Having fun whilst learning; not just child’s play

12/02/2018 By Diana Meterna

Making learning fun for children has long been a core focus of the attractions market - but what about adults? Don’t we want to have fun whilst we learn too? Well, according to recent ALVA data, yes - we do!

The data shows that, in 2017, at least 11% of adult-only visitors to large attractions across the UK wanted ‘to experience or learn something different from normal’ (classified as wanting to ‘Broaden Horizons’), while a further 5% wanted to ‘have fun and be entertained’ (affectionately classified as ‘Big Kids’). Luckily for these demographics, museums and attractions are now realising the potential behind making learning fun by introducing on-site immersive events and experiences.

I recently attended one such event - Crime Scene Live at the Natural History Museum. A few hundred other amateur sleuths and I had the chance to learn basic forensic techniques; we had a crash-course in blood splatter analysis, learned about the lifecycle of maggots in a rotting corpse and even solved a (fictional) crime committed at the museum. I took my new-found role as a detective extremely seriously and, channelling my inner Miss Marple, I learned to identify individual human fingerprints and ‘lift’ them from an object - so the person who keeps using my stapler better watch out!

Other attractions across the UK have introduced similar events. The Jersey War Tunnels have introduced an escape room experience set during the Nazi occupation of Jersey. Whilst escapees are not required to purchase a ticket to the Jersey War Tunnels to enjoy the escape room, the attraction gives visitors a wider understanding of the history of the tunnels - and no doubt helps encourage them to visit the museum itself.

Hosting experiences such as these is fairly easy, and doesn’t necessarily require the use of mobile apps, QR readers or added staff numbers as some of the above examples do; it can simply be a matter of enhancing your existing assets. Last summer, my local National Trust Property Cliveden encouraged visitors to explore the estate’s 75 hectares by introducing the ‘Game of Clues’: Murder Mystery. The simple, self-directed game cost visitors £5 (encouraging secondary spend) and involved using maps to track down clues across the entire estate. It was so successful they’re running it again with a new mystery to encourage repeat visitors – so maybe I’ll see you there!

I would encourage all attractions, big or small, to consider how they can link an immersive experience to their offering. You’ll attract new types of visitors, encourage repeat visits, upsell and increase secondary spend and, most importantly, enhance your visitors' experience. After all, most of us are just ‘Big Kids’ at heart.