According to the latest figures released in the 2017 AECOM and TEA Theme and Museum Index Report, attendance at the top 20 waterparks grew by 1.6% in 2017. There are many factors that influence attendance numbers that are out of waterpark owners’ control, such as the economy, global events, the weather, and tourism. Large swings in attendance usually can be traced back to one or more uncontrollable factors. However, there are controllable aspects of a waterpark that make a big difference in attracting guests.
1. Free WiFi so Guests Can “Share” the Fun
Phones and water DO mix in this case. Offering free WiFi at your waterpark is actually a brilliant marketing ploy. YouTube is a popular search engine, second only to Google. All the most used social media channels – Instagram, SnapChat and Facebook – allow videos. With WiFi, your waterpark guests not only capture the fun, but also post videos online in real time. Those videos become some of your best marketing pieces. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is real for the younger generation. And, others watch videos from waterparks on YouTube and social media to get a feel for whether the place is a good fit for their family or where they want to spend their time and money.
2. Wayfinding & Layout to Ease Congestion
Disney theme park planners are the masters of wayfinding and park layout. Waterpark designers who follow their lead know to spread anchor attractions throughout the park to avoid bunching in the front. Also, this waterpark layout rule of thumb drives guests deeper into the park, which can encourage longer stays and generate more revenue.
Park designers consider attraction lines, lockers (where guests can set up “camp” for the day) and how guests from attraction to attraction. Wayfinding signage that guides guests on a clear path to various points keeps them moving and organized regardless of how high the attendance number.
3. Water Features for Every Age
The most successful waterparks cater the experience to the whole family who can range in age from toddlers to grandparents. A well-rounded waterpark includes spray parks, play units and kid-friendly rides for the younger set. Tubing and wave pools are great features for all ages to enjoy. Adrenaline rides and sheet wave riders entertain thrill seekers. Even small, budget-conscious waterpark owners can include rides and features for everyone to enjoy.
4. An Inclusive Environment Based on Community Demographics
To define what inclusive means to a community, a look at the demographics is necessary. Age, race, income, even obesity charts for a community affect aspects of waterpark layout and design. For example, statistics on community residents dictate whether a conveyor system or stairs leading to an attraction are installed to move equipment like rafts and tubes from the plunge pool to the upper platform. The waterpark experience must meet the community’s demographics AND expectations, which determines the mix of attractions that would be most successful in the area.
Beyond community demographics, successful waterparks are sensitive to everyone’s needs. Splashtacular is committed to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility. That’s why our rails, decks and runs on stairs are designed for an inclusive environment, and meet or exceed ADA regulations.
5. An Immersive, Fun Theme
Parties, weddings, this article… everything memorable in life has a theme. If you question that, then again, look at the masters, Disney park designers. Could they have jumbled Hollywood attractions with animal ones and classics? Sure. But they didn’t and for good reason.
Guests want an experience when they visit a waterpark. What type of experience is based largely on your waterpark’s theme, and it differentiates a waterpark from any other. When guests visit your waterpark, they also are choosing your themed experience.
Before a guest steps foot inside your waterpark, the theme sets up the expectation of the experience and builds excitement. Creating a theme gives your guests the joy of suspending their disbeliefs and being immersed in an alternate environment, like the days of scallywags and pirates or a stunning national monument forest. In our industry experience, the play structure is a good place to start as the theme’s focal point.
6. Technology That Delights the Senses
Waterparks are ubiquitous. It’s through innovation that you can offer waterpark guests a new experience. Splashtacular’s technology impresses with a multi-sensory experience of sight, touch and sound. Custom LED light and sound packages can be added to any new or existing waterslide design and translucent bands result in a spectacular light show. Of course, technology should be adapted to support the waterpark’s theme and guest immersion in the experience.
7. A Better Queuing System
Nobody enjoys waiting in line. Not those buying waterpark admission tickets. Not the ones waiting and bored. Long lines can’t always be avoided entirely, but they can be better managed to reduce wait time. Reduced wait time offers guests better value and more time for fun.
A better queuing system is possible with properly placing attractions and providing a variety of rides. It starts with a capacity study and designing to the study’s results. For example, the number of slides coming off the slide tower can be determined by measuring capacity – the more guests expected, the more slides can be added to reduce bottlenecks.
Visiting waterparks across the country is an occupational hazard in our line of work. The Splashtacular team sees firsthand what waterpark features and designs work, and more importantly, where they fail. Whether you’re building a waterpark from the vacant ground up or embarking on a renovation, our experts can help ensure your waterpark has the features and design it takes to crush attendance projections.