sure you have a separate space for them to congregate where they can safely social distance. One of our customers has two lines, separated by six foot long picnic tables. The first is for guests who are lining up to be admitted now. The second is for guests who have arrived a bit early for their assigned admission time a half hour later.

Finally, use your parking lot. Don’t hesitate to make people wait in their cars, or even turn people away at the entrance to the parking lot if they are too early or late. Having that conversation here, with your guest in their car and your staff in a booth or at a table, is likely safer than having it at the ticketing counter at your front gate.

Reopening, and taking names!

When guests purchase their tickets online, you may want to prompt for the names and phone numbers of all guests who will be associated with the ticket – particularly members/passholders who may be bringing guests along that are traditionally included in their perks. If you’re selling walk-up tickets at your gate, collect names and phone numbers too.

This could become important for contact tracing in the future. In some locations, names and numbers may be legally required by the government, so check into this. It can also help with unsavory resellers. Capacity is probably limited in your park, which could increase the grey market for your tickets.

If you need help transitioning your ticketing operations to capacity management, timed-ticketing or 100% online sales, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll have your Account Manager reach out to start the discussion.

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