Late like local – how after-hours culture can bring tourists to town

Everything’s more fun after dark. Except perhaps surfing.

Lates are a great example of that. Take a boring, old walk around a (well-lit and actually fascinating) museum; now ditch the kids, put a fresh top on and grab yourself a canapé – you’re at a Lates event. Instantly it’s more fun/better Instagram content. Am I wrong?

Maybe it takes a little more than that.

But the truth is that Lates events – the term for any after-hours episode at an art gallery, museum, library or historic building – are changing how people experience ‘culture’ right now. They’re changing how many people experience Friday Nights. And they’re changing it because they’re making these institutions feel more like a social space.

That wave hasn’t quite reached Hereford yet.

But big cities – the smart ones, the ones who realise that the Night Time Economy equates to millions in spending – are pushing hard to broaden their late-night offer to include culture in a way that doesn’t refer to day-old kebab meat.

There are theatres and cinemas and gigs, yes, but there’s also this wealth of dramatic buildings and interesting places going criminally under-used, whose unique setting alone can inspire the kind of original, social event that would look absolutely fire on an Instagram Story.

Airbnb and Culture24 produced a report last year that looked specifically at the effect of Lates on cultural tourism. One of the big takeaways was guests wanted to feel like a local. They wanted to feel that social experience – and in many cases they didn’t necessarily want to have to engage in good old British binge-drinking culture to get that feeling.

We’ve taken a look at the report and pulled out some of the big takeaways on how to make Herefordshire a haven for late night cultural tourism.

1.  “Lates events are likely to include music, food and drink - just what Airbnb hosts say cultural tourists want.”

Talking about this new, brave Night Time Economy the report insists that “Lates have a major role to play in this diverse ecosystem as they can provide a high quality mix of creative content and a food and beverage o­ffer under one roof.”

It’s the final part of this sentence which is arguably the most important. Museums and galleries are often set up with, if not a café, then at least a kitchen. Being able to package up a whole evening to visitors is a huge selling point – and a popular one.

Nationwide, evenings that pair up food and drink with something cool to do were the most common type of Lates event – and by some margin.

From a tourism perspective especially, this makes sense. If you don’t know an area, you don’t want to walking out of a showcase or an evening exhibition hungry and frantically Googling Where To Eat In Herefordshire. That’s when break-ups happen.


2. “We need to have a night-time economy which is accessible to all.”

This one’s actually pulled from the ex-Chair of London Nighttime Commission – and it’s not referring to access in the terms you might think. The full quote is:

“When we’re talking about the night-time economy we’re not just talking about pubs and clubs, we’re talking about everything which people might like to do at night… we need to have a night-time economy which is accessible to all… and one really crucial part of that is that our museums and galleries are available to people at night.”

Respect the geek-onomy.

Just kidding. Actually young people, and arguably all people in the UK, are drinking less than previous generations – and are certainly planning their social lives less around drinking than ever before. That doesn’t mean they are any less social however, and an interesting cultural offer puts something different on the table.

It puts something different on the table for tourists as well – even if the result of that is simply raising the profile of the venue itself, maybe changing its perception slightly amongst locals and making sure it becomes one of the places that gets recommended to visitors, whether they visit in the day or night.


[Click on the image below if you want to read the full report]

Late Like A Local


3. “Active social events where participation is encouraged, are an opportunity for tourists to experience culture like and with a local.”

Most marketing for Lates – but also by museums and galleries etc generally – focusses on locals. That makes sense. But Lates can shift the dynamics behind it.

According to the report, when people attend evening events in museums many do so in friendship groups, without children, and consider their visit primarily as a leisure activity rather than a learning opportunity.

“If there is a single indicator of the di­fference between the experience of visiting a museum/gallery during the day compared to visiting in the evening, it is the extent to which the visit is a social activity.”

The nature of a lot of Lates, or a lot of the best Lates, is that you make the most of the venue – usually by moving around it and interacting with it. This often means you end up interacting with other people as well, and that’s really what the study means by Late Like A Local. You feel like you’re inside the club.

“Tourists want social experiences as well, and this presents a great opportunity for venues and cultural tourism organisations to breach this untapped market”.


4. Experience culture

Lates can add real value to a trip to a different city – they can also be the reason you go there in the first place.

We’ve heard how much Millennials (and Gen Z) love their Experience Culture. From music festivals to Yak Milk Tasting In The Himalayas the younger generations are looking for original experiences (with crowds of other people having their own original experiences).

If apply a modicum of creativity to planning a Lates event, you can tap right in to that.

“These event-based experiences help visitors see museums in a di­fferent, more locally focused, light.

"Events, and particularly immersive experiences, increasingly drive visitation to new locations.

“Visiting the local museum or gallery might be on a cultural tourist’s to-do list but if that can be combined with a social experience, then it will rise nearer to the top of the agenda."


You can find out more about Lates - and specifically the Museums At Night weeks here.