If you combine creationist dishonesty and the limited, niche appeal of their subject, you get a predictable result. They hype some weird novelty, they get a surge of attention, and then it fades away until they have to come up with something new…but they lie constantly about how no, they are immensely popular and they will conquer all of science and evolution is on its last legs now!
Answers in Genesis is demonstrating the phenomenon now. Ken Ham keeps declaring that their premiere exhibit, the Ark Encounter, is thriving and has to deal with packed crowds…but are they, really? We’ve got the attendance figures.
And here’s what we see when it comes to Ark attendance (and note that we don’t have the numbers for 2016, which is the year the Ark opened):
Summer 2017 248,787 (note: these numbers are for July/August)
Summer 2018 347,929
Summer 2019 388,704
Summer 2020 144,628 (note: COVID impact)
Summer 2021 328,465
Aug 2017 106,161
Aug 2018 98,106
Aug 2019 104,350
Aug 2020 46,452 (note: COVID impact)
Aug 2021 83,826
One does not have to look very hard to see that, whatever the AiG fog machine might be spewing, Ark Encounter is not experiencing record crowds. In fact, this past August saw the lowest attendance in the Ark’s history (save for the COVID year).
They aren’t doing badly — a few hundred thousand every season, especially when the exhibit (and parking!) is grossly overpriced, is bringing them lots of money. I think the handwriting is on the wall, though. Early on, they had novelty and so much free advertising, with every newspaper printing articles about “Can you believe what kind of stupid shit they do in Kentucky?”, but that’s not happening any more, and further, only the fanatical Christian core is going to make repeat visits. The Ark Park is boring! It’s a big wooden box with static displays and hectoring pedantic signs full of words. They aren’t growing at all, figures are mostly static with, if anything, a slow decline since 2019.
But you can trust creationists to be cunning. They’re raking in the dough, because they charge a lot and operating costs are relatively low (unlike real museums, which charge fairly little and have big expenses in, for instance, paying for qualified expert staff and maintaining collections), and they can extrapolate. They did the same thing with the Creation “Museum”. When attention starts to fade, what do you do? Open a big new attraction, make a splash, perk up the reporters who’ll write about the yokels, and get another spike of attendees. And lie.
Ken Ham, founder and CEO of Answers in Genesis, owner and operator of the Ark Encounter and its sister attraction, the Creation Museum, noted: “Compared to other national attractions right now, we are blessed. We don’t know of any that are seeing numbers equivalent to or better than their 2019 attendance. Ark attendance will only increase as more international visitors resume traveling and as bus tours return to levels we’ve experienced before, such as up to 50 tour buses in a day. I believe this summer will be our best season ever, particularly with our 40 days and nights of gospel music, August 2–September 10.”
Nah, they aren’t having record attendance. They’re flat-lined, at best.
But don’t you worry, AiG is already talking about building a Tower of Babel to help people
understand genetics research and, most importantly, generate more attention and more suckers. They aren’t going to go the way of failed Christian theme parks, at least not yet.
After the Tower of Babel peaks, they can always go on to build their Golden Calf exhibit. There is no end of Bible myths they can monetize.