March 23, 2022

Are You Charging Too Little for Children’s Tickets?

By Zachary Winfield

While AZA member organizations are doggedly exploring strategies to attract new and different audiences to their facilities, it’s important not to lose track of an important fact: visits to zoos and aquariums are primarily driven by the desire to spend quality time with family groups, and typically those family groups include children. This has been true as long as there have been zoos and aquariums, and this will likely remain true for years to come.

Knowing this, it would be reasonable to assume that visitation by children would exceed that of adults—after all, if kids are driving the decision to visit, there are probably a lot of them coming through our gates, right? But as anyone working in zoological operations knows, this is not the case. Adult visits always outpace those from children, sometimes by as much as two to one (depending on how you define “child”).

Despite the fact that we sell so many more adult than children’s admissions (and especially within the context that children are “visitation drivers”), it occurred to us that we hear precious little about how children’s admissions are priced, particularly with reference to adults.

So we analyzed the listed admissions fees for adults and children at 160 AZA organizations on which we have current data, and here’s what we found:

  • At the industry level, the average child ticket is priced at 72.4% of an adult admission.

  • This average was higher at “Wildlife Park” classified organizations, where children’s admissions are priced at 77.4% of adult admissions on average.

  • Aquariums (71.7%) and zoos (72.3%) were roughly “in agreement.”

We expected that there might be an increase in this pricing percentage at facilities with more expensive tickets, but in aggregate, this did not turn out to be true:

Child Admissions as Percentage of Adult

Aside from one notable outlier at the very high end of the spectrum, there was no discernable correlation in the meat of our dataset.

So why does this matter? One of the most important metrics we track in the course of our work on earned revenue programs is called “admission yield value” or “AYV.” AYV is a simple per cap and is calculated by dividing the total gate revenue by the number of general admissions visitors. This metric quantifies how much financial value an organization earns per visitor through the gate. Given how reliant visitor attractions are on, well, their visitors, this is obviously a critical number to track.

Key takeaway: A small tweak to the relationship between adult and child pricing can have a big impact, even if you’re not ready to make a wholesale ticket fee increase.

For an organization looking to squeeze more value from its gate, the obvious way to do this is to implement an across-the-board fee increase. But this is sometimes difficult—maybe you increased prices recently, or you’re already on the precipice of a psychological barrier (e.g. $19.95) and you’re waiting to premier a shiny new habitat before breaking through.

A less obvious strategy is to only increase the cost of a child’s admission, especially if your organization’s percentage is below the norms identified above. While the impact won’t be huge, this is low hanging fruit and can definitely be meaningful.

Curious about how Zoo Advisors can help your organization identify the right pricing strategies? Drop us a line today.

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