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Driving incremental growth in the leisure sector using customer data and insight

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

The last few years have been turbulent in the leisure sector, with Covid forcing closures and new processes and limitations to consider when reopening followed by the cost of living crisis. Whilst those that weathered the storm are undoubtedly proud to still be active, they are most likely to be on a different revenue and growth trajectory than forecast back in 2019.

The good news is that growth is returning, and pre-pandemic levels will be seen again. We believe that using customer and visitor data to uncover insights and opportunities can help businesses within the sector return to pre-pandemic levels much quicker.

In this blog, we explore some of the ways in which leisure attractions in the UK can harness new growth opportunities using their data.

At a glance:


Significant revenue hit to leisure attractions in the UK following the pandemic

Recovery is a long game - revenues expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2026-27

Cost of living crisis means money is tighter for most consumers


Consumers value experiences more than “things”

Demands for value for money drive bundling initiatives

Inbound tourism to boost short-term sales whilst the pound is weak


Visitor numbers to UK leisure attractions have taken a massive hit over these last couple of years with full and partial closures, capacity caps and event cancellations. Visitor numbers dropped by 65% over the pandemic - reaching 120m down from 340m visitors in 2019 (source 1) Revenue followed suit obviously, but pre-pandemic levels seen in 2019 of £3.078m are not expected to be reached until 2026 - 2027 (source 2).

Whilst these are UK-wide figures from Mintel and IBISWorld, you will have your own data showing the impact of the pandemic on your business which may show similar trends.

Recovery coming out of the pandemic has been impacted by the cost of living crisis (source 3), where weakened disposable incomes means that consumers have less to spend on leisure activities and entertainment.

But is it not all doom and gloom.

Visit Britain has predicted strong growth in 2023, with inbound tourism contributing significantly to the sector's post-pandemic recovery (source 4). They also suggest that spending by inbound visitors is predicted to grow faster than visitor volume, with higher spending also per trip.

[Image source: Visit Britain International Passenger Survey to 2021; forecasts for 2022-23]

70% of attractions in England expanded their digital offering to customers in the form of online tours, exclusive content and behind-the-scenes experiences to drive engagement from customers and supporters, and drive revenue growth in a new channel (source 5)

This is fantastic growth and taps into the insight from Hospitality Net that 74% of consumers value experiences over things(source 6). Extending the experiences beyond the physical leisure attraction enables greater experiences and greater revenue-driving opportunities.

Unsurprisingly, customers are looking for value for money which, if packaged well, can support longer-term revenue forecasts:

  • 4 in 10 visitors are interested in annual memberships to obtain value for money from their leisure spend

  • bundling of tickets for multiple attractions or including ancillary sales such as food and drink is also proving attractive to customers.

Online booking grew from 25% to 57% by the end of 2020(source 7) meaning attractions capture more customer and visitation data which is incredibly valuable for business planning and marketing. Let’s now look at how this data can be used to drive further growth for leisure attractions.

Unlock further growth with your customer and visitor data

You will have opportunities to drive growth by using your data cleverly. Here we look at 3 strategies to achieve just that.

1. Grow your customer value

Start by looking at your customer, visitor, or supporter base. How much do you know about them? Can you identify the high-value or loyal customers? What booking and visitation behaviour do they show? There are so many questions you can ask about your customer base to build a profile of their behaviour and value to you.

Once you understand the different groups of customers that visit your attraction, you can tailor products and services, and marketing messages to them directly to grow their engagement with your brand and grow their value to you as a business.

For example, if you have customers who only visit at weekends but live close to your attraction, offer a weekday visit & lunch package that can be balanced with the homogeneous patterns of work and leisure seen as a result of the pandemic. Another example could be family members lapsing as a result of rising living costs, consider testing a school holidays membership package to keep their visitation up at peak times, but for an overall lower outlay.

2. Grow visitor spend

Are you missing out on opportunities to grow revenue from visitors whilst your customers are on site? Can you enhance their experiences with digital services and apps to support ancillary sales? Use your visitation data to understand trends in visitor behaviour and revenue per head which you can then use to identify opportunities. For instance, if customers buy more from the food & drinks vendors when pre-ordering, ensure you have an app that supports easy purchasing and tracking.

3. Run more efficiently

Most leisure attractions have peak and off-peak times in any given week. Understanding where these are gives an insight into opportunities and risks - you don’t want to have high staffing costs to cover a session if there are very few visitors attending at that session time. Identifying both low and high visitation patterns enables you to mitigate against overstaffing which results in high costs to serve, or understaffing which results in poor customer experience.

My local children's farm started offering Toddler Tuesdays to plug a gap in visitation and drive revenue growth from incremental visits and the associated ancillary sales in the coffee shop without disrupting maximum revenue generated from peak visitation days. The result - happy customers and a happy farm!

What opportunities will your data uncover to support your post-pandemic recovery and growth? Get in touch with us if we can help you.


1. Mintel - Visitor Attractions UK 2021

2. IBISWorld - R91.000 - Libraries, Museums & Cultural Activities in the UK

3.IBISWorld - R93.210 - Amusement & Theme Parks in the UK


5. Mintel - Visitor Attractions UK 2021


7. Mintel - Visitor Attractions UK 2021


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