What we learned from the Washington DC Audience Atlas: Covid Safety

In November of 2020, MHM undertook a new market survey of the Washington, DC area. This comprehensive survey of cultural engagement profiled past, recent and future propensity to engage with a wide range of art forms, leisure activities and cultural organizations. 

The survey was designed to address critical concerns the sector is currently facing and to give organizations a deeper look at their local markets as well as how best to reach them. We will be releasing a full report and webinar in the coming weeks but until then we wanted to share a few of our key findings in a series of blog post. 

COVID safety is top of mind for every organization planning for their reopening. There are still many unknowns, from what additional safety measures are needed to make your audiences feel safer to whether audiences will even want to come back.  

We asked the Washington DC area market these questions to help you plan for your reopening. Here are a few key insights we learned from the data we collected during our survey. 

There will be a tiered return

People’s level of comfort in returning to cultural activities varies greatly depending on the environment of the activity.

For example, more people feel safe visiting outdoor attractions (gardens, zoos, etc.), with 40% of people having already been or are ready to visit as soon as these types of venues reopen. This compares to 24% for indoor attractions (National Museum of Natural History, National Portrait Gallery, etc.) and 20% for performing arts (theater, concerts, dance, etc.).

There is an additional percentage of the market who are slightly more cautious and are just waiting until they feel the appropriate safety precautions are in place; a quarter of the market for outdoor and indoor attractions and 21% for performing arts. Only 18% will wait for a vaccine* before returning to outdoor activities compared to 31% for both indoor activities and performing arts.

It will take time for everyone to feel comfortable returning to all cultural activities but there are already people ready to experience what you have to offer and the rest will follow along as restrictions ease and the vaccine is distributed.

Keep in mind these numbers are for the whole DC market, not just previous attenders or those interested. 

Concern over everyone following the safety regulations

For a large percentage of the market, the biggest concern is that the safety measures put in place won't be followed by everyone.

Of the 84% who cite this as a concern, 60% consider it a major concern. As organizations welcoming people into our spaces, we must find ways to reassure people that we not only have the necessary safety rules in place but that everyone is following them, although that can be a tricky balance to find as you also want to avoid coming across as a strict and unenjoyable place to be.

Using things like images of people having a good time whilst all the rules are being followed can go a long way in reassuring potential visitors that the rules are being followed at your organization. 

Safety is an important aspect of any reopening plan, but there is much more to consider, including what will motivate people to visit your organization. Find out what our data says about this and more at our free webinar on Tuesday February 23 at 11am EST. Register here.

*This survey was out in the field before any COVID-19 vaccines had been approved in the US. 


Rhiannon joins the MHM team in our office in New York. As Consultant, she leads a wide range of...

Lorna is a Senior Consultant and heads our USA team. She has extensive experience on both sides of...

A co-founder of Morris Hargreaves McIntyre, Andrew is one of the UK’s leading authorities on...

Image for Four reopening insights from Audience Atlas DC

Four reopening insights from Audience Atlas DC

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Great audience engagement during the pandemic