One of the most prominent memories of summer is the pool parties, popsicles, and the visit to local water parks. Nothing beats the sweltering heat as lazing in the pool or trying out the new waterslide. The only drawback with outdoor water parks was that you can only visit them during the peak season i.e., the summer season. This all changed with the inauguration of the Great Wolf Lodge, Wisconsin in 1994 – the first indoor water park in the United States. Indoor water parks allowed that Great Wolf Lodge to become an all-year-round tourist destination instead of being a seasonal attraction.
Built on the success of Great Wolf Lodge, today the U.S and Canada have a cumulative 275 indoor water parks with Wisconsin boasting to have most indoor water parks in one state (it is 5). While 117 of the indoor water parks are standalone, the rest of 158 indoor water parks are a part of an existing tourist attraction such as resorts, malls, theme .
In the ever-growing waterpark industry, you need to constantly innovate to avoid monotony and remain a crowd puller year on year. With the recent pandemic in 2020, that upturned the entire tourism and hospitality industry, the trends for 2021 have observed significant changes.
Indoor Water Park Trends 2021
Adoption of Digital Tools
2020 made us realize how easy it is to cause an outbreak and forced us in finding ways to reduce physical contact without compromising on the user experience. One of the most populated places in an indoor water park is the long lines for getting on the rides. Restricting or limiting entry will rub the visitors the wrong way. Instead you need to review existing arrangements and make use of innovations such as
- cloud-based reservation app instead of ticket booth
- turnstile to grant entry to rides
- directions to other attractions for the visitors to check out while waiting for their turn
This way you are easily able to crowd control and redirect the visitors to other parts of your water park without ruining their experience.
Staff Retraining & Morale Boosting
Lots of people lost their jobs during the pandemic and while water parks are reopening, it is important to re-train the staff with necessary skills that adjust to the new normal. This means training them in crowd control, sanitation & hygiene practices, ride maintenance, and inter-department communications. Hiring new talent means teaching everything from scratch and investing more time in staff training. Most water parks are organizing training sessions conducted by existing staff to cut down on the training time and getting the staff on the floor managing operations quicker. You also need to look into boosting up staff’s morale periodically via incentives and team building activities.
Social Media Promotions
User generated content (UGC) is an effective way to penetrate into the social circle of your visitors. When your visitors upload pictures of them having a great time in your water park, others take notice and this starts a conversation. Many water park & theme park owners are adopting different social media tactics in roping in visitors and also setting up photo booths for the visitors to click share-worthy photographs on social media. Similarly, you can organize contests on popular social media platforms that motivates the followers to visit the premises and create buzz around specific hashtags. You can also use social media to create excitement around the reopening of your water park and educate your followers about what’s in store of them in 2021.
Innovation in Water Park Design
As we mentioned earlier, sticking to your popular attractions will soon become monotonous and hence you need to innovate with your waterpark layout. In the case of indoor water parks, you are restricted in terms of floor space for expansion but an analytical approach can help you identify areas of improvement. Renovations are expensive but innovation doesn’t mean you need to redo your water park design from scratch. Collaborating with pool slide manufacturers can help you repurpose existing rides or structures and breathe second life into them by turning them into new attractions The following innovations are some that have either been adopted in 2021 or being considered by most water park owners.
The benefit of an indoor water park is felt evidently during the off-season when the internal temperature and natural lighting can be replicated artificially. Yet, the sheer experience of natural light and airflow makes people prefer the outdoor water parks. In an innovative idea by Openaire, the outdoor conditions can be enjoyed in the indoor water parks during the on season. This is managed by installing a retractable roof or enclosures. With a touch of a button, the roof can be opened to allow natural sunlight and fresh air inside. In addition to the aesthetics, retractable roofs also allow you to save upto 20% on lighting and HVAC operation costs.
Complex Structures & Better Themed Water Parks
In 2021, simple cookie cutter rides or slides won’t cut it to attract visitors. Water parks builders are offering custom water park equipment available in a multitude of colors and shapes. People expect to have a one-off experience whether it is in the form of themed water rides or multilayer rides that are a mix and match of existing water rides. The demand for more adrenaline pumping rides is gaining traction as the demographics of the visitors is gradually tilting towards late teens to mid 20’s. Similarly, to attract kids and young adults, water parks are also investing in having colorful and themed water rides.
Better Immersive Experience
With the technology advancing in leaps and bounds, you have diverse choices when it comes to providing a better immersive experience. Equipped with motion sensing lighting effects or stereo sound systems that are as simple as plug and play or require minimal alteration, existing rides can be transformed into a sensory stimulating experience that will attract visitors to try them again and again. Water park builders in California are also experimenting with AR and VR systems that elevate the ride experience and research on including 5D cinematic experience through laser projection is going on.
As we step into 2021, the scenario might seem unpredictable and people might be hesitant to visit an indoor water park. By focusing on what the customer wants and what might tempt someone to visit, you can innovate with the possibilities of water as an entertainment source. In the end, what matters is that the visitors are delighted, thrilled, or astonished by a truly immersive experience which is engaging while being unforgettable.