Visitor experience to British racecourses judged to be better than ever

Aintree on Grand National day: the course was named Britain's Showcase Champion for 2017

The quality of the visitor experience across Britain’s racecourses is higher than it has ever been, according to an independent assessment, the Racecourse Association (RCA) has announced

The report is from the AA (Automobile Association) and VisitScotland for the annual Quality Assured Racecourse Scheme. VisitScotland issue Scottish racecourses with a star rating and marque, while The AA, under licence from VisitEngland, provides English and Welsh racecourses with a quality marque for racecourses reaching the pass mark of 60 percent, which equates to 'good'.

A record 34 racecourses were awarded a score of 80 percent or higher, which equates to ‘excellent’, while once more every single racecourse achieved a rating of ‘good’ or better. The lowest scoring mark in 2017 was 68 percent, the highest it has been since the scheme was launched in 2012.

The Quality Assured Racecourse Scheme objectively assesses the visitor experience of a day at the races. Encompassing all aspects of the raceday, from pre-raceday telephone calls and social media audits to the racecourse itself and the quality and cleanliness of facilities, an experienced assessor conducts the assessment during a ‘mystery shop’ visit.

This year the top 12 racecourses in England & Wales (in alphabetical order) were: Aintree (the RCA's 'Showcase Champion' course for 2017), Ascot, Bangor-on-Dee, Beverley, Cheltenham, Chester, Haydock Park, Newbury, Newmarket July, Ripon, Uttoxeter and York.

In Scotland, Ayr and Musselburgh demonstrated excellence of the highest order by securing 5* ratings from VisitScotland.

Paul Swain, RCA Brand & Experience Manager, said: “It is fantastic to see the racecourse experience continue to improve across the board at all racecourses in 2017. It is testament to the level of investment that racecourses have made in facilities and staff training that we are seeing the higher levels of quality in terms of customer experience than ever before.

“Through the Raceday Experience program, Showcase and Awards, and our dedicated ‘Year of Service’ workstream, we have been able to provide racecourses with the tools and examples of best practice to help them match the very finest customer experiences available in the sport and leisure market.

“Racecourses have sustained this drive for improvement and we’re committed to supporting them to continue to raise the bar.”

Gordon Smith, National Strategic Partnerships Manager at VisitScotland, said: “I am delighted to hear that quality standards across these racecourses have continued to improve. However, it's about more than just the stars on the sign, it is about the entire visitor experience and driving improvement in that experience throughout the country.

“Consumers want quality and value for money. Star gradings help visitors make informed decisions and select businesses that meet, and exceed, these expectations. Quality Assurance stars shown alongside online reviews give visitors a balance of objective and subjective views to assist in their decision making and expectations.

“Developed over the last four decades in partnership with the tourism industry and informed by visitor research, VisitScotland’s QA scheme is world-leading.”

In addition to the general assessment, there were excellence accolades for racecourses that recorded outstanding scores in specific areas of the assessment.

These were awarded at the 2017 Showcase & Awards, held at Newbury in November, as follows:

  • Lovely Loos: Musselburgh, York

  • Visitor information and signage: Aintree, Ascot, Chepstow, Chester, Huntingdon, Musselburgh (Scotland), Newbury (England), Royal Windsor, Uttoxeter

  • Quality café/restaurant: Musselburgh—Café 1816, Ripon—Club Dining Room

  • Fast food outlet: York—Knavesmire Court

  • Staff customer service: Aintree, Bangor-on-Dee, Beverley, Chelmsford City, Cheltenham, Newbury, York
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