TRENDING # staffing # park_trends # booking_software # kids_activities # rec_and_education # and_much_more
Adventure Park Insider Guest Communication: How well do you inform, educate, and impact guest behavior?
PHOTO SYSTEMS IN FOCUS
Roundtable Review: Five experts opine on best practices, gear, and the future.
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ETTER FROM THE EDITORS
IS YOUR FALL PROTECTION PLAN DIALED IN?
It’s Show Time We hope you enjoy your Winter 2018 issue of Adventure Park Insider. One of our goals with this issue is to deliver ideas and information prior to the 28th annual ACCT International Conference and Expo, so you can arrive informed and ready to do business and engage in productive dialogue with your colleagues. Speaking of which, if you don’t have the conference on your calendar, it’s not too late, especially since ACCT is offering the program a la carte this year. That makes it easy to drop in and dive deep into the parts that are most useful to you and your team. With 110 workshops, 100 exhibitors, preand post-conference workshops, certification and training courses, awards ceremony and ACCT Olympics—phew, there’s a lot to choose from. Mark your calendar for Feb. 1- 4, Fort Worth, Texas. www.acctconference.com. While you’re at it, be sure to mark Feb. 3 at 8:30 a.m. on your calendar so you remember to attend the workshop that Adventure Park Insider is presenting based on the results of the State of the Industry survey. You can get a taste of the results in our preliminary report from the survey on p. 61. The workshop will dive deeper into the data, and provide insights on how you can use it to make better business decisions. We’re excited to announce that we will offer the full second edition of the State of the Industry Report free to all of our readers as part of a new, fourth issue of Adventure Park Insider. The timing of this issue will be late winter/early spring. More details to come. Stay tuned.
We look forward to catching up with industry friends and colleagues in Texas. And, we leave you with this homespun advice from the Lone Star State: “Don’t squat on your own spurs!” —The Editors
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3 Winter 2018
Another way to keep up with important trends in our industry is to check out “Up for Debate” on p. 64. We gathered a group of industry experts for a roundtable Q&A, similar to the one we did in our premiere issue three years ago. For this one, we included three of the same experts from the original, and asked some of the same questions to see if their opinions have changed. In total, we feature five panelists, who answered all questions with the future in mind.
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VOL. 4 | NO. 1 | WINTER 2018
CONTENTS ON THE COVER A picture is worth ... a lot. Catalina (Calif.) Aerial Adventure and Zip Line Eco Tour recently upgraded its automated photo system from one older camera to seven new ones that take highquality photos, which guests can purchase onsite. Photo sales nearly doubled as a result. » 58 Cover design by Joerg Dressler
3 Letter from the Editors 10 Park Briefs News from around the adventure park world. Staff Report 14 New Products Innovations in connection devices. By Sarah Borodaeff 16 Getting Staffed Up Key considerations and strategies. By Paul Cummings and Stephanie Sabille 20 A Tale of Two Zip Lines Las Vegas extremes: zips in the Mojave Desert, and above The Strip. By Jim Felton
32 Guest Communication Six aspects of effective messaging. By Mark Petrozzi
EDITORIAL OFFICE P.O. Box 644 • Woodbury, CT 06798 Tel. 203.263.0888 / Fax 203.266.0452 Website: www.adventureparkinsider.com Publisher Olivia Rowan—email@example.com Editor Rick Kahl—firstname.lastname@example.org Senior Editor Dave Meeker—email@example.com Associate Editor / Art Director Liz Mettler—firstname.lastname@example.org Digital Editor / Project Manager Sarah Borodaeff—email@example.com Graphic Design Consultant Joerg Dressler—firstname.lastname@example.org Production Manager Donna Jacobs—email@example.com
A Snapshot of Photo Systems
State of the Industry Report
36 Park Spy What do I do when I gotta go, mid-tour? By Sarah Borodaeff
68 Adventure Rec vs Adventure Ed Can adventure parks offer both pure recreation and tailored educational programs? By Peter Oliver
Whether for profit or promotion, photo systems produce results. By Morgan Tilton
38 Eight Ways to Drive Revenues It’s surprisingly easy to tweak your online marketing with Google Analytics. By Ian Maier 46 Care-A-Biner Maintenance advice and product trends for this all-important piece of gear. By Dave Zook 55 World of Changes A look at eight major trends that are shaping the aerial adventure business. By Paul Cummings 64 Up for Debate Five vendors and operators state their views on best practices, major concerns, and more. By the Editors CONTRIBUTORS Peter Oliver Scott D. Baker Mark Petrozzi Aaron H. Bible Michael E. Smith Sarah Borodaeff Paul Thallner April Darrow Morgan Tilton Moira McCarthy Dave Zook Mat Newton SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR Paul Cummings ADVERTISING/MARKETING OFFICE 70 Pond Street • Natick, MA 01760 Tel. 508.655.6408 / Fax 508.655.6409 Advertising Director Sharon Walsh—firstname.lastname@example.org Marketing Manager Sarah Borodaeff—email@example.com
A preliminary look at key metrics from our annual survey. By Sarah Borodaeff and Rick Kahl
70 Let the Children Play It takes the right equipment and mindset to serve the youngest family members. By Moira McCarthy 73 Getting Business on the Books In part II of our series, a close look at what makes each software supplier unique. By Mat Newton
WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Visit our website for industry news, articles, classifieds and more at adventureparkinsider.com.
CIRCULATION / SUBSCRIPTIONS 70 Pond Street • Natick, MA 01760 Tel. 508.655.6409 / Fax 508.655.6409 firstname.lastname@example.org Circulation Manager Sarah Borodaeff—email@example.com A subscription to Adventure Park Insider is COMPLIMENTARY to adventure park industry professionals. Visit our website, www.adventureparkinsider.com, and click on “Subscribe” to get on our list to receive the publication and online content. ADVENTURE PARK INSIDER — Vol. 4, No. 1, Winter 2018, published by Beardsley Publishing Corp., P.O. Box 644, Woodbury, CT 06798. Copyright 2018 Beardsley Publishing Corp. All rights reserved. POSTMASTER: send address changes to Beardsley Publishing, P.O. Box 644, Woodbury, CT 06798.
NEWS FROM AROUND THE AERIAL ADVENTURE INDUSTRY
Adventure Park Insider stopped by the Zoom Adventures booth at IAAPA to catch up on several new high-profile projects from Zoom Adventures and Skyline Ziplines, including the recently-opened zip line tour at Rushmore Tramway Adventures (S.D.), and a zip line planned for the Grand Canyon, due to open December 2017. Pictured above (left to right) is Adventure Park Insider’s Olivia Rowan along with the Zoom Adventures team: Camille Picard, Darryl Hore, Annie Piche-Smith, Kevin Smith, and Stephane Cote.
Shopping the show: Christina Frain (right) of Eldorado Climbing Walls shows off some of the company’s new products to Marcos Rabioglio, designer for Tecton, Brazil, at IAAPA in Orlando, Fla.
IAAPA Breaks Attendance Record The editors of Adventure Park Insider visited the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) show, held Nov. 13-17 in Orlando, Fla. This year’s event set an attendance record, welcoming 39,000 to the conference and trade show representing the $39.5 billion global attractions industry.
IAAPA is always a lively gathering for everyone involved. We ran into several industry colleagues who were there, either looking for the next trend or product to enhance the guest experience at their operation, or exhibiting to the thousands of buyers roaming the halls. It seemed to us that there were a few less aerial adventure park builders exhibiting this year than there have been in years’ past. Those who were there reported being happy with the traffic and had a busy schedule of buyer meetings. •
Congrats to Tree-Mendous Aerial Adventures for taking home first place for “Best Exhibit” at IAAPA, and second place for “Kiddie Ride/Attraction” for its Nature Trek at the Bronx Zoo.
Arival: The In-Destination Event The inaugural Arival Event, Oct. 11-13 at The Linq Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, brought together providers and sellers of half-day and full-day in-destination attractions, activities, tours, and experiences—generally known as the tours and activities sector of the travel industry. Tours and activities comprise the third-largest sector of the travel industry, behind only air and hotels, totaling $150 billion globally. More than 550 people involved with the tours and activities industry attended Arival—a testament to the demand for an event such as this. “We created Arival to establish tours and activities as the major sector of the global tours, travel and hospitality travel industry that it deserves to be,” said Arival managing director Bruce Rosard. “The focus is on education, business development, and creating a community where
the industry comes together in an environment where everyone has something to learn from everyone else.” A variety of sessions and workshops during the event offered relevant education for providers, and business development opportunities with global distributors including Viator, Expedia, GetYourGuide and leaders from throughout Europe, Asia, and South America. Adventure park operators in attendance, along with other tour and activity providers, could make connections with these distributors to help drive new bookings, both locally and globally. Arival is the only event of its kind in the world. Organizers anticipate hosting more than 1,000 attendees at next year’s event in Las Vegas in mid-October. Adventure Park
Sharon Walsh of Adventure Park Insider cauaght up with Angela Heald and Jason Morehouse of Checkfront between sessions at Arival in Las Vegas.
Insider is an Arival media partner. We will keep operators up to date on the event and its potential to expand visitation. •
WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Check out other current and recent news of park openings, developments, and more in the “Park Briefs” pages at adventureparkinsider.com.
Ropes Courses Inc. Acquires Amaze’n Mazes Michigan-based Ropes Courses, Inc. (RCI) acquired Colorado-based Amaze‘n Mazes from founder Greg Gallavan in mid November. The purchase price was not disclosed. Gallavan will continue as a consultant to RCI and provide operational guidance on design, construction, and themes.
Head Rush Technologies’ new marketing director Chris Koske (left) and new product manager Danny Walsh were on hand at IAAPA to help inform attendees about the company’s diverse product line.
Meeting up with some old friends near the KristallTurm outdoor demo at IAAPA: (L to R) Adventure Park Insider publisher Olivia Rowan, Mandy Stewart from Airplay Adventures, Dave Merrell from Hubbard Merrell Engineering, and Keith Jacobs from Experiential Systems, Inc.
