How Technology Is Changing the In-Park Guest Experience – First of Two Parts

Since the inception of theme parks, one of the most frustrating experiences for guests has been waiting in line to enjoy a ride or show.  During peak periods, this wait can quickly turn from merely frustrating to almost unbearable as individuals wait for hours to experience what might be a five minute ride at most.  Add in the cramped nature of many queues and the traffic jam-like unknown of where the wait ends, and it’s easy to see why most theme parks have invested heavily in finding ways to reduce if not eliminate this negative experience.
Early innovations to address this problem have included posted wait times and interactive queues where guests are able to do more than simply stare at the back of the head of the next person in line.  While some of these efforts have offered unique interactions and even served as story-telling devices, the bottom line is that they still represent little more than a distraction during the wait in line.
Fortunately, technology is starting to gain the upper hand in the battle against the queue wait line.  Several new advances in mobile apps offer promising possibilities of a “waitless” experience for theme park guests.
In this issue, The Large Park Report begins a two-part series that examines how new technology is increasingly improving the in-park guest experience.  From shorter waits to more useful information, mobile technology is quickly becoming a key part of the theme park experience at many large parks and resorts.

The Growing Use of Mobile Devices

Mobile technology is not entirely new to the theme park experience.  For at least a decade, large parks have offered limited opportunities to use mobile devices while inside a theme park, albeit to mixed reviews.  The major hurdles to these nascent efforts were two-fold: available in-park bandwidth and available mobile devices.
Both of these hurdles have been lowered in recent years with the biggest change being the growing use of smart devices.  Indeed, some industry estimates have been that over 70 percent of theme park guests now have access to a mobile device during their visit.  Similarly, many large parks are rolling out (or have plans to roll out) expansive Wi-Fi, RFID or other points of access for guests during their visit.
Because of the changes, parks are game planning for a new wave of in-park mobile technology opportunities.  To learn more about this fast-growing trend, The Large Park Report spoke with TJ Christensen, the vice president of Business Development for accesso, to get a closer look at how the theme park experience may soon incorporate more mobile technology than ever before:
The Large Park Report:  How have mobile apps for activities like reservations and ticketing evolved in the last several years?
TJ Christensen:  The change in features and functionality since apps first hit the market place has been quite dramatic. With the ability to get instantaneous feedback and analytic data based on how and where guests are leveraging apps, venues are continually enhancing their apps based on this information to deliver more effective and value-added experiences for the guest. A major focus is being placed on the usability and design of core features like GPS, social media, commerce and unique value-adds that continue to bring consumers back to the app pre-arrival, while in park and post visit.
LPR:  In addition to making reservations and purchasing tickets, what are some other ways that mobile apps could improve the in-park guest experience?
Christensen:  Across our platform we see nearly a quarter of app users are using the app to learn more about all the rides and attractions the venue has to offer. By including images, video and other data, venues can provide the guest with more information about an attraction than is typically available on the standard printed guide map. So, by delivering up-to-date content in real-time, guests always have the latest and greatest attraction information right in the palm of their hand.
In addition, many venues are looking to augmented reality and enhanced GPS location information to assist with way-finding in the park and to deliver push notifications with key marketing messages or updates regarding ride and show downtimes while guests are in the park. Apps are also delivering other features like integrated weather updates, social media share features, photobooth/postcard photo features and video/audio tours that help the guests get the most out of each and every visit to the park.
LPR:  What are some of the challenges faced with introducing more mobile apps to improve the guest experience?
Christensen:  One of the biggest challenges for venues can be simply keeping pace with the ever changing mobile landscape. From new devices, operating systems and features being rolled out constantly it can be overwhelming to filter out the fads from what will truly provide value to their specific park experience. That’s why when looking to select a vendor it’s important to select an established mobile provider who is committed to continually enhancing their offerings and keeping pace with the changing mobile landscape.
See the November 2013 edition for Part II on how new attractions and shows are incorporating interactive mobile technology.

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