Jared Reid is the General Manager of Wild Florida, Orlando’s only airboat, gator and drive-thru safari park. Wild Florida has traditionally counted on international travelers for the bulk of their attendance, but with COVID-19 that demographic was unable to travel, causing Jared and the Wild Florida team to re-evaluate their marketing plans. As you will hear in this conversation, their changes led to attendance growth that they never could have predicted.
“This is so peaceful, this is so calming. This is Florida.”
Jared recognizes that many visitors to central Florida are drawn in because of Disney, Universal, etc, but for guests who want to see the Florida that is beyond the theme parks, Wild Florida offers guests the chance to reconnect with nature. Jared also enjoys the chance to educate people not only on the wildlife they can experience at the park, but also the fact that Florida has so many opportunities to slow down and enjoy a day with plenty of fresh air and no lines. This became a tremendous advantage when during the pandemic, people were tired of being cooped up in their homes and just wanted to get out.
Listening to your guests
“One thing that surprised us was that we thought we had plenty of animals, but our guests told us they wanted more.”
When asked about specific feedback that surprised him, Jared mentioned that the Wild Florida team felt they had plenty of animals, but guests were telling them that they wanted more. The guests were also saying that they loved the fact that the animals didn’t look too close together or packed in, which presented an opportunity to expand the drive-thru safari to accommodate a larger collection and to give the guests more wildlife to experience. For other enclosures, Jared said they have built them 2 to 3 times larger than what the building code calls for, just to ensure the guests see that the animals have plenty of room and are well cared for.
10xing your attendance
“The biggest challenge was figuring out how to maintain our tranquil experience with so many more guests.”
When the demand for your product is 10x almost over night, you are going to experience some growing pains. Jared explained that this impacted every part of their business. They needed to hire more staff, widen the roadways and allocate resources to manage the traffic flow into the park. Since they were one of the only attractions open, they were able to hire quite a few people who had been furloughed or laid off from other attractions. Part of what caused the additional attendance was Wild Florida’s switch to focus on the local market rather than international visitors. This was out of necessity, as international travel had all but stopped. The Central Florida residents came out in droves and accounted for Jared saying that in some ways, COVID was the best thing that ever happened to us.
For more on Wild Florida: www.wildfl.com.
Jared can be reached at 407-957-3135 or email@example.com.
This podcast wouldn’t be possible without the incredible work of our amazing team:
- Audio and video editing by Abigail Giganan
- Scheduling and correspondence by Kristen Karaliunas
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