Big Zips Planned for Vegas Strip In spring of 2018, construction will begin on Fly LINQ, a new zip line attraction that will send riders flying over The LINQ Promenade, a bustling area on the Las Vegas Strip filled with shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Plans for Fly LINQ call for 10 side-by-side, 1,080-foot-long zip lines. Caesars Entertainment Corporation, owner of The LINQ Promenade, is investing approximately $20 million into the project. Skyline won the contract to manufacture and install the physical ride and equipment.
Greg Gallavan (left) of Amaze’n Mazes and Jim Liggett of Ropes Courses, Inc. are all smiles at IAAPA as they announced their merger. Ropes Courses, Inc. also acquired Clip ‘n Climb.
To help maximize throughput, plans call for an automated, inductively charged gear-retrieval system that will return harnesses and trolleys from the landing platform back to the launch tower. Fly LINQ will also feature a custom, attraction-type control system that monitors safety and operational functions. To boost revenue, the attraction is expected to have a photo system so guests can opt to purchase photos of their experience—either individually or as a group—dressed in full flight gear and in mid-air. (For the latest on photo systems, see “A Snapshot of Photo Systems,” p. 58.).
Artist’s conception of the Fly LINQ zip lines—all 10 of them—at The LINQ Promenade in the heart of The Strip in Las Vegas, Nev. The attraction is expected to open in 2018.
Fly LINQ is being developed in conjunction with Xventure LV, LLC, which specializes in high-capacity adventure rides situated in prime urban locations. Xventure will lead the development and operations of Fly LINQ. Themed Development Management (TDM) is on board as project manager. •
The Amaze‘n Mazes name will remain. “This is a top-notch company that can take Amaze‘n Mazes to the next level and bring our unique combination of a human maze topped by a Sky Trail high ropes course to a wider audience,” said Gallavan. “I’m excited to see where we can take this collaboration in the next few years.” • >> continued
11 Winter 2018
Guests are expected to begin their ride experience by taking an elevator from the Vortex at The LINQ Hotel & Casino to the top of the 122-foot-tall launch tower. On the launch deck, guests will be fitted with gear and can choose to zip superman-style or seated.
“The staff at Ropes Courses, Inc. has known and worked with Greg for a number of years. Our Sky Trail ropes courses are a perfect match with his human mazes because both attractions can be combined into a single footprint for two tiers of dynamic challenge and fun,” explained Jon Weston, vice president of sales and marketing for RCI. “This acquisition allows us to tap into Greg’s expertise in maze design as well as his network of contacts and venues around the U.S. and the world,” he added.
Quarry Park Adventures Breaks Ground in Rocklin, Calif. What was once an idle granite quarry in downtown Rocklin, Calif., just 25 miles east of Sacramento, has been developed by the city of Rocklin into Quarry Park, which will soon be home to an adventure complex called Quarry Park Adventures. The project broke ground in September, with several attractions and amenities being built around and within the quarry. Bonsai Design received the design and build contract for the many elements of the park, which includes three, 700-foot-long parallel zip lines, a three-level aerial adventure course, a giant swing, via ferrata, and a kids’ zone complete with mini zip lines and a low ropes course.
The zip lines originate from the 2,000-square-foot deck that’s connected to the 12,000-square-foot amenities building, which will house a variety of food and beverage options, ticket counters, and more. The zip lines will plunge riders into the pit of the quarry and terminate near the adventure course. The via ferrata will wind its way across the 100-foot-high quarry walls.
The groundbreaking ceremony for Quarry Park Adventures in Rocklin, Calif., marked the beginning of a park that will include zip lines, aerial course, via ferrata, kids’ zone, and much more.
And the “king swing,” built on the rim of the quarry, will swing out 120 feet into the quarry, with the arc peaking at more than 100 feet off the ground. The entire Quarry Park Adventures project is expected to cost approximately $5 million. The city of Rocklin is funding the project with a loan that will be paid back by the operators. Quarry Park Adventures has a 40-year operating license with the city. There is no cost for guests to enter Quarry Park itself,
only the usual fees to purchase tickets for the various adventure activities. The city estimates that annual visitation could be as high as 130,000 guests. •
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Adventure Park Insider rounded up a few new products for operators to consider.
Vert Voltige Innovations Seven Safety Hook T
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he Vert Voltige Innovations Seven safety hook is the newest addition to the Vertical Trek continuous belay system. The Seven is a disengageable hook with interchangeable shells. The hook can be easily disengaged to allow for quick evacuation if necessary. It features an anti-shock shell, protecting the hook against wear and tear. On the interior of the hook, an interchangeable “V” protects the part of the hook that is most frequently in contact with the cabling, helping to extend the useful life of the device. The Seven is adaptable for both adventure parks and via ferrata courses. www.vertvoltigeinnovation.com/uk-parcs.html
Petzl TOP Chest Harness
Kong OVALONE DNA Carabiner The Kong OVALONE DNA is a special “helical-shaped” con-
nector with a twisted body and circular bar designed to align loads with anchors. The OVALONE DNA connector allows for a 90-degree rotation of any connected device, optimizing the operating alignment. Constructed of carbon steel and available with twist-lock and three-way gate sleeves, the connector has a major axis MBS of 40 kN. The OVALONE DNA has an ANSI Z359.12 stamp along with CE EN 362/B. Contact: Kenny@kongusa.com
he TOP chest harness from Petzl transforms a seat harness into a fall-arrest harness. The TOP chest harness integrates with the Avao Sit, Avao Sit Fast, Falcon, Falcon Mountain, and Sequoia SRT harnesses. The foam shoulder straps are widely spaced to prevent neck chafing and help to distribute the load over the shoulders when the waist belt is loaded. Each chest harness comes with a system for stowing fall-arrest lanyard connectors, keeping them within easy reach. The TOP will be available beginning in March 2018. www.petzl.com/US/en/Professional/New/TOP
BUILDING A BETTER RIDE MOUNTAIN
COASTERS AND SLIDES
EXPERIENCED PROJECT MANAGEMENT
IN SAFETY ENGINEERING
15 Winter 2018
USA MADE AND SERVICED
ARCHITECTS OF EXPERIENCES AT HEIGHT
PRISME OUTDOOR CONCEPTS
VIA FERRATA URBAN ADVENTURES ELEVATED NATURE ATTRACTIONS
GETTING STAFFED UP
Finding, training, and keeping good people is an ongoing challenge for park operators. How best to go about it? By Paul Cummings and Stephanie Sabille
Service-related businesses rely on people to deliver an exceptional product. At aerial adventure parks, the staff— for better or worse—are often one of the most memorable parts of the guest experience. That’s why finding the right employees is an important factor in operating and growing a successful aerial park. Unfortunately, for many business owners, this is also one of the most challenging parts of running a park. So where do you find these people, how do you train them (today and in the future), and how do you keep them? The good news is, you don’t necessarily need to recruit seasoned aerial-park experts to run a successful operation.
WHERE TO FIND STAFF
While there are several places to look for new staff, we find that most parks have good results by hiring employees who have some level of customer service or hospitality experience. You can utilize general job posting boards to locate people with these qualifications, and narrow the search criteria to require some of this experience. However, the very first place we would look is for referrals and recommendations from your current staff members. Most of the time, they are pretty good judges of character and of how someone new will fit in with the team. If you are just starting your business, tap into referrals from your local community. Even if your friends and family do not know your company culture, they know you, and should have a sense of what you are trying to create if you outline your parameters. Other, somewhat less obvious resources you can tap:
If there is a local university that offers a hospitality program or something similar, build a relationship with the faculty and it could serve as a consistent pipeline for seasonal staff.
Other regions have found great staff by tapping into the local retiree population.
To help qualify candidates, disclose that you are recruiting for an outdoor, almost all-weather position. There are plenty of people out there who always have a smile on their face—until they have to work an outdoor shift in the rain. Finally, it’s not a bad idea to be recruiting all year. You never know when you’re going to need a new employee, or when the next superstar will become available.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR 1. Character. You can train almost anyone in the technical aspects of course safety and equipment, but you can’t train someone to be a good person. The best staff tend to come off as kind, helpful, talkative, and having a good sense of humor. Lori Pingle, owner of ZipZone in Columbus, Ohio, says that she often goes with her gut after the first interview. “If I want to keep talking with them after 30 minutes, I take that as a very good sign,” she says. Pingle also observes if the candidate smiles and laughs during
the interview. Parks are fun places to be, and employees should reflect that. When in doubt, think about your own experiences on aerial parks, zip line tours, or other adventure experiences. Would you want this person instructing you and supporting you when you’re feeling a little in over your head? 2. Reliability. A good employee shows up on time and does what is expected. While this trait is hard to identify during a face-to-face interview, there are ways to figure it out—like if he or she is late to the interview. Also, during the interview process, it’s good to be up front about the sometimes-erratic schedule of working at an aerial park, and gauge the candidate’s reaction. Be sure to ask about reliability and timeliness when conducting reference checks, too. You do check references, don’t you? You’ll also want to spend some time during the interview process letting your candidates know about their expected responsibilities. It sure is great to get paid to climb trees, but do your prospective employees know that they may be spending hours standing on a platform on a rainy day? Or speaking in front of groups of up to 30 people at a time? We have fun jobs, but the work isn’t always so fun or glamorous, especially if you’re new to the industry. 3. Expectations. It is not uncommon for an employee at an adventure park to be perceived as unreliable or lazy, only to later find out he or she didn’t clearly understand what was expected while performing the job. So if, for example, you
LEADING THE AERIAL ADVENTURE INDUSTRY TO NEW HEIGHTS
17 Winter 2018
Some parks have had success recruiting local teachers, whose vacation schedules often line up almost identically with adventure park calendars.
GETTING STAFFED UP are counting on your park staff to do ground maintenance when it’s not busy, you’d best tell them that before they start working for you.
TRAINING FOR SUCCESS Once you’ve gone through the rigorous process of hiring everyone and putting them through the initial training, you’ve really only just begun. Next, you’ll need to put them through the additional training on how to operate the course. That should be enough to meet the bare minimum requirements, but there are plenty of additional training components that you will need to consider if you want to be ranked among the best. You’ll also want to look at ways to retain staff, and even promote them over time. The industry has high turnover by its very nature, and it sure is cheaper to retain your existing people than it is to hire and train new ones. Some key aspects of training: As you assemble a training curriculum, consider having your vendor come out to help train your staff on course maintenance. This will help all of your staff know how to best preserve equipment, and that is worth its weight in gold in the longevity of the course.
