We all know that it is the thing to do. Maximise revenue, maximise exposure, spread the peak points of the visitor experience. But no-one does it in the visitor attraction arena. Who is going to be the first to jump and why have we not done it so far?
Clearly, all visitor attractions want to maximise their revenue. The way to do this is to attract more visitors (in the traditional way of doing marketing), but you could also get higher revenue by managing your inventory better. Try to drive people to less popular times and this frees up inventory for those who can only go at the most popular times.
Incentivise the least popular by putting prices down or offering other advantages (free cups of tea anyone?) where you want people to go (Thursday afternoons is always (un)popular) – de-incentivise at the most popular by maintaining your price structure or even putting it up.
Why would anyone who wants to come to see you choose to come at an unpopular time if the experience is identical to the most popular? Clearly, you need to offer them some bargain for coming at a time that suits you best rather than them.
If you can do this then you can flatten out peaks, sell more tickets, increase revenue and more visitors have a wonderful time at your place – what is there to lose?
So why does no visitor attraction do it? Theatres do it. Sports venues do it. Music venues do it, even British Airways does it (you may want to have a look at that last link – it is quite revealing and shows that they are doing exactly what the budget airlines are explicitly doing). What is stopping museums and other cultural admission venues doing it. I think it is fear. Fear that they might be seen as vulgar. Fear that they might be seen as exploiting their customers. Fear that they might lose money.
If the industry is to grow up, then it needs to address this fear and go for it anyway. Customers really are expecting it now. They are looking for bargains and are prepared to modify their expectations and behaviour to get them. In the world of on-line sales it should be relatively trivial to do this and customers really do want it to happen.
Who’s going to be the first to jump? Go on, I dare you – even for a trial with a group that does not count. How about a quick Randomised Controlled Trial with the travel trade? They are always looking for a bargain and you would gain some knowledge about how your market works at the same time.