How do you build a sustainable visitor base with a limited visitor capacity?

More and more start times are selling out and the borders are open again. This provides an interesting twist on the objectives of the Van Gogh Museum. In the short term, the museum wants to give as many visitors as possible the opportunity to come back to the museum, but in the longer term the Van Gogh Museum wants to bind visitors for life and, in perception, become more of a museum for the Dutch again. With a limited visitor capacity and tourists who find their way to the museum, the Van Gogh Museum is preparing for new challenges.

Brand doctors sprint for four weeks as the 'eyes and ears of the museum', to offer as many visitors as possible a great visitor experience. We share our findings from last week, what we are facing and how we look to the future.

The thousandth visitor of the day

Last Friday (June 12), the Van Gogh Museum received the thousandth visitor of the day for the first time after the reopening. The last two weeks have been tested with increasing the number of available tickets per start time and that has proved to be successful. The Van Gogh Museum is now quickly exceeding its maximum number of visitors per quarter, within the most cautious scenario. Naturally, the Van Gogh Museum remains cautious so that they can comply with all measures and thus offer visitors and employees a safe environment.

The visitor experience is closely monitored and the experience remains good. But, as you notice all around you in public life, some people stick to the rules more strictly than others. This is now more apparent in the second and third weeks that the museum is open. Yet one feels safe in the museum and the atmosphere is good. The friendliness of the staff is particularly striking in the digital feedback.

But, as you notice all around you in public life, some people stick to the rules more strictly than others.

Domestic propositions

Last week was all about proposition development, aimed at attracting Dutch visitors. All of whom have the Van Gogh Museum on their bucket list, but who have not yet received a (second) visit. Specific offer, for specific target groups in the Netherlands.

However, the borders have been reopened and foreign visitors are likely to find the Van Gogh Museum again soon. In comments on stories and posts from the instagram account of the Van Gogh Museum (with 1.7 million followers), people from all over the world say that they miss his artwork and that they will come back to the museum as soon as possible.

Because of that expectation, and an expected maximum of 2.000 visitors per day in mind, the question arises which buttons to turn exactly. What do we emphasize and what will soon be the ideal way to ensure that there is room for both Dutch visitors and tourists? And what if the borders unexpectedly close again?

Dutch visitors all have the Van Gogh Museum on their bucket list, but a (second) visit has not yet happened.

New game rules

We have noticed that we have now entered a new phase, almost three weeks after the limited reopening. According to circumstances, the Van Gogh Museum is doing very well, but the harsh reality is that due to the corona measures, visitor numbers are less than 20% of what they were before the crisis. What should we focus on now? How do you give substance to the vision of the museum?

The feeling can be compared to a swimming competition. We dive into the deep, come to the surface and then doubt strikes, which race do we actually swim? Do we swim breaststroke or butterfly stroke? And have we trained before we reach 50 meters or 100 meters? How do you work towards a successful policy in which every department contributes, with the uncertainty that corona entails?

The course is fixed, but how do we get there?

There is a clear course and a clear objective in the short term. Various scenarios have been worked out. The first priority, of course, is to activate as many visitors as possible to return to the museum. But how do all efforts come together and do you build a sustainable visitor base?

Within the multidisciplinary team with which we sprint, we note that the organization currently needs to discover a line in the various initiatives, all aimed at achieving short and long-term goals. What is the common starting point? And how do we prioritize the steps to be taken? How do we ensure that we are all aligned? We made an effort together last week and clarified this by working out a strategic plan.

But how do all efforts come together and do you build a sustainable visitor base?

We have also further elaborated and tightened the propositions aimed at attracting Dutch visitors, after we pitched the propositions within different teams. This is how we work towards validation, with the aim of putting the propositions on the market as quickly as possible. In a way and in an order that makes a tactical contribution to the objectives, strategy and vision of the Van Gogh Museum.

We will take you into this process in the near future. Follow the series 'The eyes and ears of the Van Gogh Museum' LinkedIn en Instagram.

And if you want to take a look in peace, order your tickets online

Published on
18 June 2020

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Emilie Admiral