All staff should be trained in CPR and first aid, given the nature of what we do. You should also consider providing some arborist training
if your course is built on trees. Remember, your staff are the ones on the front line and will be the first to spot something that is amiss—if they know what to look for. Look into an in-house ICE certification for head inspector and the Petzl PPE course. Oh, and customer service training is crucial, and should be integrated every step of the way.
Sounds overwhelming? Take a deep breath—many vendors offer professional trainers who specialize in all this. While you can use your builder/vendor, it may be good to bring in a fresh set of eyes, especially if your builder does not have a dedicated training department. Regardless of who does your training, schedule it on a regular basis. Skills degenerate over time, just like the physical structure of your park. Periodic training keeps your staff fresh before their skills start to wane. Standards change over time, too, so make sure to stay current on trends in the industry and to keep your staff informed anytime there is a change. Joining ACCT, and attending the annual conference with your senior staff, can help with this.
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ELEVATING AND RETAINING STAFF Once your staff is trained on the basic operation of the course, evaluate them with an eye toward the future. If you have a path to promotion, be sure that your staff knows about it. Show them an obvious way to grow (and get paid more), and some of them will stick around. As with training, promoting from within is way easier than hiring new staff. Here’s what a promotion path might look like: Guide/Course Monitor: Someone who is responsible for setting up the course, assisting guests on elements, helping them in and out of equipment, conducting rescues if necessary, or traveling with a group on a zip line tour. Senior Guide/Course Monitor: This individual has a role similar to the above but with additional responsibilities, like briefing large client groups or leading a group on a zip line tour. Supervisor: This person may be the senior person on the ground and is the point person while the course is in operation. He or she may be responsible for moving staff around and making sure everything is running smoothly, as well as taking on some typical guide/course monitor responsibilities.
Manager: The person responsible for managing the park or
office operations. There typically aren’t too many of these roles available, but it may be worth opening up this position to current employees first, if there is a good candidate for the job.
You can also orchestrate fun team-bonding events, like pool parties, potluck dinners, “friends and family” climbing events, or other gatherings that are specific to your region. Be creative! Even something as simple as bringing coffee and donuts twice a month can go a long way. You can also create other incentive programs to keep staff engaged and raise their competitive game. ZipZone uses a “star chart” that measures how often employees’ names come up on comment cards. Whoever has the most stars at the end of the month wins a fun prize. Regardless of what you do to keep people engaged, always have the communication lines open with your employees. Let them know what is going on in the business, keep your door open (metaphorically, if not literally), and stay as transparent with them as you can. If you develop a trusting culture, your staff will take ownership in their work and will be more likely to stay. And finally, have some fun out there. We all got into this business to create memorable experiences for others, and that includes your staff. If you can keep the environment light and enjoyable, they will buy in, it will translate to your customers, and hopefully everyone will return for many seasons to come.
WLL: 140kg (308Lbs) Individual serial numbering, as standard
User Engagement Maximises user engagement & keeps users facing forward throughout their zip ride
Retro-fit component Can be added/removed on site, using standard tools
Connection options Can be used with Karabiner or, a Lanyard can be directly connected to axle bollard. Lanyards can easily be replaced as required
See the range of NEW ISC Zip Accessories at Booth #700
01-04 Feb, 2018
19 Winter 2018
Of course, some staff may wish to stay on without assuming additional responsibilities. Make every effort to keep them on in a seasonal role. One easy way to do this is by giving returning employees a raise each year.
The view from the VooDoo ZipLine (top) and Flightlinez Bootleg Canyon Zip Line (bottom) isn’t the only difference between the two successful attractions.
A TALE OF TWO ZIP LINES From Bootleg Canyon to the towers of the Rio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas truly embodies the variety that spans the zip line business.
BY JIM FELTON
Though many might consider Las Vegas the world’s largest “adventure park,” Sin City has its share of zip lines and tours. In the city itself, VooDoo ZipLine at the Rio is the epitome of an urban thrill ride. A half hour away in Boulder City, Flightlinez Bootleg Canyon Zip Line soars across the Mojave Desert over the course of a three-hour tour. Each takes advantage of its specific, and in their own ways spectacular, environments.
DESERT ADVENTURE Bootleg Canyon offers an authentic outdoor adventure. General manager Brina Marcus says the Flightlinez zip line has found its niche as a respite from the lights, sounds, and frenzy of the City of Second Chances, while at the same time meeting two goals of its business partner, Boulder City: increasing visitation to Bootleg Canyon Park, and preserving its delicate desert setting.
The park, 22 miles from Vegas, includes the zip tour along with mountain biking, hiking, and picnicking. The city-owned park is also a refuge for bighorn sheep, coyote, fox, rattlesnakes, tarantulas, Gila monsters and every other known desert lizard, and even the rare desert tortoise. All can be spotted by guests on the tour. For $159, a guest gets ground transportation from Vegas and access to the
SYNERGO SYNERGO is proud to be an ACCT Professional Vendor Member. Established in 1994, Synergo focuses on the design, installation, inspection and training of Challenge Courses, Zip & Canopy Tours, Aerial Adventure Parks and Climbing Towers.
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TWO ZIP LINES tour’s four lines. A staff of 18 runs operations, with a third of those interfacing with guests in ticketing, loading, and guiding. A winding hike gains 600 feet in elevation from a starting elevation of 2,800 feet; that can be a challenge for some, so Bootleg staff hands out complimentary water (Bootleg’s base operation is adjacent to two restaurants, so Bootleg forgoes offering food and beverage). Safety is essential in such a unique natural setting. Guides lead the zip hikers and watch for any health issues with guests while also keeping an eye out for any environmental or animal hazards. One guide “cabooses” to keep the unit whole. Bootleg is not meant to imply boot camp; stragglers are attended to and either escorted back down or brought up with the next group. Marcus says a good day is 50-60 guests, who routinely take around 2.5 hours to experience the tour, which inclu-
Bootleg Canyon is located in the rugged Mojave Desert, not far from Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. des four separate zips, each with four side-by-side zip lines spanning a total of 8,000 feet. Weather, she says, is the major uncontrollable variable keeping Bootleg Canyon from doing more than roughly 15,000 riders a year. It can exceed 110 ºF in the summer; winds tend to increase during the day as well, so staff monitors that throughout the day. The desert elements can mean down time, sometimes all day. On the other hand, full moon tours are available for the night of and two bookend nights before and aft.
The rise and run of the zip lines prompted Flightlinez management to engineer its own three-stage braking system. Stage one has the rider control speed with a hand-operated brake on the trolley; guides signal riders when it’s time to apply it. Stage two is a “brake box” in the landing zone. Finally, a spring-loaded backup brake arrests those few who come in too hot. While “backup braking” is now a big issue in zip line operations, Marcus notes that Bootleg added its backup in 2012. She says it has proven effective on windier days as well. cont.>>
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TWO ZIP LINES Guests can purchase the standard fare of experience memorabilia: coffee cups, clothing, shot glasses, etc. Sending a photographer up with each group has been a recent and an effective way to boost margins, she says. SELLING THE DESERT Marcus’ marketing is mostly a function of promotions and publicity. Few places in the world market like Las Vegas, so Bootleg gets a boost by everyone from concierges to the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Bureau, Travel Nevada, and Best Vegas Attractions. As a purpose-built city designed solely for the construction of the Boulder (now Hoover) Dam, Boulder City’s history is captured by museums and celebrated with events. The dam alone is a marvel, Lake Mead is one of the most visited national parks in the country, and of course there’s the Grand Canyon.
says the desert setting and the nearby attractions make a great day-long media fam trip. Packaging them provides plenty of story angles, and thus a lot of media coverage, much of it international. In addition, some 20 international vendors join local vendors in generating commission-based sales, and the growing reach of social media is another low-cost means for raising awareness and interest.
In addition to Vegas cross promotions, Bootleg gets a lot of free press. Marcus
Marcus says visitors are amazed by the Martian landscape of the Mojave.
Each of Flightlinez Bootleg Canyon’s four spans have four parallel zip lines with a custom-built, three-stage braking system.
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As a result, Bootleg Canyon sees a lot of international guests. Upward of 50 percent of Bootleg visitors are from overseas. And Bootleg’s guests often return for more. The tour has a frequent flier program with nearly 3,000 members. As repeat visits accumulate, prices drop and premiums and incentives accelerate (not unlike the zip line rides themselves). The eighth “flight” is free. Marcus notes the creation of a frequent flier program was
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TWO ZIP LINES largely a reaction to leisure and business travelers making the trip out to Bootleg every time they were in Vegas. To accommodate traveling groups with non-zippers, Bootleg will direct these guests to nearby attractions while the rest of the group does the tour. A ten-year anniversary next year marks the halfway point of Flightlinez’s lease with Boulder City. It’s been successful enough that Flightlinez is looking to expand further. VOODOO ON THE STRIP Yes, there’s a canyon (concrete) and a zip line, but that’s where the similarities end between Bootleg and VooDoo. While visitors may be awed by the timeless desolation of the Mojave under a full moon, the kaleidoscope of Vegas at night is best viewed via VooDoo, the zip line spanning the Masquerade and Ipanema towers 50 stories high at the Rio Hotel.
