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Peak experiences

Peak experiences challenge our worldview and have the power to transport and transform us. How can attractions provide the right environment to spark these moments? Magali Robathan speaks to some people exploring these issues


Joseph Pine and Wendy Heimann-Nunes
Co-founder, Strategic Horizons LLP & co-author of The Experience Economy and co-managing partner of Nolan Heimann LLP & co-lead of Bldg Beyond
Photo: Milan Vermeulen
Photo: Daniel Vogel

Psychologist Abraham Maslow is famous for his concept of the hierarchy of needs, with self-actualisation situated at the very top. Self-actualisation represents the need to fulfil one’s full potential, and, according to Maslow, peak experiences play an important role.

So what is a peak experience? As introduced by Maslow, a peak experience delves into “moments of highest happiness and fulfilment,” allowing individuals to transcend their daily lives through euphoric moments. Such phenomena extend beyond memorable moments and climactic events to elevate our existence.

Can attractions create peak experiences?

We believe the answer lies in the transformative power of attractions, a concept unfolding every day around the world.

Take, for instance, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Here, lifelong fans aren’t mere guests, but experience full euphoria as integral parts of the narrative – donning a costume, being a character in a galaxy far, far away and exploring new facets of their own identity in a universe that captivated them for years. Through these attractions, guests leave their daily lives behind and try “new versions of themselves with the agency to be a force for good or evil,” as Scott Trowbridge, senior creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, told us.

People also undergo peak experiences at Pandora – The World of Avatar, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, One World Observatory at the World Trade Center in New York – as well as numerous immersive attractions without the big budgets of Walt Disney or Universal Studios.

Transformation that lasts

The COVID-19 pandemic amplified a key trend of today’s experience economy: people increasingly seek experiences that not only transport them for a moment but that transform them for a lifetime. Such transformative experiences change them in significant ways, causing them to see differently, act differently, and be different. Phil Hettema, founder and CEO of THG Creative, highlighted another way that attractions are transformative: by enabling people to “find their community,” – one that simply feels ‘right’. Hettema reflected on the intense emotional responses evoked on arrival at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Guests feel that they are home. He also spoke of the identity-affirming power of the musical Wicked and how it transformed so many who identified with Elphaba, the experience thus forming part of their identity.

Attractions can also be catalysts for relational transformation. How many people take their family or co-workers to attractions for bonding? To be a hero, say, in the eyes of their children, or to form a team of heroes with friends? Attractions can foster connections resonating on a deep, lasting level.

Where memorable experiences engage us for a moment, peak experiences can transport us for a time, and perhaps even transform us.

Shaping minds

Sometimes such transformations happen by serendipity. I (Joe Pine) once spoke to an annual gathering of the American Alliance of Museums and asked how many people worked in the museum world due to an experience they’d had in a museum when they were young. About 40 per cent said yes. Think about that. Every day, at your attraction, some experience may cause a child to pursue the experience business. That’s exactly why Trowbridge and Hettema became experience designers, and why I (Wendy Heimann-Nunes) pursued my unique career.

As experience designers, stagers, operators, and owners, recognise that you can create experiences that are not just memorable, not just peak, but truly transformative. As Trowbridge told us, he foresees “the day when attractions are intentionally designed to be transformative.” Imagine your potential impact. And in creating peak experiences, perhaps you too will be transformed.

People are seeking experiences that don’t just transport them for a moment, but also transform them for a lifetime
Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge visitors are able to explore new facets of their identity / Photo: Disney/Matt Stroshane
Christian Lachel
Chief creative officer, BRC Imagination Arts
Storytelling can be a source of healing for the soul, says BRC’s Christian Lachel / Photo: BRC

Earlier this year I saw U2 play at the Sphere in Las Vegas. I went in with high expectations and was still blown away — I’ve been a U2 fan for three decades and to see them perform in an immersive venue complete with incredible design, sound, visuals, and surrounded by 20,000 other fans was euphoric. I lost track of time and found myself still buzzing days later. I didn’t think it was possible, but the experience renewed my belief in the power of music and the importance of what we do in the experience business: create peak experiences for guests.

