W5 Science and Discovery Centre

Victoria Denoon from W5 Science and Discovery Centre discusses using Access Gamma

Through Covid, one of the things that has been very important across the board for the sector, is the need to really manage your visitor experience, make sure it is safe and that you’re not going over capacity in certain days and time slots. One of the lovely things about the Gamma product is that it gives you the ability to control all of that and to do it dynamically. I was really excited to learn how flexible and agile the system can be and I think this is something attractions across the board are going to have to look to implement if they’re not already there.” Victoria Deenon, Head of Visitor Experience at W5 Science and Discovery Centre

W5 Science and Discovery Centre

W5 is a science and discovery centre, in the heart of Belfast, with over 250 hands-on exhibits, seasonal events, science shows and temporary exhibitions!

When W5 (whowhatwherewhenwhy) first opened its doors in March 2001, Northern Ireland had never seen anything like it! From the outset, the mission was ‘to fire the spirit of discovery’, intriguing and engaging visitors with hands-on and immersive learning in a fun and inclusive environment.

20 years on and having reached more than 4 million visitors, as a charity established to advance public education, W5 are embracing innovation and the changing digital landscape to make science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) more accessible, relevant, interesting and fun for all their visitors.

The challenges facing W5 as a visitor attraction

As a Science and Discovery centre, there are various challenges that W5 need to overcome on a yearly basis. “We have to make sure we stay relevant and up to date with what we want to deliver to our audience so while our exhibits may be fixed and not change for a long period of time, we need to make sure that we are getting that visitor experience as interactive as possible and updating that as often as possible.” Victoria said.

This requires a lot of long term planning to look at what sort of events and workshops, demonstrations they want to deliver to their visitors to make sure they’re getting a different experience every time they come to W5.

The challenges facing W5 during the pandemic

Over the past 12 months, the challenges that W5 faced have gone to a whole new level and that’s why they had to make sure they had the best solution possible in place for when they were able to reopen.

One of the big things W5 were looking at before lockdown was the need to move to a fully online booking system that would allow them to quickly and easily manage advance bookings. They wanted to make sure that they were getting a good number of people through a day and that those people were getting a good experience without overcrowding between certain times of the day.  

“It was through conversations we had with Access about the Gamma product, which we already had in place, and we realised the solution was right there and just by adding a couple of different modules from Gamma, will give us that solution to be able to go completely online with the bookings and to be able to play with our pricing – so that at certain points of the day to be able to offer slightly cheaper pricing to ensure we were meeting our social affordability goals for our visitors.

So it’s been a real benefit to us having Access Gamma available during these times, to make sure we can deliver a safe visitor experience but also one that delivers the best quality visitor experience because we are able to manage our capacity for visitors over a day.” Victoria said

Access Gamma has allowed us to work more effectively

Having Access Gamma in place, has given W5 the ability to extract comprehensive reports so they could make data-driven decisions, across the organisation.

Victoria explained:Prior to Covid, Gamma was really a great product for us because it helped us manage a lot of different aspects of our complex business so whatever we do at W5, has to be able to integrate with the bigger organisation that we are part of. We found that through using Gamma, we have been able to run very effective reports to help us with managing stock levels, to make sure we are making good decisions around what visitors attended when and also to integrate with our financial system and make sure that when we are developing bigger reports for the wider organisation, that what we’re doing in W5 can easily match up with the organisation as a whole. We found that just by adding a couple of different modules to Gamma over the course of 6 years or so, we’ve been able to do that more effectively each time.

The great relationship we have with our Sales Manager and all the team at Gamma has massively helped. We talked things through about what we want to achieve, how we want to get there and then being able to get demonstrations of how those products would work for us in that particular environment.”

Access Gamma has helped us reach new audiences 

One of W5’s long term goals is to reach out to new audiences and Access Gamma has enabled them to achieve that, as Victoria explains:

Being able to run reports through Access Gamma has really helped us maximise what we were able to do as an organisation. So when we are doing our long term planning, one of the major things we’re looking at is how we can reach out to new audiences but also how do we make sure that those audiences that are coming, keep coming back so that really helps us when we’re able to look at the data, work with our Marketing team on that data and develop key goals in terms of going forward when it comes to marketing and promotion of W5.”

W5 is a very data-driven organisation so the more they can do that, the better and a lot of what they get through Access Gamma, they can also integrate with their other systems that they have on site to really make that data even more rich.

Access Gamma is a very user-friendly and intuitive system to use

Victoria said:One of the nice things about the Gamma system is that it is very user friendly. We have delivered training through Access to all of our staff who are using it more on a daily basis and they seem to pick it up very quickly. From a Manager’s point of view, I really like the overview that you can get from the reporting structure and I find a very intuitive system to use.”

Great working relationship with Access 

Working very closely with their Access Account Manager has helped W5 have a better understanding of how to use Gamma in order to get the best results. Victoria said: “One of the nice things for me personally and for the rest of the organisation is that we have a great working relationship with Access and that has led to us using more products from the Access line. For example, with being closed as a result of Covid, we’ve had some ongoing discussions about how we can look to the future and do things differently and that has led us to a path where we are looking at the potential to implement additional Access products on-site across the business and not just at W5. And this has really been the result of working closely with our Sales Manager about what needs we have that we’re not currently meeting through technology and how we could be working more closely with the products we have to get the best results.

And actually, it was a wonderful experience to find that there are so many other products out there through Access that are helping us to run more smoothly as a business and without this downtime, we might not have been able to get there as quickly but is has a really good working relationship with the team at Access to get us where we are now.”

Word of advice for a Visitor Attraction who are considering moving ahead with Access Gamma

Through Covid, one of the things that have been very important across the board for the sector has been this need to really manage your visitor experience, make sure it is safe and that you’re not going overcapacity in certain days or time slots and one of the lovely things about the Gamma product is that it gives you the ability to control all of that and to do it dynamically so on a particular day, you can change your capacity, or you can change your pricing structure if that’s something you’re looking to do. So I was really excited to learn how flexible and agile the system can be and I think this is something attractions across the board are going to have to look to implement if they’re not already there.

One of the things I’ve heard from talking to colleagues about some off the shelf products they’re using is that they’re are not as agile and they’re not giving them that scope in terms of the richness of the data they get from reporting so definitely would recommend Access Gamma as a way to do that.

But also again, through conversations with Access, you will realise the variety of products that they have available that could massively help with other elements of the business that you might not have thought of but can actually end up saving you some time and money because you’re bringing technology on board to help you do those things that you might be doing manually otherwise.”

If you are interested in learning more about The Access Gamma, request a demo and one of our specialists will be in touch to understand your needs.


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