VooDoo ZipLine operates seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (and until midnight on weekends), so guests can enjoy a thrilling ride both day and night. Built nearly four years ago by New Capital Ventures of Las Vegas (the firm’s only foray into zip lines), the VooDoo ZipLine is a modified Soaring Eagle zip line. It can take single or tandem riders to speeds over 30 mph, with the added thrill of a round trip—the line runs 800 feet from one hotel tower to the other, and then back. All told, the ride over and back is just a bit more than 70 seconds long, and runs a third of a mile. The VooDoo clientele is a reflection of
the general Vegas market, i.e., anyone from anywhere, and newlyweds to conventioneers. Where the Flightlinez operation in Boulder City requires planning and intention to visit, VooDoo can be more of an impulse decision. Building the zip line itself was a much longer process. When New Capital hatched the idea of a Vegas zip line, it took engineering studies to identify the proper distances and angles to determine the optimum site. The Rio Hotel,
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TWO ZIP LINES with its two tall towers, was deemed the best location. Soaring Eagle Ziplines then crafted a custom installation; the line runs from one tower to the other and back to the starting point. As such, it is among the highest tandem zips in the country, if not the world. Construction took a couple of years, says VooDoo general manager James Puckett, as the unique attraction and its engineering required thorough regulatory and design approvals. A 30-story crane was needed to move much of the steel to the perch. Logistical challenges had Soaring Eagle design a low-maintenance zip line, limited primarily to changing out pulleys, painting, and meeting inspection requirements, Puckett says. The cable is inspected daily in-house, and third party experts x-ray the cable for soundness. Clark County has very strict ride and attraction safety regulations, he adds, including unannounced safety inspections (the required annual inspection IS scheduled, however).
Newlyweds are frequent riders of the VooDoo ZipLine, which soars 400 feet above downtown Las Vegas. VooDoo’s vertigo-inducing height leads some would-be riders to chicken out; Puckett notes that most who do so are males (much like at the altar!). While tickets in such instances are refunded, no questions asked, a VooDoo ticket is good for six months should the timid muster the courage. The height and location also means that all employees must be tethered in, and a strong net extends some six feet out of both perches.
MARKETING VOODOO Puckett notes that VooDoo has some good momentum as an attraction. Even with all the entertainment options that characterize the excess of Vegas, VooDoo occupies a singular space in the market. It is not owned by the hotel, but a concessionaire; still, the hotel promotes the attraction heavily. VooDoo is on the 50th floor, along with the VooDoo Steakhouse, and the VooDoo Lounge is on the 51st floor. All combine
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TWO ZIP LINES for a zip experience quite different from the desert plunges of Bootleg Canyon. Adding to the Vegas vibe of it all is the occasional appearance of Penn and Teller, who perform at the Rio. In fact, according to Puckett, Penn Gillette is an ordained minister who has presided over matrimony at the zip line. Puckett notes that VooDoo sees a lot of newlyweds so freshly minted as couples that the zip line crews will often see them ride in wedding gowns and tuxedos. Puckett says the location and its unparalleled visibility translates to a lot of walk-up sales, thus helping keep marketing costs down. He will purchase billboard space, and use VooDoo’s shuttle bus for picking up guests along The Strip; the shuttle thus serves as a moving billboard as well. And because a big day (and night) can bring in more than 1,000 people, VooDoo’s website allows people to schedule
their riding experience to avoid long lines. Rio has a convention and conference center on site, meaning big groups can dominate the facility for hours at a time, so the website scheduling for available slots has been well received, he says. Unlike Bootleg, which is seeing some dispersion of summer business to the fall and spring due to the heat, summer is the busiest season for VooDoo. The day and night hours have Puckett managing 30 employees to cover two shifts daily seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (and ‘til midnight on weekends). Big days keep them hustling, since there’s only one tandem seat and a round trip can be as tight as two minutes. It’s good, then, that closures are rare, usually caused by wind or lightning. A lightning detector warns operators of an encroaching storm. Tickets are $28, and peak pricing on Saturdays and Sundays is $29. Riders must be over 21 after 7:30 p.m. Guests can zip a second time on the same day for a discounted rate of $17.50. Promotions include a Rewards Program for dis-
counts, free VooDoo Lounge admission, and priority scheduling. The unique setting helps create a rich variety of add-on sales. Videos of riders’ experiences, and uploads of pictures and video on social media, serve as both referrals and endorsement. Other revenue streams include an array of retail, shirts, shot glasses, hats, and other accessories. Holidays, Puckett says, boost business ever further. The Lounge’s Halloween Party is a perfect fit for VooDoo riding and photos. New Year’s is always a big deal in Vegas, and the Fourth of July drives strong business as well. The holidays seem to further accentuate the differences between VooDoo and Bootleg. The setting, the views, and the scene all combine to exemplify the excess that is Vegas, and, from 400 feet high, one can witness an entirely different type of wildlife than that found at Bootleg Canyon. The contrast between these two highly successful businesses highlights the many paths to success in the world of aerial adventure.
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Integrate Your Messaging
BY MARK PETROZZI, ARM President, AlpenRisk Safety Advisors, LLC
GUEST COMMUNICATION Effective communications are like three-part harmony: when done right, your messages make beautiful music.
How well do you communicate with your guests? Sure, you describe your park, provide FAQs, advise on clothing and sunscreen, warn about potential risks, and send everyone through ground school. You post signs and videos to show folks what to expect and how to gear up, and your employees are trained to deliver instructions and warnings and answer questions. But how much of it actually sinks in?
The ultimate goal or end result of your communications is to influence behavior. That means, first, convincing guests to visit your park, and then once on-site, adequately and appropriately preparing them for the experiences they will enjoy. Doing that effectively requires an integrated system of communications that starts before they arrive and ends after they leave. To be effective, your communications must be both relevant and specific. And you must deliver the message in a way that the target audience can understand—the delivery of instructions and warnings for a 12-year-old should be vastly different than for her 66-year-old grandfather. There are, in fact, six critical components for you to consider in creating a system of effective guest communications.
1. What to communicate: the content. 2. What the communication looks like: the font, colors, iconography, images, etc. 3. How to communicate: the methods of delivery. 4. How many times to communicate: the number of impressions to deliver. 5. When to communicate: different types of information appear at different points in the communications cycle. 6. Where to communicate: to be most effective.
requirements. Ground school will help demonstrate and describe how to use the equipment, participate in the activity, and will allow your guests to interact with the guides, who provide them with instructions on expected practices, such as one person on an element at a time, belay procedures, park etiquette, etc.
I. What to Communicate: The Content
II. What It Looks Like: Appearance is Everything
Beyond the basic park information— location, parking, contact info—you should consider providing information that will help prepare guests regarding what to bring (water, sunscreen, rain gear, gloves), what to wear (comfortable clothes, closed-toe shoes, sunglasses, eyeglass retainers), and what to expect (the extent and duration of physical activity). Guests will appreciate this practical advice. It’s also important to talk to guests about the risks associated with their participation, and how to help minimize it. Liability releases/waivers can set out the range of risks involved with the activity(s) and on the park grounds generally. A list of rules and regulations further prepares guests. Those rules include any age/weight/height restrictions and clothing or footwear
Other communications provide directions for guests on-site, and may include the location of various services: F&B, gift shop, photo service, restrooms, gear-up area, etc.
For all printed matter and signage, there are several key considerations. Some of these carry their own messages. For example: FONT: The type of font, size, and whether it is bold, italicized, and/or underlined. COLORS: For safety-related signs, use colors that speak to warnings, danger, and hazards. There may be an ANSI standard about these things for some activities. ICONOGRAPHY: Use recognizable images, pictures, and symbols. If you have a trail or attraction rating system, make sure it is explained clearly. These guidelines also apply to your website and social media. Wherever the messages appear, they should be
III. How to Communicate: Delivery Methods WEBSITE: The time to begin communicating is when consumers are still in the process of making the decision to engage in the activity and visit your park, as well as once they have made the decision. This communication is typically broad-based: in words, pictures, maps, graphics, and video, for example. The website is also your first opportunity to communicate instructions, rules and warnings. Provide a waiver that includes warnings, acknowledgments of risks and hazards, and an agreement not to sue (you should insist all participants sign one, regardless of enforceability in your state). Consult with local legal counsel for specific advice in this area. Explain the importance of parents or legal guardians signing for their children. Note: In some states, this does
Done right, your use of color, font, and text all reinforce your message and help guests remember it.
Print collateral and signage should all have a consistent look and feel as part of your integrated communications.
not include a chaperone on the day of a park visit—it must be a legal guardian, who should sign one either online or print one from your website ahead of time and send it with the minor.
many types of information and instruction—some people are visual learners. Again, keep the language and the look consistent.
FAQs are another good technique to provide valuable information to your prospective guests, and to repeat some of the more important messages on your website. EMAIL: This is a great vehicle to answer specific questions, provide practical information, educate about risk, and upsell your additional services—photo service, food and beverage, etc. PRINT: This includes brochures, signs, posters, trail and park maps, table tents, and other collateral material. Use consistent verbiage, fonts and colors across all these materials. Again, that’s what keeps your communications integrated. VIDEO: Video is effective when used on your website, in social media, and also on-site at points of sale and in gear-up areas. Consider how best to use for kids, and how to present info for those who don’t speak or read English. Video is an alternative delivery format for
SIGNS: Signs containing instructional and warning language should be posted in various locations around your park. This can be done without detracting from the overall “feel” you want to provide to your guests. Signs and posters are especially useful at points of sale, and in the gear-up area, retail shop, and F&B outlets, as well as at key points on an aerial park. However, signs are a passive form of communication, and, especially for visual learners, may be somewhat limited in effectiveness. This reinforces the need for an integrated approach to guest communications that utilizes a variety of delivery methods. And again, keep the language and the look consistent. SCRIPTING: In concert with passive forms of communication, active/ interactive communication by and between your guests and employees is highly effective—especially when the information provided is consistent. Scripting helps ensure that’s the case. >> continued
33 33 Winter 2018
consistent in every way possible. That helps make your communications not only “integrated” but also more understandable to first-time visitors. Remember, your guests are outside of their normal element. Anything you can do to relate this new and exciting experience to something they may have experienced in the past (through general life experience) will help them not only comprehend what is going on, but also understand what is required of them to participate safely and create a more enjoyable experience.
GUEST COMMUNICATION __________ Many parks do a great job scripting for ground school and for the delivery of instructions for a zip tour or adventure park course. But scripting can also be effective in delivering consistent, accurate messaging for those who answer the phone—our Park Spy shows how important that can be. Scripting can also assist those who don’t (just) answer the phone all day, and who may not have the strongest communication and guest service skills. Providing employees with content and training helps keep the message consistent. IV. How Frequently to Communicate: Quantity of Impressions to Deliver
Say it…say it again…and again…and again. On your website, in print, in video, and on signs. And then…say it again. For much of what you want to communicate, repetition is key. Let me say that again…repetition is key! Repetition
is the key to remembering, and that is essential for (ultimately) influencing your guests’ behavior. Did I mention that repetition is key?
