When is litter acceptable at a Visitor Attraction?

I’m not going to tease you with a long, misleading article – the answer is NEVER and I do hope that’s your answer too! There simply cannot be a reason when litter is acceptable at your attraction/venue/business.


Occasionally there may be short periods when litter is present at our attractions because:

  • it’s only just been dropped and every area/pathway/room isn’t staffed at all times
  • high winds may mean litter becomes more of a challenge to collect or it may be blown around or out bins
  • bins could be overflowing

I’d just like to point out that whilst it may be present it is never acceptable.

For me, presentation standards cover so many things. Cleanliness of the venue, dress and appearance of the employees and maintenance and state of repair of facilities. All of these things represent your business. They shout about how you operate, how you view yourselves and how you value your guests. If standards are sloppy and tired I think that speaks volumes and guests will, over time, pick up on this and maybe even start to feel cheated. (Not to mention the negative effect on the environment if rubbish is left unmanaged!). If you don’t care about how your business looks and what your visitors see, do you really care about your guests experience at all? If you were drawing a picture of a perfect day out I doubt very much it would have litter in!

So, how to begin looking at fixing this. Well, I feel that this starts with you and your employees. Its a culture thing right? You know the saying ‘You get the standards you walk passed’ and I think this literally can translate to litter and presentation standards. If you can walk past litter, or a broken sign, or a damaged bench then that’s what you’re happy with. A couple of ideas I have and things that have worked for me include:

  • Set the standard during interview and induction. Expect employees to pick up litter as a matter of basic duties – its not ‘just because’, its because its good business.
  • Make sure employees feel proud if they maintain great standards, thank them.
  • Encourage your team to take ownership of issues. Make it clear that anything broken needs reporting or fixing if they can
  • Set the example – if you can walk round with your team or colleagues pick up litter, set tables and chairs so they look neat, ensure walkways are free of clutter etc. not only is it great to demonstrate you care about your business its also good health and safety sense!
  • Get your logistics sorted! Make sure staff patrol areas if they can, have regular presentation checks as part of your daily operation before you even open the doors to visitors and plan for busy times/peak periods with extra cleaning team members or just more bins!

There are so many more thoughts to add but if you can leave a comment or a thought of your own on how you keep your business fresh, clean and friendly then please do.


Making positive customer policy

When making policies for your various customer procedures what state of mind are you in? How are you thinking about your customers? Are you writing the policy to help them or is it really to help yourself/your business?


I have had an experience where I was part of a group of colleagues pulled together to write and agree a policy and procedure to stop customers cheating a system to get a perk they may not have been entitled to. The language being used in the meeting was like this ‘we need to stop them getting it when they don’t deserve it’, ‘lets make it harder so if they’re genuine they’ll pass the test’ and ‘maybe we should just say no and then its just tough’. Doesn’t sound too customer focussed does it and we really got lost in stopping the minority of customers who were abusing the system. This attitude then started to permeate into the policy and the staff delivering it followed suit. It was more about ‘policing’ the perk and catching out the undeserving rather than helping customers use it correctly to their benefit. Once we realised this and acknowledged it wasn’t right, the language and focus of the meeting became much more about ‘If a customer genuinely makes a mistake how will we address it’ and ‘let’s assume everyone is genuine and treat it case by case’. The policy naturally became more customer focussed and the staff who dealt closely with it regularly began to deliver it in a more positive and service-led light rather than in a rigid, severe manner.

Top tip: When discussing customer policy talk about the customers respectfully and keep reminding yourself that they are the most important thing so how will it make them feel? It can be useful to have someone in the group who you ‘assign’ to be the customer. Their role is to challenge aspects of your policy based on the needs and expectations and to really be the voice of your customers.

Finding your way with signage

Signposting. Wayfinding. Directional signage. Location. Dimensions. Design. All it does is get you from A to B so how can it be so tricky to get right?!

I am referring to the signs or tools that you offer your customers, guests or visitors so that they can easily and efficiently navigate themselves around your attraction or business. From arrival to exiting and everything in between are you making sure that your visitors are moving round and experiencing your attraction without getting anxious, stressed or annoyed by poor directional information? If you cant tell then usually all you need to do is stand and watch. After just a few minutes on a busy day its usually easy to start spotting visitors who go back on themselves, look around lost or take a longer route when you know there is a shorter path. If this is the case then what can you do?


