We have never seen any reliable figures on actual attendance at Ark Encounter — the creationist tourist attraction built by Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the ayatollah of Appalachia. But now, for the first time, we have a figure from someone in a position to know.
The Lexington Herald-Leader of Lexington, Kentucky has this headline: Timing hurt Ark attendance. It was written by C. Britt Beemer, the founder of America’s Research Group. As we’ve pointed out before, Beemer is not only Hambo’s market researcher and attendance estimator, he and Hambo are the co-authors of Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it.
Beemer is in a good position to know the numbers, so here are some excerpts from his article, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
As owner of America’s Research Group, which projected attendance for Ark Encounter, I have interviewed more than 12 million Americans and have a number of clients in the Lexington market. I was disappointed the Ark hit only 1 million guests the past year because we should have had more.
Only a million? That’s way below what he and Hambo had been predicting. What went wrong? Beemer explains:
We opened on July 7, 2016. By opening this late, we missed those who plan their summer vacations in March, April and May. Approximately 41 percent of families make their summer vacation plans before their children get out of school. Those making vacation plans before school ends exceed 10 million families in the states where we are getting the vast majority of guests. Many tour bus companies set up summer schedules by March so they have at least three months to promote tour plans.
That sounds plausible. Beemer continues:
Had we opened earlier and gotten more families and more tour bus operators, we easily would have attracted an additional 480,000 to 600,000 guests.
That was the kind of attendance Hambo had been expecting. One last excerpt
This year we are already seeing high average daily increases compared to last year. So I think we will stay true to our goal of “defending Genesis.”
Well, dear reader, while you’re pondering what Beemer said, we’d like to remind you of what we wrote in January of 2016, six months before the ark opened for business: Why No News about Ark Ticket Sales? Hambo was already promoting on-line ticket sales for the ark’s grand opening, and predicting “more than 1.4 million visitors.” We could be wrong, but it seems to us that people did have time to make plans for the grand opening.
Anyway, it looks like the first year’s attendance figure was only a million — 71% of what had been predicted. We’ll get more accurate numbers in due course, and we’ll probably get more excuses too, but that’s it for the moment. Make of it what you will.
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