Here’s what the communications cycle looks like: Park user sees message (online, in parking lot, at POS). Park user reads message. Park user comprehends message. Park user remembers message. Park user applies message (content) to specific future circumstances. In other words, the delivered communications influenced the park user’s decision-making and conduct— it modified her behavior. For most people, it often takes several exposures to information to activate
this cycle. That’s why ground school typically includes a verbal description, guide demonstration, guest demonstration, and guest practice. This communications chain gives each guest at least four impressions from which to learn, and four ways to take it in. V. When to Communicate: Different Info at Different Points OK, so how do you activate this chain of communication events? • Start before they arrive, via website and welcome emails. • Once they arrive, show and tell them where to park, how to find the sales desk, gear-up area, ground school, and the courses. Give them information about the courses, describe any trail or activity rating systems, and provide warnings about appropriate footwear, loose clothing and hair, and other safety-related issues. • Remind them that notwithstanding everything that you, as a park operator, can and will do, they are ultimately responsible for their own safety through appropriate decision-making and conduct.
• While they are in the park, remind them of safety and courtesy protocols via signs and in person, and offer “local color” that enriches the experience. • After they participate, remind them of your park’s amenities and guest services (food, drink, photos, gifts, etc.) and thank them for coming. You might even invite them to return. Do that on site via signs and personal touch, and also in post-visit emails.
VI. Where to Communicate: The Most Effective Places Before they arrive • On your website’s dedicated activities page with each attraction described. Not just products and pricing, but also information and warnings. • Pre-arrival email • Social media When they arrive • At the point of sale
• At the rental/retail shop • At attraction access points, and on zip line/aerial park platforms. When they are riding/sliding/ zipping/etc. • At trailheads, at points along the trail (as necessary), such as on platforms. • Engagement with guides and other employees. After they ride/slide/zip/etc. • F&B outlets • Thank-you emails
K E E P I T A L L I N T E G R AT E D • Be comprehensible. Not just simple, but easy to understand. • Be comprehensive. Tell the whole story. • Be specific. Otherwise, you leave your message open to interpretation, and that can lead to unintended and often unimagined consequences. • Be relevant. Address the topic at hand and don’t distract them with irrelevant thoughts. • Take nothing for granted. Spell it all out. Remember, for many guests, the entire experience, and everything about your location, is foreign territory. • Get ‘em BEFORE they get to you.
• Evaluate your program with a critical eye. Are your communications effective? Consider auditing your guests or engaging a secret shopper to see how well you’re doing. At the end of the day, the ultimate goal of your guest communications program is to build an integrated system that will effectively provide your guests with information, instructions and warnings so they may have a reasonably safe and enjoyable experience at your park.
35 Winter 2018
• Consider all the parts and pieces. Keep the message consistent across different methods of delivery. • Use multiple methods of delivery. People learn in different ways. Plus, by providing multiple opportunities to consume the message, your guests will not only get the message, but also will be more likely to comprehend it, remember it, and ultimately apply it. • Use ALL delivery methods that apply to your operation. • Be repetitive. Be repetitive.
PARK SPY THE QUESTION: “I am bringing my family, and I want to know what options we have if we need to use the bathroom while geared up.”
Needing to go to the bathroom, and having bathrooms to go in, are basic parts of life. But throw in all of the gear necessary for fun at height—and being at height—and you’ve made something simple seem epically more complicated to someone who has little to no experience with the entire situation. How do operators respond to a question that seems to have an obvious answer? We wanted to find out. Have a question we should ask for Park Spy? Send Sarah Borodaeff (email@example.com) your question and, if we use it, you’re immune for one issue! We present all eight Spy missions here. Check out every Park Spy online at www.adventureparkinsider.com.
Park #1, TX
First contact: Male. Adventure Park Insider: Stated question. Staff: Sure thing. So, before you gear up we advise everyone to use the bathroom before you get out on course. Once you get out on course, we do have porto-potties available nearby if you need to go. API: OK, how far are the port-o-potties? Staff: Not too far. API: Thanks so much. What about getting out of the gear? Staff: It’s pretty simple to take the harness off. We have guides to show you and they will check your gear again before you come back on course. API: Great. Thanks! Staff: You got it. Score: 7 Comment: Clear. Concise. But elaborating on how far is “not too far” would help guests feel more confident in the experience.
Park #2, VT First contact: Female. API: Stated question. Staff: Well, we advise you to use the bathroom before you gear up, because if you pee in it you buy it! Haha!
API: Good to know. Staff: Are you planning to do the challenge course or the zip tour? API: I am not sure. Staff: Well, if you’re going to use the challenge course you can come down and use the bathroom whenever you finish each course. If you’re on the zip tour you have to wait until you finish the course and that takes about two hours. So, you gotta hold it. API: Ok, thanks. Staff: You’re welcome! Score: 5 Comment: Thrilled to know that I won’t be wearing a harness someone has peed in before, but be a little less graphic in your explanation. Gross.
Park #3, CA First contact: Male. API: Stated question. Staff: Of course. Well, first off, we ask that you use the bathroom before putting on the harness. Once you’re geared up and out on the course, unfortunately due to the layout of the tour, we don’t have facilities on course, and while we can lower you to the ground mid-tour in an emergency, we cannot bring you back on course to rejoin your group.
API: That makes sense. How long does the tour take? Staff: About 90 minutes. So it’s not a super long tour, and it goes really quickly when you’re having such a good time. We actually haven’t had to lower anyone because of a bathroom emergency as far as I am aware. It’s why we advise you to go before heading out. API: Thanks for the advice. Staff: No problem. Score: 9 Comment: Great answer. Every facility is designed differently and canopy tours are not conducive to a mid-flight bathroom break. It just means you need to communicate this in advance.
Park #4, NV First contact: Male. API: Stated question. Staff: You know, that’s not a question I get very often. Our tour takes about 2-2.5 hours. Is there a concern that you might need to take a break in the middle? API: Well, you never know with kids, and I am a bit nervous about the whole thing and prefer to be as informed as possible. Staff: I totally understand that. Don’t worry, we have bathrooms in our main building and advise everyone
Score: 4 Comment: This is not a time to assume there are medical issues involved. Be more careful about when you choose to ask that question.
Park #5, FL First contact: Male. API: Stated question. Staff: Our policy is that you cannot remove your harness until you have completed the course or decided that you are finished climbing. So you have to use the bathroom before you put the harness on. API: What happens if my kids need to go to the bathroom? Staff: (sounding stern) Well then they’ll have to come off the course and take the gear off and finish their climb for the day. API: That seems a bit harsh, but good to know. Staff: That’s the policy, it’s for your safety. API: Good to know, thanks. Score: 3 Comment: Your policies are your decision. If the layout of your course does not allow for bathroom breaks, that’s fine. But why do you need to make it sound like a harsh punishment?
API: I’ll be sure to pass that along to my husband. Staff: Great. Any other questions I can answer? API: Nope, that’s it. Thanks!
Score: 3 Comment: Sanitary issues might be the tip of the iceberg on that one. Ewww.
Park #7, AL First contact: Male. API: Stated question. Staff: (sounding annoyed) We have bathrooms on site. API: Great, are they easy to access from the course? Staff: Well, you have to walk to them. API: No problem. How far are they? Staff: They’re not, like, right on the course. You have to walk to the main building. API: OK, and what about all the gear? Is it easy to get off? Staff: Not really, because it’s designed to hold you in case you fall. API: Yes, I understand that, but since I assume we’d have to take the harness off if we wanted to use the bathroom, I was curious if we could do that on our own or if it’s difficult enough that we would need help. Staff: We take care of gear up and gear down. API: Thanks. Score: 1 Comment: Actually, no thanks. Just because something is obvious to you doesn’t mean it is to a guest, so don’t sound annoyed when asked about it.
Park #8, CT Park #6, ID First contact: Female. API: Stated question. Staff: Well, we have restrooms in our gear up/ welcome area, so we advise that everyone use the bathroom before heading out on the course. You’ll be entirely in the air for the duration of the course, as a result we cannot allow you to remove your gear for your safety. API: Well that makes sense. How long is the course? Staff: It usually takes about two hours to get through the course. As far as I am aware, we haven’t had any issues as long as folks have used the restroom prior to gearing up. I mean, technically, a guy could use the bathroom if he needed, but then you’re getting into sanitary issues so we ask that you don’t.
First contact: Female. API: Stated question. Staff: Excellent question! We advise that you arrive at least 20 minutes prior to your reservation. That will give you and your family plenty of time to fill out the waivers and use the bathroom prior to gearing up. Once you are in the harness it is not easy to get out of (laughs), so we advise you to utilize the facilities prior to heading out on the course. That being said, if you do need to take a bathroom break, just come right back to the main building and we will help you get your gear off and then gear back up when you are ready to go back out. If you do take your harness off for any reason we do need to have a trained staff member check it before you head back on course to ensure that your gear is set up properly.
API: Thanks! That was helpful. Does this happen often? Staff: To be honest, not really. We try to make sure everyone is set to go before we go through the gear up process. However, we are more than happy to help you with your gear if you need to take a break during your climb time. Do you know when you are coming? API: My husband booked it, so I am not 100 percent sure, but I think we’ll be there the weekend after next. Staff: We’ll look forward to seeing you then! Please let us know if you have any other questions. API: Will do! Score: 10 Comment: Boom. Detailed explanation so I know what to expect, and did not make me feel like I was asking something silly. Identity Revealed: Fields of Fire, CT
Debrief: Bathroom breaks should be a softball question, right? When it comes to unfamiliar gear and unfamiliar experiences, something as simple as a bathroom break can become an amazingly complicated thing in the eyes of your guest. Your staff should be prepared to answer a question such as this without getting graphic, gross, or demeaning because what is obvious to you and me as industry veterans certainly may not be as obvious to your guests. Furthermore, communicating what your guests should expect as part of their experience is a key part of the process (see “Guest Communication” on pg. 32). This is not limited to the rules and regulations of your organization. It should include basic things like where to park, how early to show up, and that a mid-tour bathroom break isn’t an option. Kudos to those parks who took my “softball” question and knocked it out of the park.
