I am writing this month’s introduction from Orlando, Florida. I am attending the 2023 International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions (IAAPA) Expo. It is the biggest tradeshow for the industry in the world and, with over 40,000 attendees from across North America, it gives me a strong sense of the positivity there is about the future of visitation and tourism going forward. The tradeshow floor is huge! There are over 1,100 exhibitors and you can find your next suppliers, ranging from a $50M state-of-the-art roller coaster to one that can supply the $0.50 plush toy for your crane game. To walk the entire thing is almost 15km. I got halfway through today, and my feet can attest to the distance.
More impressive than the show floor are the conversations taking place among the operators. The attractions industry, more than any other I can think of, understand the value of cooperation and collaboration. I have listened to and been part of conversations where competitors – direct competitors – share their experiences and even their numbers. What’s working, what’s not. Year over year visitation and revenue figures. Staffing issues, and recruitment and retention successes.
Here is what the attractions industry gets that others within the tourism umbrella sometimes struggle with: You are only as strong as your weakest link. I know that is a strange thing to say when the “links” are your competition, however, there is some validity to it. If someone gets killed on a roller coaster in California, some people may think twice about spending money to go to Wonderland because if it could happen there, it could happen here. At GlowZone, we share our best practices with our competitors in an effort to change resident habits. There are over 20 places in Brampton and Mississauga that people can go to for an evening of entertainment. We know that no matter how an incredible an experience we provide our guests, they are not going to visit us every week. So, we will share our best practices with our competition so that they too can provide excellent experiences. When residents are having fun, interactive experiences with their families and friends, the hope is that we create a new habit / routine of going out once a week or so. They aren’t going to do that unless there is enough variety of activities that they enjoy so they can go weeks or months before repeating one.
We know that our average guest visits three times per year. It used to be two. But, through best practice sharing and cross promotion, we have started to see these new habits forming. There is still lots of work to do, but the lines of communication are open and our competitors are also seeing the benefits of collaborating for success. Just yesterday we were sharing with Putting Edge, which is another Glow-in-the-Dark mini golf facility in the GTA, that when we first opened after the pandemic, we had our best year ever, thought we would never top it, but we are up again this year. They are in a similar situation, which we enjoyed hearing. They then told us about an issue that they were having and we were able to tell them how we were able to deal with it successfully. We want them to succeed and they want us to succeed because we both know that people want variety when it comes to their mini golf experiences.
In the world of attractions, the big players share as much as the little player, helping us all delivery amazing experiences built on fun, safety, interaction and incredible guest service. Every day there are education sessions that have the Disney’s and Universal’s of the world sharing a stage with much smaller players to discuss how they are dealing with the exact same issues, albeit on a completely different scale. Perhaps it is because I came into the tourism fold through attractions that I am so passionate about collaboration to build destinations. No amount of marketing and communications is going to convince a visitor that your town is a destination if, when they get there, there are no synergies between the players delivering the experiences and supporting the visit. A destination is developed by the very stakeholders who are going to benefit from visitors, and then supported through marketing and communications. CCT is here to help you get that process going. The hardest part is the very first step – getting people to understand what this little introduction is all about. Your neighbour isn’t your competition. Once we break down that wall, you will start to see the momentum build.
Maybe at next year’s IAAPA, I will be one of the people on the stage sharing with others the success we have had in growing out visitation by sending people to our competitors. But for now, I am going to put my feet up and get a good night’s sleep so that I am ready to tackle the second half of the exhibition floor.
Have a great week!