Visitor Use Planning and Visitation Research

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How well do you know your visitor? What do they expect, what part of your venue are they spending the most time visiting, how satisfied they are with their experience, what would make them return for another visit . . . ?

Understanding a venue's visitors, and developing plans and recommendations that align design, sizing and layout with these visitors' use characteristics, is key to the effectiveness of the recommendations we provide in areas such as capacity sizing, visitor circulation and flow, exhibit and interpretive program development, and staff training enhancement. Some of this understanding comes from years of operational experience, but always needs to be adjusted to reflect the unique characteristics of each venue.

To gain this understanding, ORCA analyzes existing visitation data and/or conducts on-site research. When historical information does not exist, is outdated, or new questions need to be asked, ORCA designs and conducts visitation studies (visitor counts) or visitor surveys. Through this process, management insight is enhanced by increased knowledge about operational characteristics and visitation patterns.

As a foundation for venue-specific visitor use planning, ORCA will:

  • Analyze existing arrival/departure and venue circulation patterns, seasonal attendance variations, length of stay, and other data to determine visitation patterns for venue and circulation sizing;
  • Analyze visitor demographics and decision-making to determine programming and information needs;
  • Analyze visitor satisfaction to determine programming, service delivery, services, and amenity needs;
  • Model visitor use for facilities, roadways, parking lots and bike paths to evaluate current conditions, assess alternative layouts and strategies, and determine circulation and transportation needs within venues and between sites;
  • Calculate carrying capacities as part of the application of the National Park Service's VERP (Visitor Experience and Resource Protection) methodology;
  • Research and document existing conditions and visitation characteristics to create a data base for future comparisons and planning;
  • Assess level of service (capacity and use levels) to determine infrastructure utilization enhancement needs;
  • Design and conduct visitation studies (visitor counts) to determine visitation patterns; and
  • Design and conduct visitor surveys using interviewers, polling stations and the internet to determine visitor demographics and visitation patterns and assess visitor satisfaction.

ORCA conducted extensive visitation research and visitor use planning for the Statue of Liberty National Monument, and Cades Cove (Great Smoky Mountains National Park).

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