How to stop new people visiting your heritage attraction

We’ll all seen them, heritage attractions that seem to be trying to do the reverse of attracting.  They do things that will actively discourage visitors.

If you want fewer visitors you could learn from their example.  (If, on the other hand, you would like more and happier first time visitors go straight to the end of this post.)

Here are six great tips for getting rid of visitors before they pay their admission. None of these are original ideas; I have seen all of them working in practice.

1. Don’t tell people where your attraction is. In particular, do not provide sufficient, accurate directional signage on the approach.  Make people work hard to find you. If you have to provide signage, limit it, maybe to one route or only for car drivers – encourage people on other routes or using public transport to get lost.

N.B. This works far better in some cultures than in others.  It’s great in most of the UK and I understand in Germany, but in other parts of the world (like southern Europe and probably Australia) prospective visitors will ask complete strangers for directions! So you will need to do more …

2.  Make sure your entrance signs, if you have them, are faded and tatty. Similarly make sure event advertisments are out of date.  This creates a clear sense that you don’t care at all which should dampen your prospective visitors’ enthusiasm and commitment. It could be enough to make them not want to pay.

3. Make the walk from the car park as unattractive as you can. If you are forced to provide signs to the entrance allow plants to grow up to obscure them.  Leave people unsure where to go.  At family attractions position the car park across a road, preferably a busy one, to increase parental stress and uncertainty. Walk visitors past the dustbins if you can. Preserve and celebrate any graffiti that appears along the route.

4.  Make your attraction look exclusive and difficult.  Introduce the historical or wildlife value of the site with quotes from formal, professional documents including academic papers, conservation plans, or at the very least management plans.  Use words that you would only use when talking to professional colleagues.  This will tell visitors that you don’t know and truly do not care about communicating with anyone else. With a bit of luck some will feel they are the ‘wrong sort of person’ and choose to do something else with their day.

5. Last, but most importantly, train your staff not to smile or nod and definitely not to say hello. You can do this by framing their job as security.  The fewer people , the more secure your collections and site are, right?

These five steps if consistently applied, should be sufficient to stop visitors, especially first-timers, feeling comfortable enough to enter your attraction.  Especially if they have to pay.

Of course there will still be some people who just don’t get it and go in anyway.  They may have come halfway across the country, or even the world, after all. Your challenge with these persistent individuals is to stop them ever coming back. There are a number of popular, tried and tested ways to do this – but that’s another story.

WARNING: If you want to deter visitors to your heritage attraction DO NOT come to any TellTale workshops, you will find them deeply unhelpful.

Do call us, however, if you are keen to welcome more and diverse visitors to your heritage attraction and want them to have a great visit that they will remember and tell their friends about. We can visit your site and give you and your team a Visitor Experience Review. We can support and mentor your team in making improvements.  Or you can come on our “A recipe for success –  making your heritage attraction great for visitors” workshop. Contact me at to find out more.

About susancrosstelltale

Great visits to heritage and natural sites do not happen by accident. This blog is about the work that make special sites great places to visit. I hope it will be useful to visitors and host alike. Find out more at me and my blog.
This entry was posted in Attractions, Heritage attractions, Tips and advice, Visit experience, Visitors and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How to stop new people visiting your heritage attraction

  1. Pingback: Focus on first time visitors – is the first time the worst? | susancrosstelltale

  2. Pingback: Focus on first time visitors - is the first time the worst? - TellTale

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