37 Winter 2018
to go before they gear up. Is there a concern about a medical condition we should be aware of? API: No, nothing like that. I just like to be prepared. Staff: Gotcha! API: So, there are no bathrooms on course? Staff: Unfortunately not, but we have found that as long as people use the bathrooms before they go out, they don’t have a problem waiting the 2+ hours while on course. API: Ok, thanks.
EIGHT WAYS TO DRIVE REVENUES With just a little time and effort, these eight Google
First, in order to see and benefit from these metrics, you must take two quick steps: enable e-commerce in your Analytics account, and add the e-commerce tracking code to your website, so Google Analytics can collect and display revenue related data. Once thatâ€™s done, youâ€™re ready. Here are my eight favorite revenue-driven Google Analytics metrics for aerial adventure companies. They will keep you focused, productive, and ready for growth.
Analytics reports can help you run your business more effectively. By Ian Maier, Senior Marketing Manager, Xola
Choosing the right Google Analytics metrics to measure your business success can seem difficult. There are thousands of ways to slice and dice the massive amounts of data Google provides. This makes it all too easy to
waste time and money focusing on the wrong metrics, or get discouraged by information overload. But fear not. There are only a few metrics you really need in order to track and increase online bookings and revenue.
What It Means In Google Analytics, revenue refers to the total revenue received from online bookings. Online revenue includes all taxes and fees, and accounts for any discount applied at purchase. Why I Love It Revenue is the ultimate metric in
Where to Find It In Google Analytics, navigate to Conversions > Ecommerce > Overview.
2. PRODUCT REVENUE BY DEMOGRAPHIC
What It Means Product Revenue is calculated based on the quantity of people in a single booking multiplied by the listed price (the resulting amount does not account for discounts, taxes, or fees). Because the price can vary based on the demographic (e.g. adults vs. children), your
Metrics Made Easy Xola has put together a free, one-click-downloadable Google Analytics dashboard that includes these eight reports. Download it at : blog.xola.com/revenue.
Google Analytics integration should automatically separate products by demographic (e.g. an adult’s ticket is listed separately from a children’s ticket). Why I Love It The Product Revenue metric gives you a good overview of the products that are performing well on your website, and which ones are not. Breaking down Product Revenue by demographic helps you understand whether pricing differences by demographic help or hurt your business. For example, offering a discount for students could help drive more business by customers who otherwise don’t have the expendable income to book your activity. On the other hand, if the discount is too deep, you could lose more revenue than it’s worth.
Where to Find It In Google Analytics, you can find the Product Revenue report by navigating to Conversions > Ecommerce > Product Revenue. If your Google Analytics Ecommerce integration includes a demographic breakdown, that will be included in the report automatically.
3. LISTING VS. ADD-ON REVENUE
What It Means The Google Analytics Ecommerce integration can help you distinguish between the revenue generated by
39 Winter 2018
Google Analytics, and one of the most straightforward indicators of how your business is performing. If your business goals are focused more around profit (i.e. revenue minus costs), revenue is still a vital piece of the puzzle.
EIGHT WAYS your aerial adventure bookings vs. your add-ons. Google Analytics does this by dividing products into categories that help you distinguish between the two product types. Listings Revenue refers to the Product Revenue (covered in the previous section) collected from your zip line bookings, challenge course tickets, and other bookable activities. AddOn Revenue refers to Product Revenue collected from all add-on sales. Why I Love It Add-ons are a great way to increase your average booking value and get a little more out of each guest. For example, our customers offer online add-ons like pre-ordered photos, GoPro rentals, and branded clothing. Understanding how much of your revenue comes from add-ons helps you measure how well you are increasing your average booking value online. For example, if you begin offering GoPro rentals and start to see Add-On
Revenue increase, it confirms that your strategy is working. Where to Find It In Google Analytics, navigate to Conversions > Ecommerce > Product Revenue. Select Product Category from the Product Dimension selector.
4. REVENUE BY CHANNEL
What It Means Google Analytics uses information from the referring website and other URL parameters to identify where your visitors came from before landing on your website. With an Ecommerce integration, Google Analytics knows where your visitors came from and the amount of revenue each visitor generated. Using this information, you can see the exact amount of revenue each of your online marketing channels generate.
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In Google Analytics, a Marketing Channel refers to the different ways your visitors go through to access your site. For example, Direct traffic refers to visitors who already know your website and entered the URL directly in their address bar. Social traffic refers to visitors who access your site by clicking on a link on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites. Why I Love It People tend to focus on how many website visitors or sessions each channel brings to their website. But it’s a lot more useful to understand how much revenue each channel generates on your website. At the end of the day, would you rather have 10 visitors who spent a total of $10,000, or have 10,000 visitors who spent a total of $10? Revenue by Channel is also the first step to understanding your return on investment (ROI) from the ad campaigns and consulting services you spend money on. If you spend $100 a month on AdWords, it’s important to know if that investment is earning you $200 in return, or if you’re only getting $50. >> continued
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EIGHT WAYS Where to Find It In Google Analytics, navigate to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.
5. PAGE VALUE
What It Means In simple terms, Page Value measures how frequently a page appears in a session where someone makes a booking. The assumption is that the more frequently a page is visited by customers, the more helpful it is in driving those bookings. Here’s the exact formula of how Page Value is calculated:
Page Value = (Transaction Revenue + Total Goal Value) / Unique Pageviews for the page.
Why I Love It Page Value is one of my favorite metrics, but it’s grossly underutilized. It measures the value of your content in economic terms, instead of relying on more subjective measurements like Pageviews or Time On Page.
Conversion Rate is 10 percent, you could expect an average of 10 new bookings for every 100 visits to your website. The global average conversion rate is about 3 percent, but there are many ways to beat the average (like making the checkout process less complicated).
Start by looking for pages that get a lot of traffic but have a low Page Value. Why don’t these pages help drive new bookings? Should they? Use some of the other metrics, like Avg. Time on Page, Bounce Rate, or Exit Rate to get a better picture of the visitors’ experience on the page.
Why I Love It The Ecommerce Conversion Rate gives you a quick way to understand how effectively your website converts site visitors into paid customers.
Where to Find It In Google Analytics, navigate to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.
6. ECOMMERCE CONVERSION RATE
What It Means The Ecommerce Conversion Rate tells you the percentage of your site visits that resulted in a booking. If your Ecommerce
There are many ways to improve your website’s Ecommerce Conversion Rate, like improving your web design and adding more appealing images and videos to your site. One of the biggest culprits of a low conversion rate is checkout abandonment. Research indicates that on the average website, roughly 69 percent of visitors that start the booking process leave without completing the transaction. One proven way to increase conversions and win back these otherwise “lost” customers is to send an automated “abandoned booking” email. Ask your software provider about setting this up. >> cont.
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EIGHT WAYS Where to Find It In Google Analytics, navigate to Conversions > Ecommerce > Overview.
7. CONVERSION RATE BY CHANNEL
What It Means Conversion Rate by Channel breaks down your Ecommerce Conversion Rate based on which marketing channel drove traffic to your site. A channel with a high conversion rate tells you that the channel is doing a better job of attracting the right people, at the right time, with the right message to your site, and motivating them to make a booking. Why I Love It A great way to identify marketing op-
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portunities is to look for channels with high conversion rates that are underinvested. If you spend thousands of dollars on AdWords every month, but your Facebook ads get twice the conversion rate, you might consider moving more of your ad investment into Facebook. Where to Find It In Google Analytics, navigate to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels and look for the Ecommerce Conversion Rate column.
8. CONVERSION RATE BY LANDING PAGE
What It Means Conversion Rate by Landing Page breaks down your Ecommerce Conversion Rate based on the page your visitors see when they first land on your website. A landing page with a high conversion rate tells you that page does a good job motivating visitors to make a booking. Why I Love It A landing page gives visitors their first impression of your business. And as the saying goes, first impressions are everything. Whether it’s your homepage, or a dedicated landing page for a campaign you’re running, it’s important to know which landing pages perform well and which drive people away. Where to Find It In Google Analytics, navigate to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages and look for the Ecommerce Conversion Rate column at the end. Taking a scientific approach to growth is critical for business success. And that means running your business with an eye toward revenue-driven metrics. Focusing on these eight metrics should help quiet down all the noise that Google Analytics can produce, and help you make more informed decisions to boost your bottom line.
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CARE-A-BINER Selection, cleaning, and maintenance for a most vital piece of equipment. Carabiner use is commonplace in parks around the world, and the consequences of a failure can be tremendous. In addition, carabiners are handled by guests, a user base that has no specialized knowledge of
the product, thus enriching the need for staff vigilance. Yet despite these concerns—or perhaps because of them—carabiners can be a safe, reliable, and versatile tool, as technology pushes them to better places.
Carabiners are deceptively simple in appearance, so remember to give them the attention they deserve.
The carabiner is a simple device at the outset—essentially a metal loop with a gate. But it literally holds people’s lives. Additionally, there are a multitude of designs and styles. For instance, Petzl’s product line includes eight different types of locking mechanisms for carabiners, and six different types of basic shapes. Therefore, the proper selection, usage, cleaning, storage, inspection—and more—are of paramount importance. Here we round up advice and information from operators, suppliers, and manufacturers to see where carabiners are today, how to best use them, and how to maximize their lifespan. THE PROGRESSION OF SAFETY Mitigating, and ideally eliminating, the possibility for human error when using carabiners is at the top of the priority list in the adventure park industry. This
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CARE-A-BINER entails many elements, but a significant step is keeping any chance of adjustment, and therefore failure, out of the hands of guests and staff. “The trend is removing any additional step that a person has to take, which has an inherent chance of error,” says Patrick Ferebee, the director of e-commerce and product strategy for Aerial Adventure Tech, a supplier of commercial climbing and aerial adventure equipment. “Why not get a product that eliminates or minimizes the risk factor? This is where we push people to go.” One example Ferebee notes is operators moving away from carabiners with screw gates and into auto-locking systems. In another, he sees rising use of features that help ensure a carabiner stays oriented correctly, such as captive eye carabiners or positioners and configuration aids. He has also seen an increase in the use of carabiners that require a special tool to open, such as
the Petzl Am’D PIN-LOCK carabiner, which can only be opened and closed by park staff. Other products can aid in the carabiner doing its job better and more safely. The Petzl String, a rubber device, is one example. It keeps the rope positioned properly when attached to the carabiner and can also protect against abrasion. Ben Haase, the managing director of Ropes Park Equipment, notes that there are no standards for all aspects of carabiner usage, due in large part to the vast differences in the types of parks and the way carabiners are used in them. “Some may have around 20 to 30 elements, while others have hundreds,” he says. “Certain parks lend themselves to different products.” Haase agrees that removing the element of human error is paramount. He sees many parks moving toward multi-action carabiners, where multiple actions are required to open the gate, thus adding an extra measure of safety.
