Attendance at Ark Encounter remains at rock bottom during the pandemic. It’s not their fault, obviously, but the recovery has been slow for them just like everyone else.

Thanks to a public record request by local paleontologist Dan Phelps, we now have the numbers for August. You can read more background about how it’s calculated here.

The bottom line? Ark Encounter had 46,562 paying visitors in August. But that’s a mere fraction of the 104,350 they had last August. It’s also a decline from last month, a reminder that the busiest part of the tourism season is over.

Here are all the attendance numbers we know along with the Safety Fee that Answers in Genesis has paid to the city of Williamstown. (The public nature of that fee is how we know the attendance numbers at all.)

Month 2017 (Fee) 2018 (Fee) 2019 (Fee) 2020 (Fee) Notes
January 13,250 ($6,625.00) 14,885 ($7,442.50) 15,790 ($7,895.00) (Increase from previous year: 905)
February 17,961 ($8,980.50) 16,328 ($8,164.00) 17,290 ($8,645.00) (Increase from previous year: 962)
March 62,251 ($31,125.50) 70,466 ($35,233.00) 15,145 ($7,572.50) (Decrease from previous year: 55,321)
April 67,613 ($33,806.50) 79,908 ($39,954.00) 0 ($0) (Decrease from previous year: 79,908)
May 73,353 ($36,676.50) 90,803 ($45,401.50) 2,047 ($1,023.50) (Decrease from previous year: 88,756)
June 113,901 ($56,950.50) 124,230 ($62,115.00) 40,434 ($20,217.00) (Decrease from previous year: 83,796)
July 142,626 ($71,313.00) 135,922 ($67,961.00) 160,124 ($80,062.00) 57,632 ($28,816.00) (Decrease from previous year: 102,492)
August 106,161 ($53,080.50) 98,106 ($49,053.00) 104,350 ($52,175.00) 46,562 ($23,281.00) (Decrease from previous year: 57,788)
September 83,330 ($41,665.00) 69,207 ($34,603.50) 73,541 ($36,770.50) (Increase from previous year: 4,334)
October 93,659 ($46,829.50) 89,434 ($44,717.00) 86,988 ($43,494.00) (Drop from previous year: 2,446)
November 51,914 ($25,957.00) 40,193 ($20,096.50) 37,686 ($18,881.00) (Drop from previous year: 2,507)
December 36,472 ($18,236.00) 46,400 ($24,200.00) 37,880 ($18,940.00) (Drop from previous year: 8,520)

Remember that the Ark didn’t shut down until March 17, but it’s clear there was lower attendance in the weeks prior to that, too. Their on-site conferences also had to be postponed. Like other tourist attractions, they’ve missed out on Spring Break trips, summer vacations, and warmer weather in general. Most workers at the Ark were also temporarily laid off. They finally reopened on June 7.

That said, the Ark’s parent company, Crosswater Canyon, received between $1 million and $2 million from the Paycheck Protection Program. And Ham also raised at least $1,135,009 in a separate fundraiser to offset COVID-related losses.

Finally, keep in mind that actual attendance is higher than these numbers represent because kids get in for free, as do members with lifetime passes. But giving away freebies to children and life members doesn’t help the local economy as much as drawing in first-time customers who are ready to spend money or conference attendees who are there for another reason.

(Large portions of this article were published earlier)





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