In the dynamic world of attractions, the difficult work of crafting unforgettable moments is becoming increasingly non-optional. As visitors seek out destinations that offer more than just superficial thrills, the industry must evolve to deliver experiences that resonate on a deeper emotional level. Competition is steep, attention is scarce, and if you don’t capture your audience’s attention the first time you have it, you may never have the opportunity again.

At experiential design and realisation firm BRC Imagination Arts, we use the theory of peak experiences as a guiding principle, informing decisions on everything from strategy to production. The term peak experience was coined by Abraham Maslow to describe an intense, transcendent experience that is characterised by feelings of connection, joy, and a sense of being part of something larger than oneself. These experiences are often described as profound and can have a lasting impact on an individual’s sense of self and their view of the world.

Emotional choreography

It’s not just about the climax of an attraction but the entire journey — the anticipation, the build-up, and the afterglow. Each element plays a crucial role in shaping the visitor’s perception and, ultimately, their satisfaction.

Emotional choreography becomes paramount as designers meticulously craft every aspect of the visitor journey, orchestrating moments of awe, excitement, and introspection.

One of my favourite and most simple examples of this is Moments of Happiness, a media experience BRC created in 2014 for the World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta, US. The six-minute emotional journey opens the guest experience for visitors and features nine mini-stories of people at various life stages and from various cultures enjoying universal moments of happiness — moments of fun, humour, adventure, and love.

No dialogue, just an exhilarating music track by Imagine Dragons that supports interwoven scenarios: a first kiss, a marriage proposal, a baby announcement, and — most joyous of all — the unexpected reunion of a service member with his family.

An experience that lasts

After launching the experience, we received a note from a family who had visited the World of Coca-Cola during a road trip across the US. On the way to the World of Coca-Cola they had been arguing and the trip was not going as they’d planned. However, the opening media experience transformed their day — it inspired them to spend the rest of the afternoon creating their own moments of happiness and lifelong memories. This story always reminds me that it’s not the media or the technology, but the emotional resonance that lingers long after the credits roll.

The pursuit of peak experiences lies at the heart of the attractions industry’s mission. By weaving together storytelling, spatial design, music, colour, and magical technology, attractions become more than mere destinations for visitors — they also become conduits for emotional fulfilment and self-discovery.

As the attractions industry continues to push the boundaries of creativity and innovation, let us remember that storytelling is not just about entertainment — it also represents a form of therapy, a journey of self-discovery.

As visitors seek destinations that offer more than superficial thrills, the industry must evolve to deliver experiences that resonate on a deeper emotional level
BRC created the Moments of Happiness media experience for the World of Coca Cola / Photo: BRC
Photo: BRC
Photo: BRC
Andrea Jones
Founder, Peak Experience Lab
Photo: Andrea Jones

Think back to memorable moments when you experienced a shift in your worldview. You were moved. You felt something authentic that transformed you. You felt empathy for someone you loathed. You decided to do more to save the environment. These transformative moments are peak experiences, and I’ve spent a career exploring the ways that museums can provide the right conditions to spark them.

In museums, we can challenge assumptions, provide inspiration, and open minds. If designed for it, a museum can provide a safe place for purposeful reflection: a landscape to explore one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves: What kind of person do I want to be?

The power of story

I had a powerful peak experience at the Lower 9th Ward Living Museum in New Orleans. The museum is in a shotgun house located in the African American neighbourhood that experienced the worst of Hurricane Katrina’s wrath in 2005. Inside the Living Museum, DIY-style exhibits tell the rich history of the neighbourhood from the point of view of the residents. When I visited, 14 years after Hurricane Katrina, I could sense a palpable feeling of community love in the art that lined the walls. But my heart stopped when I got to the Hurricane Katrina room.