I like to start at the beginning…a very good place to start. When you get to the start you have to take off your work head! What I mean is that you have to really try and forget that you know the way round your site so well. Remember what it feels like not to know. Walking the visitor journey is going to be something I repeatedly recommend as it can offer real insight about what your visitors see, hear and feel. On arrival there are usually a few messages you are conveying. Probably a welcome of some sort, maybe car parking and safe pedestrian route to the entrance, followed by ticket sales or reception or whatever your point of entry is. At this early stage are you keeping it clear, simple, safe and accurate? If not, identify the leaks and repair them. Its worth it when you consider the impact of having mildly annoyed guests already and they’re not even inside yet! Continue with this principal of ‘not knowing’ around your site and at every junction assess if there is a need for some info or reassurance? If you have a site map or floorplans test these as much as you can afford to before you hit print. Just by asking your family or friends to test run your wayfinding plan can save time, money and complaints at a later date. So walk your guests routes, be in there shoes and create a plan of action to either install your wayfinding or at least fix any leaks in your experience in good time. (P.S before going online to larger design companies your local sign makers can usually offer design, printing and installation services at reasonable prices – more than one quote is key!)

So, lets assume you have your routes established and wayfinding plan in place. Now, I think I’m going to state some fairly obvious guidelines however, in my experience it seems that sometimes even these get forgotten:

  • Try not to position your directional signage too high or too low. Too low and it can get easily obscured by other guests, too high and it can get missed or become difficult to read
  • Is your font and design keeping it easy to read? Ensure your wayfinding is legible and not over animated as this can make it tricky for guests to know exactly what you’re actually saying
  • And whist we’re on design is your wayfinding in keeping with your brand and is it professional? If your sign is in a high traffic area where it may get damaged or weathered over time why not buy a spare so guests will never spot a dilapidated info point. It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is there is no excuse for shabby, misspelt signage. And don’t get me started on handwritten!
  • Is there a logo for that? If you want to consider international guests who don’t speak English a logo can go a long way to communicate. Logos for toilets are common but could you use a logo for your restaurants?  First aid points? Changing Places?
  • And finally, complimentary tools. Signs around your attraction are one thing but apps are becoming a more popular way to navigate. Whatever you do keep it up to date! If you close an area for example don’t overlook the information that you give to your guests about any diversions – don’t assume they will figure it out. Help them out.

There are so many more aspects I could talk about such as future proofing your information and staff being living maps however, I’ll save that for another blog. In the meantime, I hope this has been helpful for you and let me know if you have any top tips or things that work well for you. I’d love to hear about it. Yes, I really would!



So, what’s this blog about anyway?

VisitBritain.org states that “Since 2010 tourism has been the fastest growing sector in the UK in employment terms. Britain is forecast to have a tourism industry worth over £257 billion by 2025.” A pretty impressive fact…

So, this blog is designed to offer the 9.6% of the UK population who currently work in visitor attractions somewhere to come to get ideas, share thoughts and hear about my experiences of being a manager in visitor attractions (VA). It’s for employees, managers, leaders, decision makers of these unique environments to read about all types of topics that are of interest to us in this field but may not hold much interest to friends and family. I know that if I start talking enthusiastically about ‘wayfinding’ in the pub it’s not long, even after some polite nodding along, until my pals eyes are glazing over!

I want to share with you my varied experience of working in a number of different ‘days out’ locations combined with my drive to create that much sought after perfect visitor experience!

Who am I? Well, I have worked in VA for around 17 years from pubs to paintball sites,  theme parks, castles and zoo’s to art galleries – I’ve had a pretty varied career so far and am fairly certain that in that time I have learned so much through success and plenty more through errors! I’d like to put some of this knowledge and experience somewhere where others might benefit so that’s why I decide to write this blog.

I’ll not just be looking back though. I’ll use places I visit in my usual day-to-day life to bring thoughts and ideas here so that you can read them and see if there are any nuggets to take back to your place of work or business. Some will be amazing examples of how businesses are getting it right up and down the country which can inspire us all, however, whilst I wont name and shame, I will also use examples of how NOT to do it and why not to do it so that we can learn together. I may even occasionally suggest you try something new or re-look at what you are currently doing to see if you are happy and if the customer truly is king where you are…

I’ll try to present some topics where there aren’t just ‘right and wrong’ answers but where there are your own factors to consider in your attraction and what your company’s brand/ethos/values are about which may also influence some of your decisions. I will venture into some fairly dry territory such as directional signage to some much more glamorous topics like staff engagement and creating or magic moments.

I hope you enjoy what you read and please do comment, share and use this to provoke conversations in your workplace too.