Ark Encounter Ticket Sales Figures Released

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.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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20 responses to “Ark Encounter Ticket Sales Figures Released

  1. Shucks, Hambo should have had all the ark workers dressed in the garb of the ancient day when Noah was building the ark and strategically place signs like “ark building in progress” or “flood coming soon” and the like. That way people could experience the good old days of Noah. Perhaps too Hambo could have offered ticket discounts as it was still a work in progress.

  2. Derek Freyberg

    And even if you credit the “we missed the people who plan early” complaint as far as summer 2016 is concerned, because the Ark opened on July 7, 2016, one year’s sales should include sales through July 7 this year. This means that all those who planned early have their chance to visit this summer. I suppose some of those early planners in 2017 might have planned to visit after July 7; but it strains credibility to argue that half a million people (i.e. one-third the estimated attendance) didn’t drop by last year because they planned their summer vacations early in 2016 and haven’t yet dropped by because they planned early in 2017 to drop by sometime after July 7 but before school starts.
    And I thought that the Hamster was originally telling people that the Ark was going to be yuge and would bring in 2 million visitors.
    Still, even 1 million people is a lot for a concrete ark in Kentucky, especially at the prices the Hamster is charging.

  3. Charles Deetz ;)

    What’s that compared to Hambo’s Creation Museum? And how long they stay on-site?

  4. Charles Deetz ;)

    This quote is interesting:

    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.

    Um, interviewed how many people? Maybe he meant surveyed.

    “We should have had more”. What a comeback to having made lousy visitor projections.

  5. I’m impressed that 1 million guests visited the ark encounter. When I was 14 I visited the savior of Flint, Michigan “Autoworld” (with free tickets) an automobile history museum with an indoor Ferris wheel. In 6 months it was closed, in a decade it was demolished. To me I’m astonished that Young Earth Creationism or the allure of a road side attraction Noah’s Ark can get a “million butts in the seat”. The overhead of the Ark is minimal, and with all the sweatheart deals from the local yokels make me think it’ll be in business for at least a decade.
    As for the prediction of 1.4 million? Bah! Hambo was predicting 2 million. Hambo also predicts that the Ark Encounter will actually increase in the second year…sorry Hambo it is all downhill from here. There will never be a million in a year again.

  6. Troy:
    “…sorry Hambo it is all downhill from here. There will never be a million in a year again.”

    I’m not so sure about that. There are many, many people in the Midwest with strong religious views. Visiting a place like the Creation Museum or the Ark Encounter makes them “feel good” about themselves; it’s an affirmation of their faith. Whether they will “feel good” about ponying up the $40 for that affirmation is another matter, especially when they realize it goes into Ham’s pocket and is not a church offering.

  7. RSG, You make a good point about why the Ark is as successful as it is, the problem is repeat business. The allure of the Ark is the awe inspiring look at the sheer size of it, but once seen why would one want to return?
    I don’t see any rationale for Hambo’s belief that year two will be better than year one. Are there YECs out there who haven’t heard of it and will catch wind of it next year? Vacations planned in advance in year one preempted a visit to the Ark? I’m just not seeing where an Ark Encounter is going to get the next wave of visitors. The reality of market saturation.
    Of course not all visitors are going to be YECs or even Christians. I’m not going this year but if the price was half and parking free I might.

  8. “I have interviewed more than 12 million Americans …”

    No he hasn’t, but then creationists lying is the norm. Let’s assume that he is 90 years old and he has been “interviewing” Americans 24 hours a day since he was 10 years old. That comes to 3.5 minutes per “interview”, an obviously nonsensical value. Likewise there is little to believe his 1 million figure, which could easily be rounded up to one significant millions figure from 510 thousand, for example. After all, he has an obvious vested interest in making the numbers appear to be the best possible outcome of an actual disaster.

  9. Eric Lipps

    I predict a decline until a stable figure well blow 1 million is reached, as the novelty wears off. A lot of the visitors over the past year doubtless were folks drawn by the appeal any new attraction which isn’t totally boring or deeply offensive to them (I think I’d find Ark Encounter to be both and would be looking for places to leave pro-evolution graffiti). and I fully expect that the overwhelming majority of those who’ve already visited won’t come back. The tackiness of this “attraction,” along with the “been there, done that” factor will cut down on second pilgrimages to Williamstown.

