Ah, admissions. It’s the thing that both gives your cultural attraction life and a constant hindrance in how you could do more if you could just figure out HOW to wrap your brain around it. Because it’s big, right? It’s not as simple as just merely selling a ticket and getting people in the door.
Admissions services is more than walk up sales

There are literally dozens of ways to purchase a ticket at a cultural attraction. Your organization alone is probably made up of numerous sales channels that are each selling tickets for their own departments such as:

  • Front gate walk-up sales
  • Online ticketing
    Attractions/rides
  • Group sales – School & corporate
  • 3rd party sales – Hotel, tour operators & others
  • 3rd party sales – Resellers and online travel agents
  • Membership Educational programming
Admissions services require a certain skill set

And even then, managing the sales of all these individual departments requires a certain skill set:

  • You need to approach each channel with a different strategy depending on factors such as audience and seasonality.
  • You need to consider operational best practices and where there are clear opportunities to train employees for an upsell and elevating a guest’s experience.
  • You need to consider technical system execution and opportunities around upleveling technology to streamline and automate your ticketing process.

And you have to do all of this in the current hiring environment where cultural attractions are struggling to hire, rehire, and retain individuals with the skill sets needed to drive each of these admission areas.

How outsourcing can help

The complicated nature of admissions sales is why so many cultural attractions keep trying to do what they’ve always done in the hopes that it will somehow, someday work itself out. But as the world gets faster, so should the way you approach your ticketing. And we’re here to help with that.

At SSA Group, we’ve put together a team of highly experienced attraction professionals to address those struggles. Individuals who are super passionate about admissions (yes, those people do exist) and can help sort out your admissions services to drive guest satisfaction while increasing food and retail revenue along the way.

Here’s how we did just that in our recent admissions partnership with the Chattanooga Zoo by aiding with reopening during COVID-19 while positively impacting their organization, from staffing/organizational structure, to growing attendance and revenue.

Improving admissions services at Chattanooga Zoo

The dilemma: Darde Long, CEO & President at the Chattanooga Zoo, was in the same position many cultural attractions are in coming out of the pandemic. Not only was she having a hard time staffing in general, but specifically, she was struggling to find experienced admissions staff members that could not only execute a safe reopening plan, but also drive much needed revenue.

“As we approached our re-opening after being closed during the pandemic, the biggest challenge for our zoo was having the time to create a comprehensive plan that addressed safety concerns and allowed us begin to collect much needed revenue. SSA was amazing. They helped us with every aspect of our reopening, and as a small zoo without a lot of depth in staff PRE Pandemic, the stress of trying to manage the reopening would have been overwhelming. SSA made it painless,” said Darde.

The solution: SSA Group stepped in with a two-pronged approach to drive the strategy, operations, and POS system administration in order to fuel her zoo’s mission as well as open quickly and safely for guests in the park.

  1. Creating a reopening plan: SSA Group implemented timed ticketing and touchless admission control which helped determine how many guests to allow in per hour as well as updating the POS and online web store configuration to accommodate guests during their time at the park. This seamless and safe approach allowed Chattanooga Zoo to open up within days versus weeks.
  2. Ongoing pricing & product strategies: Once the zoo reopened, SSA developed multiple pricing and product initiatives in order to recoup lost revenue due to the pandemic including:
    1. Online pricing: In order to increase online ticket sales and incentivize guests to digitize their purchase, SSA helped implement a price increase for walk-up ticket sales. This drove digital ticket purchases by almost 50 percent with no negative guest feedback. Incentivizing guests to buy online ahead of time also allowed operations to be better prepared for food and retail services as well as giving the zoo more guest demographic data to utilize for future admissions promotions.
    2. Peak pricing: Following the success of online ticket sales, SSA group quickly worked to implement a peak pricing strategy during the 2021 spring break season. This time period is often one of the busiest times of the year for most cultural attractions. With the new peak pricing schedule, the zoo increased their price on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays during the six week spring break span which resulted in an increase in revenue. At the same time, SSA also helped the zoo rollout an income accessibility program called ZooForAll, which allowed all guests the opportunity to visit the zoo during this busy time of the year.
    3. Product strategies: Spring break also provided a great opportunity to test new products. In conjunction with peak pricing, SSA also rolled out two ticket package deals to test consumer behavior. The first was a ticket plus $10 of ‘Zoo Bucks’ that could be used at any food, retail, or attraction location within the zoo. The second was a total experience package that included a ticket, camel ride, train ride and a giraffe feeding. Both performed better than expected, particularly the Zoo Bucks package due to capacity and operating schedule of the attractions.

The bottom line: Partnering with the SSA Group’s admissions team on the initiatives above have allowed Darde and the Chattanooga Zoo to fuel their mission while driving revenue and guest satisfaction.

From reopening the doors at the zoo, to overcoming pricing hesitancy, to providing a better guest experience with packages guests want, Darde is excited to use this momentum to fuel upcoming initiatives at the zoo.

“Like many zoo CEOs, price changes are very sensitive, and I’ll be honest, I was very hesitant at first. That being said, I really like the approach SSA provided to test their strategies and I am extremely happy we went ahead with them,” she said.

Streamline your admissions services this year

By outsourcing your admissions services to SSA Group, our expert team can help streamline and revolutionize how your attraction’s ticketing is done in a variety of ways that support your mission and drive guest revenue.

Contact us and learn more about how we can support your admissions services here.

Categories: Admissions