Impressive but Not Surprising Response to the Ark Encounter

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Now that the Ark Encounter has been open over 16 months, and because we are frequently being asked about how well it is doing, I thought it was time to summarize its tremendous success. The life-size Ark celebrated its first year last July and realized over one million guests, even though motor coach tours in 2016 had not geared up. Once the attraction was known to be open and operational, the number of buses skyrocketed this year.

Meanwhile, the Ark’s sister attraction, the 10-year-old Creation Museum 45 minutes away, just experienced its best year of attendance in its 10-year history. We are ecstatic not only with the great numbers, but also with the diversity of guests from all levels of society and all corners of the globe—guests who rave about our world-class Christian-themed attractions.

Those opposed to AiG continue to try to denigrate the attractions by spreading false information.

At the same time, even with the popularity of the two attractions that have made Northern Kentucky the nation’s leading faith-based tourist destination, atheist bloggers and some in the mainstream media continue to write false stories about the Ark’s success. We sometimes receive emails and letters from concerned Christians wondering if the reports are true. The claims of poor attendance are, of course, patently false. While we rarely share yearly attendance figures any more (when we have, secularists have often twisted them), we will, in this instance, pull out some data that will give you a firm idea of how God is blessing us with so many people visiting the museum and Ark, people who are being exposed to biblical truths and, most of all, the gospel—which is why those opposed to AiG continue to try to denigrate the attractions by spreading false information.

Before the Ark Encounter opened, the state of Kentucky (under the previous governor, Steve Beshear) hired a research firm, Hunden Strategic Partners, to offer an estimate as to the number of guests who would visit year by year. In this study (for which the state required we pay a high five-figure amount), Hunden estimated only 325,000 people would tour the Ark Encounter in the first year. By the end of September 2016, however, and less than three months after its opening, the Ark had already surpassed the ridiculously low attendance figure estimated by the Kentucky study to take one year to achieve. (By the way, if the attraction did not have overtly creationist content, then the Hunden study predicted 500,000 people would visit the first year; of course, the finished Ark does have many exhibits featuring biblical creationist teachings.)

A different study commissioned by AiG, however, conducted through paid consultants, the renowned America’s Research Group (ARG), made it clear that the state’s 325,000 figure (estimated by market research, not primary research as ARG conducted) was far too low. ARG estimated that over 1 million people would visit the Ark in year one. Now that we are in year two, Answers in Genesis predicts that since last year was not a “typical” year, with the Ark opening after the tourist season started and not experiencing a full complement of motor coach tour buses (which is now exploding), 2017–2018 will exceed our first-year numbers and be within the 1.4–2.2 million range estimated by ARG.

The news we share with you today is that in less than three months during the Ark’s second year of operation, 325,000 people had visited the Ark. In fact, the Ark reached the 325,000 mark quicker than our first year. Once again, the Ark is shattering Hunden’s estimates.1

The Ark has become a national tourist destination.

This past summer, the Ark Encounter saw many days of over 6,000 guests on Saturdays, and even days of 7,000–8,000. The Ark has become a national tourist destination. One day recently at the Ark Encounter, a staff member counted cars with license plates from 41 states!

This summer, motor coach traffic dramatically increased from last year to an average of two dozen buses during mid-week days (with as many pulling up on most of those days to the Creation Museum). And one day recently, 48 motor coaches brought nearly 2,000 guests to tour the Ark. Last Saturday, on a cold November day, over 4,000 people turned up at the Ark. In addition, the Creation Museum has seen attendance increase to nearly 500,000 in its 10th year, its best year ever, and year 11 is shaping up to be much better.

Regional tourism officials recognized our two world-class attractions this year with the Star of Tourism Award for economic impact to the region, presented to us by the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau (NKYCVB), and we have received various awards for our marketing campaigns. The economic impact to the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region has been dramatic through the hundreds of millions of tourists’ dollars pumped into the region and hundreds of jobs created at the Ark Encounter (and many more at tourist-related businesses in the region). New hotels and restaurants have recently popped up, and we have seen an increase of employees needed at the Creation Museum. AiG and its two attractions now employ up to 1,000 staff at the peak of the vacation season.

We are happy to report that three hotels are being built near the Ark and others are under construction further north. The hotel owners tell us that the need for more hotel rooms in the region has been largely driven by our Ark guests.

It is truly exciting to know that the attractions are ministering to so many people and receiving phenomenal reviews.

Unfortunately, some people believe the false press and Internet myths that appear from time to time about the success of the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter. Quite the contrary to what you might have read, both attractions have seen tremendously positive responses and attendance. As the excellent attendance is growing, it is truly exciting to know that the attractions are ministering to so many people and receiving phenomenal reviews. Even non-Christians who visit give rave reviews about the attractions and their stunning exhibits.

To meet guests’ needs, we are expanding both attractions. For example, by next summer a 2,500-seat multi-purpose auditorium will be open at the Ark site, and the zoo behind the Ark will have doubled in size. Ark designers are also working on plans for the next phases including a Tower of Babel and Walled City.

At the museum, we are putting the final touches on a massive new parking lot to handle the increased number of vehicles and will widen some of the museum’s hallways that can become crowded on the busiest days. Also, we are upgrading the museum’s Special Effects Theater to turn it into a 3D theater and are designing new exhibits to be installed in the future.

Indeed, with the Ark Encounter, it is, as one staff member put it, “quite afloat and prepared for more fair winds and following seas.”

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
Ken

This article was written with the support of the AiG research staff.

Footnotes

  1. Hunden predicted that year two would see an uptick in attendance at the Ark.

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