Laid out in unflinching detail was an account of the repeated harms done to this African American community – by local politicians who refused to make repairs to the levee that let in Katrina’s flood waters, by FEMA who prematurely demolished homes after the storm, by predatory contractors. I cried in a museum for the first time in my life. This community had dared to tell the truth about structural racism in a way that I’d never seen before.

Something opened inside me. Cracks in my previously held beliefs, ones that had started to fracture years ago, had now become a glaring chasm. I realised that I was a part of this unjust system and I needed to find ways to make it better.

Places like the Living Museum are one-of-a-kind. But any museum can create peak experiences that foster growth toward a healthier, more empathetic, world.

I centre four principles to create peak experiences in my museum work. Experiences should be:

1. Thought-provoking. I centre an essential question or tension in the experience – often a provocation related to ethics. When is war justified? When should we break the rules? This immediately involves audiences in a self-dialogue.

2. Inclusive of multiple perspectives. This is another way of creating dissonance or tension. In a program about the Freedom Riders of 1961, I purposefully included a section that featured celebrated civil rights hero Thurgood Marshall in opposition to the Freedom Rider’s tactics. By providing multiple viewpoints, I’m involving the visitor in the thinking.

3. Participatory. In order to explore their identities, audiences must be invited to take an active part in the experience. I designed an exhibition experience called The Utopia Project: Inspiration for Creative Activism that takes people through a step-by-step process for turning a heartfelt cause into strategic and creative action. By involving the visitors in such a central way, they are forced to grapple with eye-opening questions.

4. Connected to emotion. This special ingredient deserves its own article. Emotion is a central component of all good storytelling and is necessary for self-reflection. With emotion, we can tap into deeper meaning, memory, and transformation. But we can also tap into trauma and unhealed wounds. Emotional literacy and care in museums are crucial.

I use these four elements of peak experiences as a rubric for good design. But I always encourage people to alter them or add their own if necessary.

Every day a museum out there is unwittingly the catalyst for someone’s next big step towards becoming a better human being. What could be more important in the world today? These small changes happen even when we don’t design for them. What could happen if we did?

 
I cried in a museum for the first time in my life
The Lower 9th Ward Living Museum in New Orleans shows the power of truth / Photo: Andrea Jones
The Utopia Project aims to unlock creativity in visitors to help transform their world / Photo: Andrea Jones
Photo: Andrea Jones
Photo: Andrea Jones
Nathaly Kambakara
Associate director, BVA BDRC
Photo: Annie Armitage
Why are peak experiences important for the attractions industry?

Behavioural economics tells us that emotions play a vital role in our perception of the world and our decision-making. As emotional beings, people judge an experience based on how they felt at its peak moments (the most intense points) rather than the sum or average of every moment of the experience. These strong positive moments will last in visitors’ memories and impact future behaviour. Memorable experiences enable an emotional bond with an attraction and engender a loyal customer who will spread the word about an attraction to friends and family, in addition to making repeat visits themselves.

How can attractions use the theory of peak experience to create amazing customer experiences?

BVA BDRC has developed the EPIC framework, which can help visitor attractions design unforgettable customer experiences and foster customer relationships. By applying this framework to attraction visits, we can identify any elements that elevate visitor experiences from ‘good, but forgettable’ to ‘stand out’. It allows us to measure how often these occur or the lack of such moments.

There are four EPIC moments that drive a memorable experience. These are Elevation: the act of going beyond the routine; Pride: which is generated when visitors feel valued and recognised; Insight: which helps visitors learn something new and gain a deeper understanding of a topic of interest, adding to the excitement, and even triggering a sense of adventure when inspired to get involved; and Connection: enabling visitors to be surrounded by people with shared interests and feel a sense of belonging.

What are the key findings from BVA BRDC’s research on this topic?

We asked whether visitors experienced any of these memorable moments during their visit within the ALVA visitor experience benchmarking research, conducted across 70+ UK attractions.

