By Karen Appold
Since experiencing a partial season due to COVID-19, the staff at Nashville Shores in Hermitage, Tenn., have learned a great deal, and are committed to enhancing the park’s safety protocols even more for 2021. Currently, every aspect of the park including queue lines, restrooms, signage, and hand sanitizing stations, are being audited. “Many renovations will be predicated on continuing our high safety standards, such as modifying concession areas, adjusting the park’s ingress and egress, and providing more contactless payment areas,” said Daniel Strobel, director of marketing.
Regarding renovations at Sahara Sam’s in West Berlin, N.J., Brandon Moore, regional operations director, said its main focus will be on appearance, particularly in high-traffic areas. The park will repaint facilities and rides, upgrade restroom facilities, get new tables and chairs for a dining facility, and install new carpet and tile flooring in the arcade. “Anything showing wear and tear will get a fresh, modern touch,” he said.
As usual, Michelle Keeney, sales and marketing director at Magic Springs Theme and Water Park in Hot Springs, Ark., said the park will continue with traditional repairs and maintenance on all rides, slides, and pools. In addition, the facility will get a fresh coat of paint.
New Attractions and Other Offerings
Richard Sharnsky Jr., general manager at Bahama Beach Waterpark in Dallas, Texas, said attractions were expanded in an effort to keep the public excited about the park. The park added a multi-person Boomerango slide, because it’s a ride the entire family can enjoy. The ride’s colorful 45-foot tower is visible from a nearby highway, providing great exposure to the park.
It also added Lil Paco’s splash pad for guests age 5 and under. The interactive water play feature has palm trees and a custom Paco mascot that sprays water. “A lot of guests expressed interest in attractions for small children,” Sharnsky said.
Another new addition is an oval-shaped lagoon pool with waterfalls at each end. Situated in a quieter area, the lagoon has shaded areas and is surrounded by picnic tables and spaces that guests can reserve, Sharnsky said.
New men’s and women’s locker rooms with lots of natural light replaced portable restrooms. “This facility makes it more convenient to wash hands and put little ones in swim diapers,” Sharnsky said.
In 2020, Nashville Shores introduced Mega Mayhem, its biggest slide ever. The five-person family raft slide is like two water slides in one. It’s a hybrid slide featuring two distinct elements with a tornado funnel and a giant four-story wave wall. It’s one of six slides of its type in the world, Strobel said.
Wilderness Hotel and Golf Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., recently completed some major construction projects, the crown jewel of which is Take Flight. This brand new flying theater allows up to 60 riders at a time across three stories to feel the wind in their hair as they soar through the film, “Flying Wild,” said Brandon Schindler, assistant general manager.
The film takes riders on a journey highlighting some of the country’s spectacular natural landscapes and iconic locations.
Another project included a complete renovation of its primary lobby space that now contains a new food hall style dining experience called Camp Social, a new retail outlet named Happy Camper, and a re-imagining of its main lobby and registration area, Schindler added.
Looking ahead to the coming season, Keeney said the park will offer new experiences for small groups of families, friends, teams, and other organizations with birthday party and celebration packages. New small group offerings that provide a reserved space both indoors and outdoors as well as meal options for small groups are planned. These new programs were developed as the demand for safe outdoor entertainment increased due to COVID.
Shawn Hauver, managing director at Camelback Resort’s Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark and Camelbeach Outdoor Waterpark in Tannersville, Pa., said the indoor waterpark will get a new slide this spring and a rebranded retail space to accommodate all waterpark needs. A new activities department will assist guests with planning customized activity itineraries which include the waterparks, mountain adventures, and local outdoor activities such as water rafting and biking.
Changes in Food Service
Wilderness Hotel and Golf Resort is looking to add a taco food truck to its Lost World Outdoor Waterpark for the outdoor swim season. The menu will be unique to other resort offerings.