  10. Ceteris Paribus

    Just a day or so drive away from Hambo’s Xanadu Ark Park is another family destination, not far away down south in Florida, named Walt Disney World. There, Disney gets upwards of 50 million tourists per year. And the secular playground encompasses somewhere around 25,000 acres a family fun and adventure. In addition to golf, resorts, and other wonderful stuff.

    Can anyone even imagine a future scenario where the Disney crowd would take a day off to make pilgrimage to Hambo’s place? If Hambo can ever make a claim to a 2 million per year gate, I would be suspicious.

  11. Charles Deetz ;)

    Took a look at Trip Advisor reviews. Very positive, so at least these folks are getting what they expected. Biggest complaint seen over and over is how much reading of exhibit/posters. But even those are 4 or 5 star reviews.

  12. @charles deet

    Reading is a challenge for his followers.

    Comprehension is rare.

  13. Derek Freyberg

    @Charles Deetz:
    I seem to recall seeing somewhere (maybe here) that the Creation Museum was losing money and being subsidized by AiG in general, at least in the last couple of years.
    Now whether that will remain the case if people coming to the Ark also go to the Creation Museum is an open question: first, you can buy Ark & Museum combo tickets, and it’s a matter of allocating revenue between them; second, the Museum is 45 minutes’ drive from the Ark; so if people only come for the day, they may not have time to/want to see both.
    Time will tell, I suppose.

  14. Charles Deetz ;)

    @Derek Freyberg
    That might be what inspired me to look at the reviews. I only recall one person saying they went to both, they did both in one day. As tourist, that would be my biggest question … do I buy the combo, do I go to both in one day?

  15. Derek Freyberg

    And for those who’d like a different perspective on the difference between prediction and reality noted by our host, check out the Friendly Atheist today:
    Hemant points out that the Hamster even talked up the opening date as being special (Genesis 7:7) in November 2015; and even has a link to the Hamster’s original prediction that up to 2.2 million might visit.
    I’m a little surprised that the Hamster has left some of these old predictions up for view.

    @Charles Deetz:
    I thought the reviews were interesting – clearly there is a market for the Ark. On the ticket costs, if you have two days, your combo ticket would let you see the Ark one day and the Creation Museum the next, because you get two days of museum entry along with your one day of Ark entry. It’s $30 for the Creation Museum itself, $40 for the Ark, and $60 for the combo; so there’s not much saving.

  16. Has there been any complaint from conservative Christians about idolatry, or creeping Papism? Puritans wouldn’t wouldn’t have abided this kind of thing. Or in this modern age are the Ten Commandments just old-fashioned?

  17. @Derek Freyberg: Hambo is notorious for bundled packages that don’t save much. I’m sure if Hambo thought he could get away with it he’d sell something for a quarter a piece, 3 for a dollar.

  18. Robert van Bakel

    Once you’ve seen one boat, you’ve seen ’em all.

    This will also explain why repeat visitors, (even the faithful) will decline a repeat tour of, ‘the boat’, yawn.

  19. @Zetopan

    You’re all right.

    (No matter what they say.)

  20. As I’ve commented before, the number of total visitors is somewhat irrelevant to the financial success of the Ark, for the following reasons:
    1) Ham sold both lifetime and 3 year passes before the Ark opened as a fund raising method. Not only would he not see ticket revenue from these visitors, it is likely that anyone who made more than one visit would have such a pass, further depressing revenue.
    2) Discounted rates are available to seniors ($31), children ($28 5-12, and under 5 are free) and veterans/current serving. Also there are several other promotions and discounts available at varying times throughout the year. Given the pictures of attendants I have seen, I would wager that discounted admissions account for a substantial portion of total admissions.
    3) If a multi day pass is purchased, it is unknown if Ham counts this as one discrete visitor, or several.
    Overall, the true success of the Ark is still a big question mark until sales figures from the state Department of Revenue are released. I can only wonder what tergiversations we’ll see from Ham that day.