In this unique episode, Josh and Matt brainstorm solutions to one of the biggest challenges facing the theme parks and attractions industry today. Taking an innovative approach through a free-flowing conversation, the topic of queueing and creating a more comfortable experience was dissected. How can waiting in line be a better experience for guests visiting theme parks and attractions? How can parks position premium experiences without devaluing the experience for guests purchasing general admission? How premium of an experience can a park provide that optimizes per capita spending and guest satisfaction? This certainly is not a new conversation, but with the ample amount of both paid and free options for guests to minimize queuing, Josh and Matt’s conversation leads to thought-provoking solutions that intend to spark additional conversations and brainstorming of the AttractionPros audience.
The conversation was influenced by Josh’s recent visit to Cedar Point in late July 2021. On this visit, Josh and his friend decided to partake in two paid add-ons for the day: Fast Lane and VIP Lounge Access. Josh spoke about how these add-ons enhanced his guest experience by allowing him to spend time doing the fun things at theme parks, like enjoying rides and exploring, and spending less time doing the things we don’t like at parks, like standing in lines. Josh also enjoyed the Cedar Point 150th celebration parade from the VIP grandstands. He admits that without the dedicated seating, he may have missed the entertainment offering altogether. Additionally, Josh admits that having the Fast Lane access, which allowed him to ride his favorite coasters more efficiently, gave him time to experience other rides that he may not have prioritized otherwise, such as Cedar Point’s newest attraction, Snake River Expedition.
The other great advantage to spending less time running from long line to long line is that Josh was able to slow down throughout the day and enjoy relaxing in the VIP lounges. He noticed that he wasn’t the only person doing this. It was interesting to see a calm, relaxing haven within an amusement park, where the experience typically involves a lot of rushing around. It got Josh thinking about how to create a lower-stress experience that still allowed park guests to enjoy all the excitement of a theme park.
Josh proposed the following idea: What if Fast Lane and VIP Lounge Access were combined into a single, concierge-like, luxury experience? They go well together because Fast Lane allows for less time spent in line, allowing for more chill time in the lounge areas. Matt and Josh brainstormed that perhaps a concierge or “butler” could be assigned to a single family or a few families for the day. In addition to providing the sorts of things you see on a VIP Tour at some parks such as front-of-the-line access, they could also go get your favorite foods from across the park, take photos and videos to document your family’s experience, and even plan special surprises throughout the day. These surprise moments could range from personal character meet-and-greets to toasts for special occasions to meeting an engineer responsible for someone’s favorite ride. This sort of thing could be done at other themed entertainment venues, including zoos, aquariums, and museums. These sorts of offerings aren’t cheap, but if a guest sees the value of the offering, they could be willing to pay that premium price.
One topic that usually comes up during these conversations is whether these premium offerings come at the expense of guests that just pay for general admission. When there is a standby line and a shorter, paid-for line, it is important that where, when, and how they merge doesn’t make people feel angry or awkward. In some ways, operators want the paid-for line to be invisible to their standby guests so that their experience doesn’t feel diminished. At the same time, there is value in showing the paid-for option so that more guests might see its potential value and choose it next time. It’s important for guests to be educated on their options so they can make an informed choice about which option is right for them. This can help them feel less resentment if they see people in the paid-for line getting on the attraction faster because they understood the option and determined that it wasn’t the right choice for them that day. However, they might decide it does have sufficient value the next time they come if they witness the benefits.
Another topic that was discussed is the win-win benefit of these luxury, curated experiences. Naturally, if the value is there for the customer and they end up having a much better day at a price they determine to be fair, then the guest wins. If that luxury experience is filled with wow moments that the guest shares with their friends, then a park now has a group of happy guests that are now acting as free marketing for the venue. They might help inspire their friends to come check out the park when they otherwise might not have.
The last topic focused on how to make the standby queue a premium experience. Josh wondered what would happen if you flipped the entire queue experience so that the normal, free option involved using virtual queues and timed reservations whereas you would pay to jump into the standby line in order to “ride right now.” He even said that getting rid of all of those pesky line switchbacks would leave plenty of room for more VIP lounges to relax in. Matt admitted that one challenge he has during these brainstorming sessions is wanting to jump to answering logistical questions, like “how does it work” or “what are the implications,” but he knows that this phase of innovation is too early for that.
Matt took the goal of making standby queues feel like a premium offering in a different direction, reminding Josh of the value of queues. More guests in lines leads to fewer people in the park’s walkways. Matt talked about how he loves interactive elements and entertainment offerings within queues. Those sorts of fun distractions in lines help to make the wait go by faster. Both Josh and Matt agreed that waiting in line is typically the worst part of visiting an amusement park, and they both enjoyed brainstorming different ways to improve this guests’ dissatisfier.
While there are certainly several operational and marketing logistics to consider, this conversation was intended to pitch an idea, and estimate how feasible it may be. If you like this format, let us know! Better yet, share another issue that you may be facing within your organization for discussion in a future podcast episode.
This podcast wouldn’t be possible without the incredible work of our amazing team:
- Audio and video editing by Abigail Giganan
- Complete episode summary by Paige Reiter
- Scheduling and correspondence by Kristen Karaliunas
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- Branding and design by Fabiana Fonseca
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