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Diversifying the Aquarium experience : the added value of touring exhibitions

A conversation with Alejandro Beneit from the Bioparc Aquarium of Gijón

Sharks (2D) exhibition
Sharks (2D) exhibition

from Gijón, Spain

reading time 5 minutes

Alejandro Beneit, from the Bioparc Aquarium of Gijón in Spain, shares his experience of bringing international touring exhibitions to aquariums, highlighting how they can improve public satisfaction levels.
Teo: Your organisation is a significant aquarium based in Asturias, Spain. It is part of the Bioparc Foundation, dedicated to the protection and conservation of nature. Could you tell us about your institution and the audience you serve?

Alejandro Beneit: Bioparc Acuario de Gijón is part of a group of animal parks called BIOPARC. All the parks collaborate within the BIOPARC Foundation. Through our foundation, we concentrate on most of the in-situ projects to which we are dedicated; one example is the work we do with salmon directly in the city’s river. Additionally, from the parks, we carry out numerous ex-situ projects, such as our work in the reproduction and conservation of sharks and rays at the aquarium.

At Bioparc, alongside our foundation, we focus on conservation, research, and dissemination. This involves engaging in conservation through breeding projects, animal care, and our marine animal recovery centre. We conduct research to better understand biodiversity, enabling us to care for it more effectively. Importantly, we serve as a significant platform to communicate all this to the public. We act as a bridge between science and people. Additionally, and crucially, in line with our philosophy, we aim to inspire from our parks. We believe the best way to change attitudes is through emotion, and we achieve this by recreating natural spaces and using art as a tool to bring pieces of nature to our visitors.

We believe the best way to change attitudes is through emotion, [...] using art as a tool to bring pieces of nature to our visitors.

Sharks (2D) exhibition
When you decided to start presenting travelling exhibitions, how did you bring these exhibitions to your audience?

Bringing temporary exhibitions to our centres is very important. On average, a visitor comes every 2-3 years. This programming strategy helps encourage more frequent visits. And our approach is conceived to ensure that these exhibitions add value to the visit. It’s not about displaying just anything; we seek significant and prestigious partners to ensure that what we exhibit is of the highest technical and execution quality. In this case, working with the American Museum of Natural History guarantees the high quality we aim to provide for the visitor. Visitors appreciate these exhibitions a lot because they offer more than just the aquarium experience.

How do you promote this new offering among existing and new audiences?

When you work with globally renowned institutions like the American Museum of Natural History, attracting an audience doesn’t require much effort. People are eager to see such exhibitions because of the strong topics and the high quality conveyed by the prestigious name. Thus, we mainly focus on spreading the word. Word of mouth is a powerful tool, which is why the exhibitions need to last at least six months. We also work extensively with outdoor and digital advertising. Outdoor advertising reaches a broad audience, and it is particularly efficient to reach our existing visitors, while digital advertising reaches wider audiences, serves as a reminder and provides more information about the exhibition. Satisfaction levels are very high, and even with high expectations, the visitor experience meets those expectations.

Could you tell us about the results of these exhibitions?

For us, the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is a common metric used in customer experience and loyalty evaluation, is very important. We continuously measure it using digital tools across the network. The research confirms these exhibitions help improve public satisfaction levels. The feedback is usually very positive, and the public responds well to this specific programming. It is challenging to calculate exactly what percentage of the public is added due to the exhibitions, but I can confirm that visits and satisfaction increase. These high-profile exhibitions are overall very positive for the institution.

Sharks (2D) exhibition

Visitors appreciate these exhibitions a lot because they offer more than just the aquarium experience.

You are now presenting a new traveling exhibition, Sharks (2D) from the American Museum of Natural History. Why do you believe travelling exhibitions can be a resource for aquarium organisations?

An animal like the shark is very appealing to the public; I think we all feel drawn to this magnificent creature. Movies have contributed greatly to this fascination. We leverage this “fame” to attract the public and deliver messages about conservation, the need to care for them, the threat they are facing, and ultimately the importance of biodiversity. It is important to use these exhibitions to convey messages about the need for care and balance in the natural environment. We have sharks in our facilities, and with these exhibitions, we add significant value to the visit by providing much more information about these animals. We create many activities centered around the topic of the exhibition. Learning is the best way to care, and only if you build this awareness you can understand. Many people inquire via email or phone if the exhibition is still available to visit, and we will have it open to the public until September.

Could you tell us more about the activities around the exhibition?

Certainly. The overall programming around these exhibitions starts many months before the public can see them. Once we begin, the marketing department, along with the education department, works to give the exhibition more content and value. For example, we have shark-specific workshops on weekends. We offer guided tours with an aquarium staff member who not only explains the aquarium but also focuses on sharks. It is also possible to spend a night with the sharks, an activity that is very popular. You can sleep in front of the main tank where we have the large sharks. Children and entire families come to spend the night here with us. It is a very special activity. Even our staff uniforms have been adapted to this exhibition during these months. Everything changes, and we focus on creating special experiences. We are already working on the next ones. It creates a global dynamic which creates engaging and memorable experiences for our visitors.

About Alejandro Beneit
About Alejandro Beneit

Alejandro is the General Director of Bioparc Acuario de Gijón in Spain. He is an expert in communication and advertising, having served as Director of Marketing and Sales, and a lecturer in Digital Communication. With a postgraduate degree in Business Management and a master in Marketing and Advertising, he has 10 years of experience in zoos and aquariums. Since 2018, he has been leading the Gijón Aquarium.

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