Our findings show that visitor attractions are notably better at delivering moments of elevation and insight than creating feelings of pride and connection.

Most importantly, we looked at the relationship between the four EPIC experiences and the net promoter score (how likely a visitor is to recommend an attraction) and noticed that the net promoter score increases noticeably when a visitor experiences at least one of these EPIC moments.

Can you highlight any peak experience moments from real life attractions that seem to lead to positive feedback from customers?

The attractions industry excels at delivering EPIC moments and they differ in the way each moment is delivered.

ls to contribute to a memorable experience is staff interaction. Brooklands motoring and aviation Museum in Weybridge, UK, makes visitors feel valued and appreciated through the welcome and kindness of the team on site as highlighted by one of its visitors, who said: “Staff and people here always bend over backwards to help.  I feel very welcome.”

Hawk Conservancy Trust in Andover, UK, creates memorable moments through staff sharing their knowledge and passion during its bird of prey flying displays.

A visitor told us: “This is a special place, creating special memories. The staff bring the true meaning of conservation to life and show a passion for birds of prey.”

Another visitor attraction that does very well at delivering epic experiences is Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, which successfully creates a sense of community by connecting visitors with other like-minded people who share a mutual appreciation of the world of Harry Potter.

Memorable experiences enable an emotional bond with an attraction
Warner Bros Studio Tour London fosters a sense of connection amongst visitors / Photo: Warner Bros Studio Tour
Photo: Warner Bros Studio Tour
Photo: Warner Bros Studio Tour
Photo: Warner Bros Studio Tour
BVA BDRC has carried out research exploring what creates memorable moments / Photo: Warner Bros Studio Tour
Attractions like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge enable people to connect with other fans Credit: Photo: Disney/David Roark
Photo: Warner Bros Studio Tour Credit: Photo: BRC
 


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Attractions Management
2024 issue 2

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Leisure Management - Peak experiences

Talking point

Peak experiences


Peak experiences challenge our worldview and have the power to transport and transform us. How can attractions provide the right environment to spark these moments? Magali Robathan speaks to some people exploring these issues

Attractions like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge enable people to connect with other fans Photo: Disney/David Roark
Visitors to Warner Bros Studio Tour often experience intense emotional responses Photo: Warner Bros Studio Tour
Photo: Warner Bros Studio Tour Photo: BRC

Joseph Pine and Wendy Heimann-Nunes
Co-founder, Strategic Horizons LLP & co-author of The Experience Economy and co-managing partner of Nolan Heimann LLP & co-lead of Bldg Beyond
Photo: Milan Vermeulen
Photo: Daniel Vogel

Psychologist Abraham Maslow is famous for his concept of the hierarchy of needs, with self-actualisation situated at the very top. Self-actualisation represents the need to fulfil one’s full potential, and, according to Maslow, peak experiences play an important role.

So what is a peak experience? As introduced by Maslow, a peak experience delves into “moments of highest happiness and fulfilment,” allowing individuals to transcend their daily lives through euphoric moments. Such phenomena extend beyond memorable moments and climactic events to elevate our existence.

Can attractions create peak experiences?

We believe the answer lies in the transformative power of attractions, a concept unfolding every day around the world.

Take, for instance, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Here, lifelong fans aren’t mere guests, but experience full euphoria as integral parts of the narrative – donning a costume, being a character in a galaxy far, far away and exploring new facets of their own identity in a universe that captivated them for years. Through these attractions, guests leave their daily lives behind and try “new versions of themselves with the agency to be a force for good or evil,” as Scott Trowbridge, senior creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, told us.

People also undergo peak experiences at Pandora – The World of Avatar, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, One World Observatory at the World Trade Center in New York – as well as numerous immersive attractions without the big budgets of Walt Disney or Universal Studios.

