30 April 2019 // Thoughts

Theme Park Planning: Seven Keys to Exceeding Expectations

With so much entertainment available at people’s fingertips, how can theme park operators employ thoughtful theme park planning to create compelling experiences that cut through the clutter?

In a recent feature, Blooloop asked several industry leaders, including JRA Senior Project Director, Mark Amos, how theme parks can meet or exceed visitor expectations and separate themselves from the pack. Together, these experts offered several tips on how to use theme park planning to grab a visitor’s attention and keep them coming back for more:

  1. Maximize reasons to stay – “For JRA, the first thing to be considered in theme park planning is always the audience; what it is that they are looking for,” said Amos. “The next would be determining what amenities or challenges face the project site/attraction location. Similarly, it is also determining if the space will be themed or branded. From there, it is the formal assessment of the budget, project team’s expectations, schedule and creating the first sentence to describe the experience. Then it’s back to verifying that they’re all aligning with what we want the guest experience to be for our specific audience.”
  2. Remove stress – “If you can remove stress from the experience, people will want to spend more time at your attraction,” explained Brian Spielman, Director of Attractions at Mall of America. “They will also increase their visits.” According to the article, operators need to strike a balance between engaging guests and overwhelming them.
  3. Keep it quiet – Part of removing stress involves the careful balance between “energetic environments and noisy ones.” Parks like Holiday World and Erlebnispark Tripsdrill have purposely nestled rides and attractions within natural environments to mitigate noise and foster a more relaxed atmosphere.
  4. Assume an identity – As Mark Amos explains, there are distinct functional differences, opportunities, and challenges between a theme park and an amusement park, and operators need to be clear with themselves and the public as to what type of park they aim to create:“Theme parks or themed environments place more emphasis on creating an ‘in-world’ experience. This usually involves making the ride or attraction more discreet to support the theme/brand; meaning the loudest noises are more isolated already. The navigation between these experiences are either circulation/queue which is in-world and story driven, or palette cleansing between themed environments. All of which can provide opportunities for a more controlled environment.”
  5. Get visitors refueled and recharged – If you want visitors to stay in your park all day, you need ensure that their stomachs and their cell phone batteries are full. Several of the operators interviewed by Blooloop feature charging stations and free Wi-Fi in their parks. Holiday World even offers free soft drinks, a move that has resulted in visitors increasing their length of stay and often purchasing a second meal.
  6. Incorporate retailtainment – As the article reports, the retail entertainment hybrid model continues to gain steam as stores strive to find ways to differentiate themselves from traditional mall offerings and online shopping. The upcoming American Dream project in New Jersey will put this concept into overdrive, incorporating an indoor ski slope, water park, theme park and aquarium.
  7. Transform audiences into advocates – “The longer a guest spends in the park (assuming it’s because they’re having a good time), the more opportunity the park has to create a brand ambassador,” explains Amos. “The guests can be brought into the world and discover all of the details that have been poured over by the design process. This also works to the parks’ advantage. Guests are more likely to visit food and beverage or the retail which supports the reason for spending the additional capital on theming and creating immersive worlds.”

Theme Park Master Planner

For more of the interview with Mark Amos, as well as representatives from EDSA World, Erlebnispark Tripsdrill, Holiday World and Nickelodeon Universe, check out the full Blooloop feature here.