Popular south coast attraction British Airways i360 has recently celebrated its fifth birthday.
Based on Brighton beach, it has proved a huge hit with visitors since its inception in 2016.
Anna Prior, BA i360’s head of marketing and trade sales, loves the attraction’s uniqueness and the stunning views which she says “change almost hourly”.
“It’s great when you encounter a slightly nervous guest, who is a little afraid of the height, board the BA i360 pod and by the end of the flight they are grinning from ear-to-ear, having totally loved the whole experience,” said Anna.
We posed 10 questions to her to lift the lid on how it has proved to be so successful over the last five years.
1, Introduce yourselves – what is BAi360?
British Airways i360 is a viewing tower located on Brighton beach. Designed by the same architects as the London Eye, BA i360 has one giant glass viewing pod which glides slowly up to 450ft high in the sky, revealing stunning views of the city of Brighton, the South Downs and the expansive stretch of coastline from Seven Sisters in the east to the Isle of Wight in the west.
2, To whom does BAi360 appeal and who is your target audience?
The attraction has broad appeal, children love the feeling of space and height and spotting landmarks from above; adults love the sweeping views and appreciate the design and engineering. Many of our guests also visit us as part of a celebration – our Sky Bar on board the pod serves Nyetimber’s finest English sparkling wine which is perfect to toast a special occasion.
3, How has the marketplace changed in five years and how have you adjusted to the challenges presented by Covid?
Pre-Covid we were starting to see a lot of international tourists visit BA i360 as the attraction became one of the tick list experiences in Brighton. However, post Covid those international visitors have yet to return but we’ve had many local residents and day trippers to Brighton visiting to enjoy a memorable experience together and take a little more time over it than they used to. Guests now spend longer at the attraction enjoying the whole experience from the flight on the pod, the exhibition, a meal in the restaurant or our café.
Our team has adapted swiftly and effectively to the challenges of Covid. Naturally, we have implemented many new measures to keep visitors and staff safe but also ensured that our team don’t lose sight of the fact visitors are here to have a great experience not to dwell on covid.
4, How has ticketing solutions provider TOR Systems supported you through a difficult 18 months?
Tor has been on hand throughout the pandemic to ensure we were able to make the necessary swift amendments to our ticketing system regarding all the applicable Covid measures.
5, Do you do any special offers or packages?
We offer a whole range of different experiences* at BA i360 including a Sparkling Wine package, Fly & Dine tickets for a flight and brunch, lunch or afternoon tea, and our recently introduced Tower Top Climb for those people brave enough to take on the challenge of climbing to the very top of the tower. We also host a full calendar of events including Nyetimber Tasting Flights, Valentine’s Sky Dining, Silent Discos, Santa Flights and Breakfast with Santa.
We also have a full suite of beachfront event spaces with fabulous sea views for corporate and customer events – you can get married at BA i360 and even have your ceremony on the pod!
6, Do most customers book online for these experiences? What are the benefits of having fully operational timed/capacity ticketing and a system which supports it?
Some of the experiences are only bookable online, for example, the Fly & Dine tickets as these require prebooking at least 24 hours in advance so that our on site restaurant, West Beach, has the necessary catering prepared for the customer.
Our Santa Flight experiences are nearly all booked online as our customers want to book well in advance to guarantee their slot.
The benefits of an online timed ticketing system are we can plan our operation and staffing levels accordingly; it alleviates the queues in our ticket office on busier days; and it secures the customer’s booking ahead of their visit rather than relying on them to make the decision to visit on the day itself.
The timed and capacity booking capability of Maxim has really assisted our business during the pandemic as we have been able to quickly decrease and increase capacity as social distancing regulations have been updated.
7, How has your relationship with TOR Systems enhanced your business?
TOR has been our ticketing system provider since before BA i360 opened. They set up gift voucher sales for the attraction so that customers could buy a ticket to come in the first few days of the grand opening. In the last year, we have upgraded to Maxim Cloud which we believe will further enhance our ticketing provision.
8, Having upgraded to the Maxim Cloud solution through TOR, what plans do you have to benefit from this technology – for example, working from home and roaming ticketing?
The Maxim Cloud (**see benefits below) solution has already proved beneficial in terms of the ease of loading tickets which can now all be done remotely – essential when team members work from home. We’ll be implementing roaming ticketing around our site this spring / summer which will improve the customer service as it will reduce waiting times.
9, Sustainability and green issues are key elements to visitor attractions – what policies and plans do you have in place?
BA i360 was built with sustainability running through its core.
This is demonstrated in our careful environmental and site management, ethical recruitment and people policies, traceable local supply chains, meaningful community relationships and a business model which delivers back to the city of Brighton & Hove.
Just one example is that all energy used on site is from renewable sources and more than 50% of the energy needed to power the pod upwards is captured again on its descent.
10, How do you see the visitor attraction industry evolving in the next 10 years and how will BA i360 adapt?
Sustainability in the visitor economy will be ever more important to those working within it and to customers. We’re constantly looking at ways that our business can be even more sustainable and our cross-functional Green Team work on implementing a range of new initiatives each year.
Post pandemic, creating shared memories with loved ones has become more central to people than ever. Therefore, customers want to maximise their experience of a visitor attraction. This will translate into more ‘bundled up’ offerings from attractions so that visitors can have a longer and richer experience. BAi360’s Fly & Dine packages are an example of a ‘bundled up’ offer and we continue to research other similar products.
Appealing to new audiences is key for visitor attractions to thrive and implementing new experiences within an existing attraction achieves this goal. British Airways i360 aims to introduce new experiences every year and 2022 will be no exception. Last year we introduced two new drinks tasting events on board the pod with our partners Nyetimber and Brighton Gin. We also launched the Tower Top Climb experience and Sunrise flights. Watch this space for new experiences coming this year!
Digital investment will continue to lead the way for visitor attractions in both marketing and booking functionality. Websites and booking systems will become more tailored to the customer to ensure that part of the customer’s experience is seamless.
TOR Systems has an exciting year ahead in terms of new product development, including a new online ticketing platform which allows further configuration to tailor the customer’s online journey, as well as further design features to ensure a seamless look and feel, mirroring the attractions website.
*Further reading on giving the gift of an experience can be found here.
**Maxim Cloud’s benefits
- It can be used on any device
- Less overheads for customers
- It can be used for remote working, which has been useful through Covid and beyond, as more flexible working arrangements remain
- It enables mobile ticketing for pop-up events or exhibitions, greeting groups or selling across remote locations
- Improved performance – the User Interface is faster to navigate
- Less maintenance for IT teams as TOR handles upgrades from the server
- Quicker support. TOR can access queries to view the issue