Transformation that lasts

The COVID-19 pandemic amplified a key trend of today’s experience economy: people increasingly seek experiences that not only transport them for a moment but that transform them for a lifetime. Such transformative experiences change them in significant ways, causing them to see differently, act differently, and be different. Phil Hettema, founder and CEO of THG Creative, highlighted another way that attractions are transformative: by enabling people to “find their community,” – one that simply feels ‘right’. Hettema reflected on the intense emotional responses evoked on arrival at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Guests feel that they are home. He also spoke of the identity-affirming power of the musical Wicked and how it transformed so many who identified with Elphaba, the experience thus forming part of their identity.

Attractions can also be catalysts for relational transformation. How many people take their family or co-workers to attractions for bonding? To be a hero, say, in the eyes of their children, or to form a team of heroes with friends? Attractions can foster connections resonating on a deep, lasting level.

Where memorable experiences engage us for a moment, peak experiences can transport us for a time, and perhaps even transform us.

Shaping minds

Sometimes such transformations happen by serendipity. I (Joe Pine) once spoke to an annual gathering of the American Alliance of Museums and asked how many people worked in the museum world due to an experience they’d had in a museum when they were young. About 40 per cent said yes. Think about that. Every day, at your attraction, some experience may cause a child to pursue the experience business. That’s exactly why Trowbridge and Hettema became experience designers, and why I (Wendy Heimann-Nunes) pursued my unique career.

As experience designers, stagers, operators, and owners, recognise that you can create experiences that are not just memorable, not just peak, but truly transformative. As Trowbridge told us, he foresees “the day when attractions are intentionally designed to be transformative.” Imagine your potential impact. And in creating peak experiences, perhaps you too will be transformed.

People are seeking experiences that don’t just transport them for a moment, but also transform them for a lifetime
Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge visitors are able to explore new facets of their identity / Photo: Disney/Matt Stroshane
Christian Lachel
Chief creative officer, BRC Imagination Arts
Storytelling can be a source of healing for the soul, says BRC’s Christian Lachel / Photo: BRC

Earlier this year I saw U2 play at the Sphere in Las Vegas. I went in with high expectations and was still blown away — I’ve been a U2 fan for three decades and to see them perform in an immersive venue complete with incredible design, sound, visuals, and surrounded by 20,000 other fans was euphoric. I lost track of time and found myself still buzzing days later. I didn’t think it was possible, but the experience renewed my belief in the power of music and the importance of what we do in the experience business: create peak experiences for guests.

In the dynamic world of attractions, the difficult work of crafting unforgettable moments is becoming increasingly non-optional. As visitors seek out destinations that offer more than just superficial thrills, the industry must evolve to deliver experiences that resonate on a deeper emotional level. Competition is steep, attention is scarce, and if you don’t capture your audience’s attention the first time you have it, you may never have the opportunity again.

At experiential design and realisation firm BRC Imagination Arts, we use the theory of peak experiences as a guiding principle, informing decisions on everything from strategy to production. The term peak experience was coined by Abraham Maslow to describe an intense, transcendent experience that is characterised by feelings of connection, joy, and a sense of being part of something larger than oneself. These experiences are often described as profound and can have a lasting impact on an individual’s sense of self and their view of the world.

Emotional choreography

It’s not just about the climax of an attraction but the entire journey — the anticipation, the build-up, and the afterglow. Each element plays a crucial role in shaping the visitor’s perception and, ultimately, their satisfaction.

Emotional choreography becomes paramount as designers meticulously craft every aspect of the visitor journey, orchestrating moments of awe, excitement, and introspection.

One of my favourite and most simple examples of this is Moments of Happiness, a media experience BRC created in 2014 for the World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta, US. The six-minute emotional journey opens the guest experience for visitors and features nine mini-stories of people at various life stages and from various cultures enjoying universal moments of happiness — moments of fun, humour, adventure, and love.

No dialogue, just an exhilarating music track by Imagine Dragons that supports interwoven scenarios: a first kiss, a marriage proposal, a baby announcement, and — most joyous of all — the unexpected reunion of a service member with his family.