Michael Smith, the president of Adventuresmith Inc., a company that designs and implements adventure challenge programs, notes that the high number of different carabiner brands, styles, and designs can create confusion due to the many different locking systems, even if they are all designed to be as simple as possible to use. He says this diversity of systems is a concern, and he is always seeking better ways to connect people. Smith sees advantages to systems where carabiners aren’t used at all, such as a quick-link or rapid link system. He knows that adventure park guests have a natural tendency to fidget with the products they use, including carabiners, which reinforces the importance of simplifying and streamlining human interaction with the gear. KEEP ’EM CLEAN Carabiners are rugged pieces of equipment, relatively speaking. Still, proper cleaning and maintenance can lead to a long life for the product, especially the
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CARE-A-BINER gate and hinge. Following a defined set of guidelines can help save money, in addition to meeting safety needs. Ferebee emphasizes the need for vigilance when it comes to cleaning carabiners. Some operators are more focused on cleaning harnesses and other textiles, where the need for care is more obvious. But carabiners need the same degree of attention, he notes. “In a silty environment like the desert, or a coastal environment with sea salt, it’s important to rinse them to preserve the metals,” he says.
Smith agrees. As the operator of two parks in the distinctly different climates of Tennessee and Vermont, he sees different environmental effects based on where the equipment lives. The strong humidity in Tennessee leads to a “high amortization cycle,” he says, and increases the need for having a good storage system. That highlights the need for care and maintenance.
For maintaining the gate and hinge and to restore spring action, Petzl recommends lubricating the hinge with a light oil. Ferebee stresses making sure the gate is clean before lubricating it, as dirt diminishes the benefits of lubrication. After lubrication, clean off the oil residue with a cloth to avoid getting oil on harnesses or slings. Petzl’s cleaning guidelines advise against using WD-40 (so does Ferebee), as that product can dry out the hinge and the spring and accelerate aging. Using a high-pressure water sprayer is not recommended, either, as it will dry out the gate hinge. What lubricants are best, then? Most manufacturers recommend lightweight lubricants such as mineral oil, wax- and Teflon-based products, says Ferebee. Graphite is commonly used, but some manufacturers are recommending against it, he adds. THE MATERIAL EFFECT Which is the better material for a carabiner: steel or aluminum? Steel is
reputed to be stronger, and aluminum lighter. The choice depends on how the carabiner will be used, course design, weather factors, and more. Ferebee frequently recommends aluminum. Aluminum carabiners are more resistant to rust and oxidization, and when they are outside in the elements for long periods of time—as is common in many adventure parks—aluminum carabiners hold up better. While steel is the stronger option, every carabiner has to pass strength standards that certify them for particular uses. Ferebee also notes that if the metal carabiner is in contact with other metal, such as when being attached to a cable, it’s essential to make sure those materials are compatible with each other to prevent or minimize wear. It’s widely believed that if carabiners are dropped from height, they should be replaced due to the risk of microfractures. While any gear that has been dropped should undergo an inspection and potentially be replaced, recent research
CARE-A-BINER suggests that mandatory replacement may not be necessary. In 2015, the Outdoor Safety Institute (OSI) cited a study that supports this notion. In the study, a team of engineers dropped carabiners from 21, 40, and 109 feet onto concrete, filmed the impact on high-speed video, and tested the ultimate strength of the dropped carabiners.
They found that while “microfractures are indeed a real thing… there was no difference in breaking strength between brand new carabiners and ones that had been dropped, even from  feet.” OSI’s report went on to clarify, “While this should not be treated as a license to recklessly abuse your gear, it seems like you shouldn’t worry about dropping a carabiner from your waist.”
SMART BUYING, SMART GEAR Given the sheer number of carabiners in adventure parks and their safety implications, Smith recommends that operators “find a supplier that will be around for a long time” to ensure quality products and a lasting relationship. Consistency with suppliers also helps to streamline your carabiner inventory. The tighter the inventory, the fewer complications you will encounter. Smith points out: “The more consistent you are with buying, the easier it is to recognize abnormalities.” At his parks, Smith has converted almost entirely to steel, auto-locking carabiners, and relies on two primary models. That makes replacement much easier if the springs wear down or replacement is needed, he says. It is also crucial to document the specifications for the products in your park, in case they need to be replaced. Smith advises to always maintain a book that lists the park builder’s and manufacturers’ specifications as a reference.
Ferebee agrees that it’s important to ensure your supply of carabiners is well documented. He recommends operators keep a full list of approved products and approved vendors on hand. “Parks should also have alternates for those products, should they be needed,” he says. And, “A course will want a trusted supplier that will communicate things like recalls.” Such communication can be important. Smith, who also does third-party inspections, notes that he has carried out inspections in which the operator was unaware of a recall in effect for a product the park was using. Proactive communication between supplier and operator would have negated this issue. As with other aspects of adventure parks, carabiners continue to evolve. The industry will continue to implement tweaks and changes, as many stakeholders collaborate in search of the optimal system. So, while carabiners are simple in concept, it pays to keep abreast of the latest developments.
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The aerial adventure industry’s evolution continues.
BY PAUL CUMMINGS, Strategic Adventures
Here are eight directions it’s headed.
As our industry has grown, technology and larger budgets have allowed adventure attractions to evolve quickly. And, as aerial adventure gets more and more popular, bigger players are paying attention and entering the field. Ski areas, amusement parks, and family entertainment centers are all getting into the adventure game. And just what does the game look like today? Here are eight trends that we are seeing as we work around the country and the globe, pontificating about the joys of adventure businesses.
Travel Distances Are Shrinking
It wasn’t that long ago that people would travel several hours for aerial attractions like a zip line tour. When we wrote business plans, we would examine market demographics and competitive data for a radius that extended for many hours in every direction, and sometimes across an entire state or region. Now, zip line tours are becoming much more commonplace, and their depth and variety has increased as well. On average, the time people are willing to travel has shrunk to about an hour, and it’s even less for other attractions, such as aerial adventure parks. That’s not to say that visitors won’t still travel hours for a tour in the rainforest of Maui or the treetops of Alaska, but most new attractions won’t be able to cast as wide a net as they once could.
Multiple Locations from One Brand
As communities start to acquire more local aerial attractions, certain brands have developed multiple attractions across different regions. Companies like GoApe and Outdoor Ventures
each have seven or more locations across the country, and we hear from providers almost every week that are looking to develop a similar business model. The prospect is attractive—it’s easier to replicate an existing, successful model than it is to create an entirely new one, and the potential for revenue is much higher. If you are reading this right now and thinking to yourself, “Hmm...I should get on that,” keep in mind the following: • A consistent brand is a strong brand, so the more consistent the guest experience that you can provide across locations, the better. • That said, each market is a bit different—just because one location supported a certain type of activity or pricing structure, that doesn’t mean they all will. • If you are new to the industry, it’s better to start with one location than to go all-in on multiple locations. There’s plenty to be learned from experience, and it’s better to learn once than multiple times.
The days of standalone aerial parks may be numbered. Many companies have expanded their services, not by adding more locations, but by adding more attractions to a single location. Multi-attraction facilities are becoming the norm as jump towers, climbing walls, and jump pads, to name three popular options, are being integrated into parks’ offerings from day one. Anakeesta Mountain in Tennessee, Epic Adventures in Colorado, and Rocklin Adventures in California are just some of the multi-attraction parks that have cropped up recently. Even if you don’t have the space to build a zip coaster or the luxury of an on-site chairlift, it’s probably a good idea to consider expanding upon or adding value to your existing attraction. Many adventure parks have expanded by adding kids’ courses, single-ride zip lines, or canopy walks. >> cont.
55 Winter 2018
People often ask, “Where is our industry going?” It’s an interesting question, given that we are still in the infancy stages of an industry that is growing at an exponential rate. While it’s impossible to predict the future with 100 percent accuracy, there are some clear signals from which we can learn.
You can also add some pizzazz by swapping out your elements seasonally. The more the industry continues to expand, the more likely your guests are to want something different each time they come back. Or, as we like to say (for those in the know)... SQUIRREL!
Other advantages may not be as apparent, but certainly start to add up. For one, it’s nice to show up for work and not need to worry if a tree fell on the course and damaged elements, and small things like paved parking and generally easier-to-navigate locations can make this type of facility feel more accessible. The downsides? It’s MUCH more expensive to set up an indoor facility from scratch, and most ready-built buildings don’t have much more than 25 feet of ceiling height. And the advantages of indoor facilities can also be disadvantages. While there’s something to be said for climbing in an air-conditioned space with music blasting, an indoor facility just can’t provide the same sense of adventure that a tree-based park can.
Ski Areas Adding More Summer Attractions
The racing zip line is just one of the many activities and attractions at Anakeesta, Tenn., which followed the multiattraction model from day one.
Speaking of outdoor, tree-based facilities, a few years ago we began to see ski areas in the U.S. and Canada developing summer attractions. While this has been the trend throughout Europe for several decades now, it’s only just recently begun to catch on here. Early attractions, which are still trending now, included zip line tours and alpine slides. More recently we are seeing the inclusion of aerial adventure parks, mazes, and a whole host of other attractions at ski resorts.
While the terms “adventure” and “indoors” don’t always seem to go hand-in-hand, more and more adventure facilities are being built in large indoor spaces. Ropes Courses Inc., started the trend with its steel-constructed ropes courses, and indoor construction has evolved to include wooden pole courses, ninja-style activities, and even parkour-based elements.
