AS part of their presentation, Dickon White and Grant Rowley shared the Aintree vision of customer experience.

As White said: “We have a broad range of customers, many come only for the Grand National event and are not racegoers, while others are once-a-year racegoers, alongside avid racing fans, so it’s very important that we provide the event and the experience they want.” This includes a popular Grand National course tour.

“Our whole year is based around the three-day Festival, with team meetings about what we can do to change things and improve. It’s important to get everyone involved, whatever their role – groundsmen, for example, can also have great ideas and contributions. Give people the freedom to speak and to be comfortable about doing it.

“Our investment is in the customer experience, trying one or two new things a year, because regular customers like to see something fresh and new. It’s a continuous battle, working with feedback from casual customers and asking do they want to see something different,” White continued.

“Our sales teams do a lot of development training and are incentivised to sell packages at other Jockey Club Racecourses, should someone enquire about a time of year when we don’t race. Where a meeting is abandoned, the team focus on phoning customers to offer an alternative package rather than just a refund.”

Biggest days

White pointed out Ladies Day was, “Very much branded by local people and the media and we piggy-backed on this. It has grown to one of the biggest days in the Liverpool social calendar with a 50,000 sell-out crowd, 48% being new bookers and 41% under 34. We limited Grand National day to a 70,000 sell-out crowd to provide a better raceday experience, with fewer queues at the bars.

“The Grand National Weights lunch is an annual media event in February, and we decided to move it from London to Liverpool four years ago. We were warned it was a risk and people wouldn’t come, but they do and they stay for a couple of days, which is great for Liverpool. We have received brilliant media coverage and the opportunity to work with civic leaders and the community.”

He explained their hospitality was less corporate, more family tailored, with 5,000 in hospitality over the three festival days. “We are seeing what other sports are doing and offering a variety of premium ticket packages.

“Another success was bringing Art School Restaurant to the racecourse, opting for a local business rather than a national catering chain, which generates a lot of valuable PR.”

Aintree has found summer music nights a great success, bringing a new audience, but White cautioned, “The objective is to give them a great time and experience of racing, so we need to keep evolving and attracting the right bands for the right audience.”

While the racecourse doesn’t host many race meetings, 718 events took place at Aintree in 2022, attracting 50,000 delegates. “Capitalising on Liverpool reaching the Champions League Final we hosted a screening of the Final, rather than via a third party, creating alcohol-free zones and family friendly zones and sold out at 5,000 people.

“On the racecourse we have an international equestrian centre, with 120 shows and events a year. We’re looking at opening an outdoor arena.” White touched on equine welfare and working with experts to make sure it remains the number one priority. “We sit down on a regular basis with the RSPCA and other welfare bodies, it’s a topic that’s not going away.”

On sustainability, White said, “It is our vision to remain a leader not only in racing but across the sports sector. We are committed to being carbon neutral from 2027, and net zero as soon as possible. Part of this is engaging with our employees and encouraging them to act sustainably. The key is working with our catering team in terms of recycling, food waste, plastic packaging, glassware taken away overnight, cleaned and used next day.”