Additionally, Camp Social Food Hall offers great flexibility in terms of both preparing and serving a wide variety of dining options. “We can use its flexibility to our advantage to offer different themed dining experiences for holidays across the year,” Schindler said. Visiting groups can rent it.
Nashville Shores offers typical foods found in a theme park or waterpark including hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizza, which have been successful. It currently offers some healthier options, and will add more healthy selections in 2021 to help ensure more food choices, Strobel said. The park will also provide more point-of-service options, including drink stations, to help spread out guests and improve food lines.
Camelback Resort has many new dining attractions planned for this year, including the recently updated Graffiti Pizza located in Camelback Lodge, featuring graffiti “art drops” by former NFL running back Baron Batch and the new Sugar Shack offering sweet delights. The former FlyBoys swim-up bar at Aquatopia was renamed Oasis, and offers an elevated “tiki” experience with premium rums and a small batches program. A new food truck, Tacos & Beers, will be parked at its outdoor waterpark this summer. “These updated dining experiences shorten wait times for guests,” Hauver said.
Sahara Sam’s recently rolled out a new hot menu with non-traditional amusement offerings including flatbreads, chicken sliders, and chicken.
New Promotional Strategies
With the uncertainty of the COVID pandemic, Strobel said it’s more important than ever to be prudent with your media dollars. The park will look for non-traditional avenues to promote it including Facebook, Instagram, and digital advertising.
In the past months, Strobel said it’s been shown that families are reluctant to travel and are looking for entertainment activities and options closer to home. “Other attractions such as museums and zoos in our region are also trying to find ways to attract visitors,” he said. “We will look at developing partnerships or cross-promotional opportunities with these companies to help drive business to our respective attractions.”
Keeney plans to continue promoting the park with traditional advertising media and promotional tactics as well as increase its grassroots marketing efforts with local partnerships as well as in outer markets. In addition, it will increase communications with both potential and loyal followers on social media outlets with new contest giveaways.
From a marketing standpoint, Schindler said the park has always aimed to stay on top of where guests get information. Its strategies have changed over the past several years as more people move away from traditional media like broadcast and cable television, newspapers, and over the air radio to more contemporary digital media like streaming television services and radio, the Internet, and social media apps and networks.
Camelback recently unveiled a new website for a more interactive guest experience and is introducing a new app which will let guests connect, recharge, and explore Camelback Resort, while creating their own itineraries, Hauver said.
Safety Remains Top of Mind
While COVID-19 has shifted the landscape for leisure hospitality over the past year, the priorities at Wilderness Hotel and Golf Resort remain the same—to provide each guest with a safe, clean, memorable experience. COVID-19 has changed its approach to some priorities as it ramped up its cleaning and disinfecting protocols and it more closely monitors and manages capacities in its parks and attractions, restaurants, and retail spaces. It has also made conscious efforts to reduce common touch points. “We plan to continue to employ many new policies and procedures as part of our regular business operations into the future even after the threat of COVID-19 has subsided,” Schindler said.
The safety and well-being of guests and employees will also remain a top priority at Nashville Shores. “We increased all health and safety measures this year to comply with and exceed health regulations,” Strobel said. “Safety will continue to be our cornerstone and foundation in 2021.”
Likewise, Keeney said that safety remains its top priority in 2021. “Our team will adapt as needed to develop new standards to follow both local government and CDC guidelines to ensure guests’ safety,” she said.
Hauver said the park’s top priorities will continue to focus on cleanliness throughout the resort, highlight diversity and inclusion in its employee training program, and continue adapting to new contactless and guest engaging technologies.
Excelling in Customer Service
With the current COVID pandemic, Strobel said it’s imperative to have stringent and effective protocols in place and adhere to them. “Now more than ever, visitors are scrutinizing your health and safety procedures,” he said. “If you provide a safe environment, they will notice and feel comfortable returning to your park and recommend you to family and friends.”
Schindler said great customer service includes being attentive to each individual’s needs and addressing their concerns. “It’s critical that you listen to visitors and react appropriately as well as be proactive,” he said.