By Allen F. Weitzel
Recently, an industry friend from a notable amusement facility asked me to comment on the subject of providing electrical recharging services to park guests. I answered his question and then realized that this subject might be of interest to our TAP readers. Feel free to join in with your comments.
The Juice Suckers
In our technology-based world, everyone is trying to do more in less time. Cell phones are here to stay, and now there is a flurry of personal mobility devices to help folks move around, Segways being one of the most popular. With such a variety of electronically assisted tools to use, there is an opportunity to provide a recharging service to your guests. Please understand that there are three types of devices to address: small hand-held products (laptops, smart phones, Ipads, etc.), wheeled personal mobility devices and electric automobiles (EVs).
The Big Picture
It is safe to assume that most guests that visit your facility have cell phones. Airports, community colleges and shopping malls are already providing charging stations for all types of electronic devices. No doubt that people-on-the-go often forget to charge their electronic devices, and are willing to pay for the convenience of charging their equipment away from home. Your facility needs to decide if providing the recharging of electronic devices is a wise investment. Currently, you may not lose too many customers if your facility does not offer charging stations. However, within the very near future, customers may become disenchanted with recreational facilities that fail to offer recharging services. Short stay venues like restaurants and grocery stores may escape the customer requirement of providing a recharging service, but venues that offer a lengthy stay may be expected to provide for recharging.
The Second Part
The next consideration is space. If you do provide recharging services, be sure you have a sufficient number charging stations, and room to grow if the service increases in popularity. Profitable recreational facilities try to increase the guest’s length of stay. Recharging services could assist with that goal. Provide for areas near the charging stations where guests can sit and keep an eye on their cell phone or laptop while it is charging; a lounge environment so-to-speak. You could provide entertainment for those who are waiting. Cell phone charging stations are compact, but laptop charging locations will need to be larger in both charging and waiting space. Also, consider the visitors who drive their EV to your facility and return to the parking lot at the end of the day to realize that their EV lacks enough charge to get them home. You will need to have sufficient charging stations and car-size waiting areas for multiple cars to be recharged in your parking lots.
Be sure to budget for the cost of additional staff to maintain the charging units in tip-top condition, oversee the charging stations, and referee guest behavior. At the end of the day, you will need employees stationed nearby, while those EVs in the parking lot suck up enough juice to get your patrons home.
What happens if you ignore the recharging issue? At a park where I worked, guests would use one of the many plugs we had throughout the facility for charging their electronic devices. There are downsides to this unauthorized activity: guests using your electricity for free, complaints that dirty power from your outlet damaged their laptop, or guests using circuits that are unknowingly already overloaded – possibly causing tripped breaker switches. There is goodwill created, however, if you allow for recharging and do not charge a fee, whether you look the other way to unauthorized recharging, or provide the proper equipment. If you do offer recharging services, be sure you provide ample, clean, proper energy sources.
What Others Are Doing
Recreational facilities are beginning to understand that recharging is an issue for their guests. Many facilities are merely allowing guests to use existing outlets and not assess a fee, and in the background making plans to create a more permanent solution.
There are plenty of recharging station sources out there to access. Smart Carte and Siemens are two. I am sure you can locate suppliers that can fill you needs.
The choice is yours. You need to think before you take action, and then exercise your power. It is a growing guest need.
Smart Carte: http://www.smartecarte.com
Dirty Power: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/09/dirty.html