An experience that lasts

After launching the experience, we received a note from a family who had visited the World of Coca-Cola during a road trip across the US. On the way to the World of Coca-Cola they had been arguing and the trip was not going as they’d planned. However, the opening media experience transformed their day — it inspired them to spend the rest of the afternoon creating their own moments of happiness and lifelong memories. This story always reminds me that it’s not the media or the technology, but the emotional resonance that lingers long after the credits roll.

The pursuit of peak experiences lies at the heart of the attractions industry’s mission. By weaving together storytelling, spatial design, music, colour, and magical technology, attractions become more than mere destinations for visitors — they also become conduits for emotional fulfilment and self-discovery.

As the attractions industry continues to push the boundaries of creativity and innovation, let us remember that storytelling is not just about entertainment — it also represents a form of therapy, a journey of self-discovery.

As visitors seek destinations that offer more than superficial thrills, the industry must evolve to deliver experiences that resonate on a deeper emotional level
BRC created the Moments of Happiness media experience for the World of Coca Cola / Photo: BRC
Photo: BRC
Photo: BRC
Andrea Jones
Founder, Peak Experience Lab
Photo: Andrea Jones

Think back to memorable moments when you experienced a shift in your worldview. You were moved. You felt something authentic that transformed you. You felt empathy for someone you loathed. You decided to do more to save the environment. These transformative moments are peak experiences, and I’ve spent a career exploring the ways that museums can provide the right conditions to spark them.

In museums, we can challenge assumptions, provide inspiration, and open minds. If designed for it, a museum can provide a safe place for purposeful reflection: a landscape to explore one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves: What kind of person do I want to be?

The power of story

I had a powerful peak experience at the Lower 9th Ward Living Museum in New Orleans. The museum is in a shotgun house located in the African American neighbourhood that experienced the worst of Hurricane Katrina’s wrath in 2005. Inside the Living Museum, DIY-style exhibits tell the rich history of the neighbourhood from the point of view of the residents. When I visited, 14 years after Hurricane Katrina, I could sense a palpable feeling of community love in the art that lined the walls. But my heart stopped when I got to the Hurricane Katrina room.

Laid out in unflinching detail was an account of the repeated harms done to this African American community – by local politicians who refused to make repairs to the levee that let in Katrina’s flood waters, by FEMA who prematurely demolished homes after the storm, by predatory contractors. I cried in a museum for the first time in my life. This community had dared to tell the truth about structural racism in a way that I’d never seen before.

Something opened inside me. Cracks in my previously held beliefs, ones that had started to fracture years ago, had now become a glaring chasm. I realised that I was a part of this unjust system and I needed to find ways to make it better.

Places like the Living Museum are one-of-a-kind. But any museum can create peak experiences that foster growth toward a healthier, more empathetic, world.

I centre four principles to create peak experiences in my museum work. Experiences should be:

1. Thought-provoking. I centre an essential question or tension in the experience – often a provocation related to ethics. When is war justified? When should we break the rules? This immediately involves audiences in a self-dialogue.

2. Inclusive of multiple perspectives. This is another way of creating dissonance or tension. In a program about the Freedom Riders of 1961, I purposefully included a section that featured celebrated civil rights hero Thurgood Marshall in opposition to the Freedom Rider’s tactics. By providing multiple viewpoints, I’m involving the visitor in the thinking.

3. Participatory. In order to explore their identities, audiences must be invited to take an active part in the experience. I designed an exhibition experience called The Utopia Project: Inspiration for Creative Activism that takes people through a step-by-step process for turning a heartfelt cause into strategic and creative action. By involving the visitors in such a central way, they are forced to grapple with eye-opening questions.

4. Connected to emotion. This special ingredient deserves its own article. Emotion is a central component of all good storytelling and is necessary for self-reflection. With emotion, we can tap into deeper meaning, memory, and transformation. But we can also tap into trauma and unhealed wounds. Emotional literacy and care in museums are crucial.

