By Carrie Dilley, Visitor Services and Development Manager
Let’s face it—unless you live out here on the Big Cypress Reservation, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is a bit of a drive. We are just over an hour from Ft. Lauderdale or Naples, and nearer to an hour and a half from Ft. Myers, Palm Beach, and Miami. No doubt about it, you need a car to get here. While many vacationers rely solely on public transportation when visiting Florida, those who have a car often venture out to the Everglades and (we hope!) to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.
If you had to guess, how many countries would you think we saw international visitors from in 2016? Maybe 10? 20? Would you believe me if I told you that in our fiscal year 2016, we saw visitors from 61 different countries? And those are just the ones who signed the guest registry! That’s 1/3 of the countries in the entire world.
When visitors arrive at the Museum, we ask them to sign the guest registry and provide information about where they are visiting from and how they heard about us. This information is entered into an Excel spreadsheet by the front of house staff for easy tracking and sorting. I include the data in my monthly report, and analyze the stats on a quarterly and yearly basis. This information is critical for providing a snapshot of our audience and helps us create our marketing plan.
It’s interesting to note that our visitors do not necessary line up with the State of Florida’s international visitors on the whole. Our top ten list is very Europe-heavy and includes the following countries: Germany (23%), Canada (14%), the UK (6%), Finland (5%), France (5%), Denmark (4%), Sweden (4%), Netherlands (3%), Switzerland (3%), and Norway (3%). Our overall Latin American audience makes up only about 5% of our total international visitation. Compared to the Florida as a whole (see below), we notice quite a large difference.
Over the past few years, the Retail Division has been working with a translation company to offer our museum guide in various languages. We now have the printed Museum Guide in English, Spanish, German, and French. In 2017, we will be translating the guide into Swedish, Finnish, and Danish. Our international visitors are a key part of our audience and we want to make sure they gain the most out of their experience here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.
The next time you think that an hour seems too far to get out and explore the areas around you, think about the visitors from the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and New Zealand to name a few who came out to visit us in 2016.
As we always say, the drive is part of the journey. And once you get going, it might just be the most peaceful hour drive in all of Florida.