Questacon: on a Mission to Mars

May 29, 2020

Pre-pandemic, 2020 had already been a tough year for Questacon. The institution had shut on more than one occasion earlier in the year due to the excessive smoke that blanketed Canberra and storm damage after a serious hailstorm at the end of February. But then the news came that they would need to shut down in March due to Coronavirus; it was a sad blow for the institution.

Deputy Director Tristan Hoffmeister explained why closure has been particularly tough on their staff, “The majority of our teams are visitor focused. We are all about that interaction with the visitors and we have not had that opportunity to engage with the audience. Their welfare has been our number one priority.”

Like many other businesses and attractions, Tristan highlighted that the break while sad, was also an opportunity to innovate, especially important in their case. Reopening for this institution will in no way be as simple as maintaining social distancing. Questacon is a high touch environment which encourages guests to be hands-on with the exhibits, and this has posed its own challenges for reopening.

Tristan explained that it’s not just on businesses and attractions to have rules, but that they need to ensure that their customers are aware of their role in maintaining safety, saying “In order for us to reopen with a safe environment for visitors and staff, the understanding of our customers will be paramount to success of recovery.”

The solution was to think outside the box and create a completely new non-physical experience. Starting from June, Questacon is launching its newest experience, Mission to Mars. Small groups of customers will be able to book in for this new 90-minute bespoke event, taking you through the science of Space, Mars and interplanetary travel.

“The staff and I have really enjoyed developing a new experience,” Tristan said of the new Mission to Mars experience. The event will see a phased approach, starting in mid-June for members, and being opened to the wider public in July. This phased approach will allow them to work out the kinks and ensure that safety practices are pristine. “Depending on the external environment and the feedback we get from out visitors we will make change.”

Tristan’s message for NCAA members is that this is the perfect opportunity to do some strategic planning, and reinvent your product or delivery, “You have the space to think and plan without the visitors..” He also highlighted that there will be a bounce-back, “The government has made a lot of noise about tourism campaigns and that support will most likely reignite tourism, be ready.”

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