Feature Article - September 2014
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Riding the Wave of Success

Waterparks Find New & Creative Ways to Stay Afloat

By Kelli Ra Anderson

The Waiting Game

Convenience isn't just about comfortable amenities, however. It's also about finding ways to make an overall experience more enjoyable, and for waterparks, that means reducing the time patrons spend waiting in long lines.

New rides, for example, address this as they incorporate multiple features, tying together traditional lazy rivers with wave elements and water spouts. In fact, in some parks, patrons can float from attraction to attraction without ever having to stand in line.

Another time-saver attraction used at Casino Beach is a cashless wrist band, a band that can be loaded with money for the day and used everywhere in the park. From foods to ride, parents can relax in their lounge chairs all afternoon without having to attend their child for every purchase or every ride.

Three years ago, after learning about this idea at a trade show, the Zoombezi Bay waterpark implemented a "Zoompass." "Guests reserve their time and wait less in line," Gannon said, quoting the tag line from their very popular system. "It's a wrist-watch device with a count down. When ready, you reserve your time with the watch with a virtual countdown. You wait as long as someone else standing in line, but you wait somewhere else like the wave pool or action river. It's starting to become a big money maker—not as much as the cabanas—but even more so, it's raising the perception of the quality of the park. It's a modern amenity and people who use it want to use it again. We can tell our sales are already up 20 percent from last year and is catching on."

Bang for the Buck

According to Ezra, another way parks are increasing their appeal is by offering more value-added features like package pricing. Splash Town, for example, has seen its concession sales improve as a result of bundling meals with their ticket sales, just one of many ways parks can help customers feel they are getting a good value for their hard-earned money. Wyatt agreed, describing the Rolling Hills Waterpark strategy as "more aggressively bundling items in meal options making them more available." He added that "… people see it as a savings, getting a slight discount as opposed to purchasing everything individually."

In fact, one very popular convenience at Casino Beach, since they are close to a nearby hard park, is their "ride and slide" package that allows guests to go on rides all day back and forth through both properties.

Then there are the various kinds of price reductions to encourage early arrivals or to entice latecomers. Daily twilight price reductions, for example, or discounted season passes later in the summer, attract those who might not otherwise be willing to come at full price.

For Zoombezi Bay, something as simple as offering a refillable supercup has encouraged lots of return visits to the park. "The refillable supercups that are initially free the first day, are only 99 cents when they bring them back every day afterward," Gannon said. "We've sold a ton and it's helped our food per-caps. We've had a high sales point at first and it helps them to buy food with their refills."

Splash Town has implemented the initially free souvenir cups, too, and also has attracted budget-conscious visitors with free parking and a significant savings on renewed season passes. Groupon savings are another great way to partner with local businesses to attract new customers, as well.