The serious business of a fun day out

May Half Term is traditionally a time when families can enjoy a fun day out, however, for the leisure and tourism industry it’s also a vital trading period which could make or break their season.

The half term holiday signals the real start to the summer season and provides an important indicator of what lies ahead for visitor attractions.

An early Easter and extended periods of poor weather have meant a rollercoaster ride to the start of the year with many outdoor attractions reporting a drop in numbers while indoor businesses – like play centres and aquariums – seeing their visitor figures soar.

The mixed start means the next few months are even more crucial for UK attractions.

According to Paul Kelly, chief executive of BALPPA, which represents 300 leisure and tourism members ranging from theme parks, piers and family entertainment centres to zoos and aquariums, May Half Term week has become hugely significant.

“This holiday week is increasingly a very busy time for UK families on days out and our members are expecting to welcome more than a million guests over the Bank Holiday week.

“Traditionally it’s been a time when people are looking to stay within the UK rather than travel further afield.

“More recently a combination of factors including the economic downturn, worries over Brexit, poor exchange rates and concerns over safety abroad have seen a surge in so-called staycations, short breaks and days out.

“Our BALPPA members understand the key is to provide entertainment opportunities that have appeal to a breadth of visitors, with multi-generational families to groups of friends coming together with kids for a day out.

“Changes in demand from visitors mean there is just so much more added value at attractions now – not just in terms of major investment like rides but in entertainment and events.

“Shared experiences with friends or family are becoming ever more important in today’s busy world. A visit to a UK attraction not only creates the opportunity to spend time together, but offers real value for money compared to many other activities,” he added.

The results of the poor weather over Easter are most clearly illustrated in the types of searches made to the popular family days out website

The most popular attraction categories searched for included indoor and soft play centres, museums and children’s farms, but it was climbing centres and stately homes that saw the biggest increases (158%, 70%, 66% respectively) in page views compared to Easter 2017.

“Weather obviously plays a huge role in determining the types of days out that families are searching for,” said Day Out With The Kids Brand Manager Lisa O’Keeffe.

“The sunny early May Bank Holiday weekend delivered some impressive insights. Alongside a 19% increase in new users of the site compared to May Day 2017, Water related attractions saw the biggest increases in searches (+164%), including lidos (+1,300%), beaches (+572%) and water parks (+57%).

“Searches for parks, theme parks and farms also spiked, with indoor attractions seeing the biggest decreases. It’s likely to be a similar story for the late May bank holiday and into half-term, where temperatures are expected to remain higher than average with lots of sunshine,” she added.

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