Sports Facilities

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From Coasters to Tournaments, Smart Strategies Bringing Back Business

11 Sep, 2020

By: Michael Popke

What do rollercoasters, theme parks and sports venues like stadiums and fields all have in common? They’re both working on creating the smartest strategies to bring back guests. Here are some of the parallels – and some of the differences. (One thing they definitely have in common: they’re all using social media to try to find the answers they need).

Front Office Sports and Satisfi Labs, The Interactive Search Company teamed up to release a 10-page report titled “The Return: How Resuming Sports Can Learn from Tourism.” The report includes details about the main concerns visitors experience at events and attractions, measures that can be taken to keep visitors safe, lessons sports facilities can learn from attractions that already have reopened, and how a switch in focus to digital engagement has impacted visitor interest.

“North Americans have waited nearly six months for the return of live sports and are now getting their wish. Unfortunately for them, they’ll have to settle for watching from the comfort of home until the situation surrounding the pandemic improves,” reads the report’s introduction, which states that “data was gathered from conversational input data across roughly 150 Satisfi Labs’ sports and tourism clients.”

Here are some highlights:

• According to sports teams that use Satisfi Labs’ Interactive Search Engines, some of the most common questions asked by sports fans between July 6 and Aug. 12 were about general purchase ticket requests, ticket refunds, fan cutouts, schedules and schedule changes, and venue music.

• The five most-asked health and safety questions attractions guests asked in June were about tickets reservations (60%), face masks (28%), safety measures (5%), limited capacity (3%) and social distancing 3%).

• For one major theme park, daily online traffic increased 520% in June 2020 compared to June 2019. Part of that increase can be attributed to the addition of an interactive search function on the facility’s mobile app, but it also indicates a sustained interest by patrons to return.

• Optimizing online welcome messages is making it easy for visitors to find answers to their questions quickly and reducing the number of questions to which staff members must respond. Reopening strategies is a key welcome message topic, especially as it relates to health and safety.

• Visitors are increasingly turning to Facebook to ask questions and seek answers.

• More than 70 percent of customers are more likely to spend money with businesses that require face masks than those that don’t.

• According to the report, the sports tourism sector also can learn from steps the tourism industry has taken regarding timed entries, pre-purchasing of tickets and installed guided paths to manage crowds.

“Collegiate and professional sports teams will need to manage the flow of entry, and gathering across concourses,” the report states. “Furthermore, sports partners such as Ticketmaster have already introduced new features to help teams manage reduced seating. Sports teams will need to look to communication and venue technology to not only inform, but manage fan gatherings before, during and after events.”

The report concludes with four major takeaways and details several opportunities for sports venue operators as they prepare to welcome the return of fans. They include the following:

• Pivoting to all-digital ticketing systems to avoid unnecessary physical contact between fans and venue staff.

• Ensuring that mobile apps are capable of handling an influx of new traffic. “While capacity within your venue may be limited, fan demand [for information] is only going up,” according to the report’s authors.

• Offering fans the opportunity to purchase branded face masks throughout the venue.

• Releasing updated schedule information via digital platforms and making answers to pre- and post-ticket sales questions easily accessible and (if possible) automated.

“What we’ve learned from tourism is that visitors/fans want to return, and now it’s up to destinations, including sports teams and venues, to make them feel safe and informed,” the report concludes.

That said, fans in stands might not be happening anytime soon. Front Office Sports reports that as of Aug. 31, 25 of the NFL’s 30 teams expect to kick off the season in empty stadiums— which is hurting the tourism business in NFL markets.

“It’s scary times right now,” Kelsie Basten, front desk manager at St. Brendan’s Inn in Green Bay, Wis., told the Associated Pressin September. The Packers will play at least their first two home games in an empty Lambeau Field. “We’re all just kind of going day by day, payroll by payroll, trying to get as much business as we can right now to keep us going.”

According to reporter Steve Megargee, “St. Brendan’s Inn has a standard rate of $129 per night that goes up to $219 with a two-night minimum requirement for Packers games. Basten said home football weekends can bring in $12,000 to $15,000.”

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