Parks and open spaces can generate income through charging entry fees and by requesting donations from visitors. Charging admission fees, particularly for a park which was previously free to access can be contentious; however there are ways to successfully introduce admission fees.
Charging visitors an entry fee can be a very effective way of generating commercial income. However, visitors are likely to show resistance to having to pay for a facility which was previously free.
It can be easier to introduce entry fees if the park has recently been upgraded and/or restored. New attractions and facilities such as a sculpture park, an educational centre or formal gardens are also likely to enable the introduction of entry charges. This is because visitors will be paying to access new and/or improved facilities, which could not have been provided if the site was fee to access.
Innovative admission fee structures can help to maximise visitor numbers and minimise resistance to the introduction of charging. Different ticket types include:
Charging admissions is not always practical. Sites with multiple entries and exits will find it difficult and costly to introduce the necessary barriers to enable the collection of entry fees.
Introducing membership fees can successfully generate commercial income. The site could remain free to all visitors; however members would receive additional benefits. These benefits will vary depending on the nature of the site, membership benefits could for example include:
Membership can help create a sense of ownership amongst visitors. For example, a nominal membership fee of £1 could be introduced and in return for donations each member would receive a certificate, window sticker or pin badge saying “I love my park.”
Car parking fees can be introduced without also introducing entry fees for visitors. It is common for motorists to pay for car parking and many expect to do so. Car parking fees do not penalise visitors who arrive by other forms of transport, and often encourages alternative and more sustainable modes of transport.
To avoid penalising regular visitors, annual or multi-visit passes could be introduced to ensure the cost of parking does not put visitors off. Unless your site wants to dissuade car use, introducing nominal car parking fees can generate additional income without reducing overall visitor numbers. Car parking charges should be monitored once implemented to check they are not having a detrimental impact on visitor numbers.
Parking charges can either be collected manually or using ticket machines. However ticket machines will need to be emptied daily to avoid vandalism and theft.
Donations can be used on sites instead of, or as well as, admission fees and parking charges. When introducing donations it is often beneficial to collect donations for a specific project or activity, rather than just general maintenance. Visitors can see what their donation will be contributing towards and a Blue Peter style ‘Totaliser’ can encourage donating.
Donations will need to be collected in a ‘manned area’ to minimise the chance of vandalism and theft.
Is charging for entry compatible with the covenants and restrictions on the site?
Can you introduce a new attraction to help implement admission fees?
Does the layout and access of the site make collecting admission fees practical?
How will you collect admission fees and parking charges?
How much will it cost to collect to collect the charges? Will you generate more income than it costs?
What imaginative ticket pricing can you introduce?
Do you have a regular visitor base who might want to become members?
Have you considered asking visitors what they might be prepared to pay to visit the site?
Can be a relatively quick and easy way to generate income.
Existing staff and volunteers can collect fees and donations.
Membership can generate further commitment from visitors.
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