Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
the alternatives ...
Jungi - different every time!
Recycling and composting.
We joined Bristol Zoo last year, but weren't sure at the time whether it was money well spent.
Six months later I can definitely confirm it was! We go there normally about once a week.
Now the zoo is an alternative destination for the sort of people the heritage lines on the S&D hope to attract. Families with a bit of spare cash and a reasonable amount of time to spare. In a way they are competing with us, especially when times are hard. A family visit to the zoo is not cheap at around £35.
So what do you get for your money? A nicely stocked shop with a lot of original gifts, almost all with an animal connection. A decent though rather expensive restaurant. A few other concessions around the site. Regular events during the year. But most of all the animals.
The thing is the animals stay pretty much the same, but they are different every time we visit.
So what am I trying to say?
Firstly the visitor facilities have to be excellent - a good shop and, most importantly, good catering facilities. No catering and people won't stay around and they certainly won't recommend the site to their friends. Midsomer Norton in particular doesn't seem to have got this yet. A couple of years ago the catering coach was a hive of activity, open every Sunday and Monday, offering regular events and a wide ranging menu. Now it appears it isn't even open every Sunday!
Again the shop needs to have regular injections of fresh material, if it starts to look stale regular customers tend to just ignore it. And not to offer internet and mail order sales in the 21st century is taking nostalgia too far! Again, this applies to MN, Shillingstone have these options in place.
The animal analogy in railway terms means that there needs to be something new to see every time a regular visitor appears. This can be infrastructure work or changes in locos and rolling stock.
And the other important point is that EVERYBODY on site needs to enthuse about the line. Negativity has no place at all, and anyone in the public eye needs to drop everything they are doing to attend to visitors, not wait to be asked. Because heritage railways aren't only in competition with every other heritage railway but also with every other tourist attraction.
For any of the S&D heritage set ups to flourish they need to put customers first, to put themselves in their place. It's a harsh world out there, but if you get it right it can be brilliant!