I use these four elements of peak experiences as a rubric for good design. But I always encourage people to alter them or add their own if necessary.

Every day a museum out there is unwittingly the catalyst for someone’s next big step towards becoming a better human being. What could be more important in the world today? These small changes happen even when we don’t design for them. What could happen if we did?

 
I cried in a museum for the first time in my life
The Lower 9th Ward Living Museum in New Orleans shows the power of truth / Photo: Andrea Jones
The Utopia Project aims to unlock creativity in visitors to help transform their world / Photo: Andrea Jones
Photo: Andrea Jones
Photo: Andrea Jones
Nathaly Kambakara
Associate director, BVA BDRC
Photo: Annie Armitage
Why are peak experiences important for the attractions industry?

Behavioural economics tells us that emotions play a vital role in our perception of the world and our decision-making. As emotional beings, people judge an experience based on how they felt at its peak moments (the most intense points) rather than the sum or average of every moment of the experience. These strong positive moments will last in visitors’ memories and impact future behaviour. Memorable experiences enable an emotional bond with an attraction and engender a loyal customer who will spread the word about an attraction to friends and family, in addition to making repeat visits themselves.

How can attractions use the theory of peak experience to create amazing customer experiences?

BVA BDRC has developed the EPIC framework, which can help visitor attractions design unforgettable customer experiences and foster customer relationships. By applying this framework to attraction visits, we can identify any elements that elevate visitor experiences from ‘good, but forgettable’ to ‘stand out’. It allows us to measure how often these occur or the lack of such moments.

There are four EPIC moments that drive a memorable experience. These are Elevation: the act of going beyond the routine; Pride: which is generated when visitors feel valued and recognised; Insight: which helps visitors learn something new and gain a deeper understanding of a topic of interest, adding to the excitement, and even triggering a sense of adventure when inspired to get involved; and Connection: enabling visitors to be surrounded by people with shared interests and feel a sense of belonging.

What are the key findings from BVA BRDC’s research on this topic?

We asked whether visitors experienced any of these memorable moments during their visit within the ALVA visitor experience benchmarking research, conducted across 70+ UK attractions.

Our findings show that visitor attractions are notably better at delivering moments of elevation and insight than creating feelings of pride and connection.

Most importantly, we looked at the relationship between the four EPIC experiences and the net promoter score (how likely a visitor is to recommend an attraction) and noticed that the net promoter score increases noticeably when a visitor experiences at least one of these EPIC moments.

Can you highlight any peak experience moments from real life attractions that seem to lead to positive feedback from customers?

The attractions industry excels at delivering EPIC moments and they differ in the way each moment is delivered.

ls to contribute to a memorable experience is staff interaction. Brooklands motoring and aviation Museum in Weybridge, UK, makes visitors feel valued and appreciated through the welcome and kindness of the team on site as highlighted by one of its visitors, who said: “Staff and people here always bend over backwards to help.  I feel very welcome.”

Hawk Conservancy Trust in Andover, UK, creates memorable moments through staff sharing their knowledge and passion during its bird of prey flying displays.

A visitor told us: “This is a special place, creating special memories. The staff bring the true meaning of conservation to life and show a passion for birds of prey.”

Another visitor attraction that does very well at delivering epic experiences is Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, which successfully creates a sense of community by connecting visitors with other like-minded people who share a mutual appreciation of the world of Harry Potter.

Memorable experiences enable an emotional bond with an attraction
Warner Bros Studio Tour London fosters a sense of connection amongst visitors / Photo: Warner Bros Studio Tour
Photo: Warner Bros Studio Tour
Photo: Warner Bros Studio Tour
Photo: Warner Bros Studio Tour
BVA BDRC has carried out research exploring what creates memorable moments / Photo: Warner Bros Studio Tour

Originally published in Attractions Management 2024 issue 2

Published by Leisure Media Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385 | Contact us | About us | © Cybertrek Ltd