New York City is back(ish)!

5 Key Takeaways from NYC Institutions/Attractions Reopenings

Over the last two weeks, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, the Whitney, Edge at Hudson Yards, and The New York Botanical Garden have all reopened to visitors. AKA has made it a point to be there. Our mission is to get people to go places, after all, so we were ecstatic to explore our hometown’s cultural treasures once again.

But Covid has reshaped the experience. As we returned to our beloved museums and gardens, we noticed five key takeaways about experiencing culture in our brave new world.


1. NYC locals have an insatiable appetite for culture and entertainment.  

Our industries have been worried about the lack of tourists, but let’s not forget the fans in our own backyard.  Locals lined up (6 feet apart, of course) and waited patiently (some in the rain) to be the first to visit their favorite museums.  Some got emotional – all were excited

The Takeaway? 
Culture is a part of us. It’s WHY we live in NYC. The reopenings have given us our city back. People will come, provided they know about the reopening and feel safe. And because tourists are rare, it is critical to reach out to locals.


2. Safety measures are paramount – and followed almost religiously.

Worried about mask compliance? Don’t be. In the first days back, unofficial reports show nearly 100% compliance with social distancing and safety measures. People patiently waited 6 feet apart in lines, appreciated their timed tickets, and used the hand sanitizer. They WANT this to succeed.  

The Takeaway?  
Post guidelines. Enforce guidelines. Your immediate audience appreciates it, and will do their part to achieve a safe reopening.


3. Open with a splash, if possible.    

Full page ads, press stories, virtual press and member events, live televised performances – all are tactics we saw last week to break through the noise of a crowded news cycle and get the word out about reopening. And they worked. Those institutions and attractions that tried “soft launches” or quiet reopening plans did not see nearly as much success.  

The Takeaway?
Reopening is a moment. Seize it. Tell people you are reopening – shout it! – and remind them how it will make them feel.  


4. Invite your biggest fans in first, but don’t forget to invite new audiences, too.

We saw success with reaching out to the biggest fans first. Member events, CRM emails, pixel data, and past ticket-holder communications saw impressive engagement and return. 

Additionally, we’ve seen gains when expanding targeting parameters to include locals beyond the usual core arts enthusiasts. New groups of younger, diverse culture seekers engaged with reopening content. After months without citywide events, they turned out to try something new.   

The Takeaway? 
Go broad. It might be time to look at TV, radio, and OOH, and broaden your targeting on digital platforms. 


5. Remember that “Re-Opening” is only the beginning.

We’ve spent months planning and re-planning our reopenings, looking at every scenario, every precaution. But what comes after the big day? We’ve seen reopenings (that the public knew about) be incredibly successful – and also deeply cathartic and emotional for attendees. And when people are deeply moved by something, they are more likely to talk about it.

The Takeaway?  

Give first visitors back a simple way to share their experience, such as a hashtag, photo op, or discount offer to come back and bring a friend. Your first visitors back are your biggest fans. Turn them into ambassadors who will spread WOM and convert the next group of visitors.


As mentioned in the last takeaway, this is only the beginning. As more visitors come back to our city’s cultural institutions, AKA will continue to watch the landscape, and share our insights.


Photo: Taylor Hill; The Metropolitan Museum of Art Instagram