Killington Resort in Vermont is one of several ski resorts in North America investing heavily in high-throughput aerial adventure and gravity-fed attractions. Ski areas generally tend to gravitate toward attractions that have a higher throughput, in order to best emulate the ski and snowboard experience. As we all know, it can take a minute (or 30) to harness-up participants and teach them the ins and outs of aerial attractions. As a result, many ski resorts have taken advantage of their natural terrain to maximize throughput by adding gravity-fed attractions like mountain coasters, updated alpine slides, zip coasters, and, of course, downhill mountain biking. “Ninja Warrior”-style courses are becoming popular at indoor facilities, including those with a family focus, like the new Fun Zone 2.0 at Smugglers’ Notch, Vt. Some of the advantages of operating indoors are obvious: weather is no longer a factor, sites can operate year-round, and it sure is nice to climb in a climate-controlled environment in the middle of an already populated area.
Like any other trend, there were a few pioneers in the realm of summer attractions. Winter Park Resort in Colorado has had mountain biking and alpine slides for many years. However, summer attractions are not limited to major ski resorts out West. Some of the most elaborate year-round attractions are located on smaller properties in New England, the Midwest, and eastern Canada.
Amusement Parks Jumping In
It was not long ago that zip line tours were associated with vacations in Costa Rica and Hawaii, while adventure parks were those things that you climbed on in Switzerland. As the industry has expanded domestically, international providers have started to catch on as well.
Much like ski resorts, amusement parks want to get in on the aerial attraction industry as well. Many amusement parks across the United States are considering or adding adventure attractions to their current offerings. Amusement parks also tend to gravitate toward the higher-throughput activities in order to stay on brand with their other attractions, so you are more likely to see a zip coaster than a double-black-diamond aerial trail at your local Six Flags.
Commercial Lending Growth
Given the scale and scope with which the industry has caught on, we are now seeing commercial lenders loosening their purse strings a bit for aerial attractions. While many businesses in the startup phase without any prior experience are still heavily reliant on private investment, those with industry experience are finding it easier to obtain bank financing. Often these are SBA (Small Business Administration)-type loans. It is still a difficult road to get traditional financing (plan on at LEAST six months to get it all figured out), but it is no longer the impossible task of yesteryear. If you have three or more years of operating history, getting an expansion loan gets even easier.
The Naufar Rehabilitation and Wellness Centre in Doha, Qatar, has installed this Sky Trail from Ropes Courses Inc. From wilderness locations to indoor malls, from China to the Caribbean, every region with a population big enough to support it is looking to build an aerial park, zip line tour, or other aerial attraction.
By the time you finish reading this, something new will have happened in the industry—that’s how fast it’s moving. All of the changes that are afoot can leave you wondering if you should open your chain of adventure parks across the Southwest or build the longest zip line in the world in Dubai (although it’s too late for the latter—at press time, that was already slated for December 2017). While it may seem overwhelming, here are some factors to keep in mind as you work your way through this industry:
1 STAY ON TOP OF WHAT’S OUT THERE: We understand how easy it is to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of your business and lose sight of everything else going on in the industry. We’re not saying that you need to spend hours a day on Google researching the latest and greatest, but it doesn’t hurt to visit the occasional aerial attraction
while you are on vacation, attend the ACCT Conference and/or IAAPA, or subscribe to publications like this one. And remember to check out adventureparkinsider.com from time to time.
the feasibility. There are hundreds of factors that will inform whether or not a new attraction is feasible, and it’s much better to invest in a little research than to go all-in and gamble with your money.
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU ARE GOOD AT: There’s no reason to expand into an area that you’re unfamiliar with, simply because it’s the current trend. Remember, your existing customers are often your best source of marketing, so when in doubt, consider what they would want to see (and it doesn’t hurt to ask!).
KEEP IT INTERESTING: We periodically like to ask our clients if they have 20 years of experience, or one year of experience that they have repeated for the past 20 years. As the industry evolves, customers are constantly looking for the next thing, and any adjustment to your park that you can make—no matter how big or how small—just might be the difference for your new and returning guests.
3 MAKE SURE IT’S FEASIBLE: Just because the mountain coaster in Colorado was awesome (and they are awesome), it doesn’t necessarily mean you should open one in Nebraska. No matter what the expansion option is, we suggest going through some sort of process to determine
From equipment to elements, from concessions to the attractions themselves, the more you can refresh what you are offering, the more likely you are to keep your customers coming back again and again.
57 57 Winter 2018
What Does This Mean to Me?
BY MORGAN TILTON
Photo systems continue to evolve as they become more widespread.
OF PHOTO SYSTEMS Travelers love pictures of themselves doing once-in-a-lifetime activities surrounded by stunning natural landscapes. This cultural trend is a winwin for business: when photo system technologies are integrated into aerial adventure parks and zip line courses, the guests’ desire to see, and share, their photos translates into an uptick in profits for the operation. There are several photo systems specifically designed for aerial adventure operations, and all have their benefits, depending on the needs of the operator. The technology has evolved quickly in recent years, as have guest expectations. Advanced photo services are becoming the norm, so parks are making moves to keep up and realize the benefits of what these systems offer.
^ Top Right: Action Photo System’s tree-mounted cameras have a 100 percent capture rate.
^ Above: Picthrive’s online store allows guests to buy images long after leaving a park.
According to Adventure Park Insider’s inaugural 2016 State of the Industry survey, 25 percent of commercial, pay-to-play respondents reported that they plan to add photo services to their operation this year (and the 2017 survey shows a similar trend for next year). For those that already had photo services, a majority said that the revenue generated from the services accounted for 10 percent or more of total revenues. BIG PICTURE Automated photo systems can benefit any aerial park regardless of geographic location, size, or visitation. Integrated systems enable employees to focus on their responsibilities of guiding tours,
customer service, and guest safety. But automated or manual, photo services add to a great customer experience, in part because visitors now expect them. Those images also become great marketing material when they have the park’s logo and hashtag and are shared on social media. Furthermore, as technologies evolve, the system providers continue to advance their software and hardware capabilities to meet consumer and market needs. Nailing excellent action shots at aerial adventure parks—the ones that customers want to purchase, download, and share on social media—requires strategic camera placement, timing, and turnover. Plus, production of the photos themselves needs to be timely, and the purchase process convenient. Case in point: Catalina Aerial Adventure and Zip Line Eco Tour, located on Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles. It recently replaced its old single-camera system with an automated photography system from Snapsportz. The system uses RFID (radio-frequency identification) tag technology to capture and sort pictures of each customer individually. Three cameras were integrated on the zip line course, and four cameras on the aerial adventure course. As a result, the percentage of guests who purchased photos grew from 20 percent to 35 percent and is still on the rise, says Catalina’s zip line operations manager Reed Woodward.
That’s what suppliers have been saying for years. “We provide operators with the technology we’ve created and they can use the photos for selling or social marketing benefits,” explains Snapsportz founder Ben Kottke. “We also provide handheld solutions, but our core mantra is to automate. Our systems automate what professional photographers can do in areas where there is repeated behavior.” Fotaflo also offers an option that uses barcodes to track and organize automatically captured photos—however, that’s not what it recommends for operators. “The quality of the photos is typically lower because it’s automatic,” says Fotaflo marketing manager Jesse Walsh. She says that when guides take the photos with a handheld camera, the images often come out better, and it also “increases interactions between guests and guides. Guests usually give a much better rating” because of the added engagement. “It makes it a part of the experience,” she says. Ultimately, operators have different needs and considerations, and both approaches can be successful. STRATEGIC PLACEMENT For its automated system, Catalina
worked closely with Snapsportz to establish the placement of the cameras on the zip tour and adventure park. “They brought handheld cameras and did two site visits before we finally agreed,” Woodward says. The crew photographed zip-liners in several locations and determined the best angle based on the background and the pattern of the sun. Was it beautiful most of the day, or backlit and impossible to see anything? “That was a big part of the process of determining how to maintain the quality of the photo throughout the whole day,” he explains. Similarly, Fotaflo worked with Treeosix Adventure Parks (Saskatchewan, Canada) CEO Jori Kirk very closely to establish the “Fotaflo hierarchy:” Certain locations where images are most important, especially because Kirk decided to establish a guide-controlled, manual photography system. Each guide uses a Samsung smartphone to take pictures, which automatically upload to the software system and funnel back to the office where guests can view the images on a display screen post-tour. SHARED REVENUE Picthrive—a software platform that parks use to sell photos and videos, and to market via social media—offers
a different service and business model. There are no contracts or upfront fees. Instead, Picthrive charges a $3 fee if a photo album is purchased at the park’s POS. If guests don’t have time to stay and browse photos after the tour, they can visit Picthrive’s online store. “From the online store, there is a 20 percent commission, they get unlimited uploads, and we provide 24/7 support,” says co-founder Neal Belovay. The company views itself as a business partner with the operator. “A transaction occurs only if they are successful with sales. Our goal is to help them,” says Belovay. Snapsportz likewise incorporates a shared revenue model. “We were impressed with Snapsportz’ involvement in the process, because they offered a revenue-share model,” says Woodward. “They’re only going to do as well as we’re doing. They have more skin in the game. They react better and faster [when we need technical support—and we’re on a remote island].” Fotaflo also features a tiered revenue share based on the number of photos that are sold. The greater the number, the higher percentage of the profit that belongs to the operator. “We have a
^ Above: Fotaflo clients use the company’s app to select and deliver photos to their guests.
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^ Right: RFID tags on guests’ helmets trigger Snapsportz’ automated photography system, and also organize the photos by tag, so guests can easily view and purchase them.
partnership approach. There is an initial set-up fee that we split, and we take a percentage of photo sales moving forward,” says Walsh. “It keeps us invested in their success. We want them to be successful, because that’s how we’re successful as well.” RETURN ON INVESTMENT How much does a system cost? That depends, mostly, on the number of cameras—which is contingent on what makes sense for each park. For Catalina Island, the system it integrated cost $45,000, which paid for itself in the first three months. ROI depends on a number of factors: the number of visitors, the number of cameras—and thus the number of photos and potential sold photos—and how much the activity costs. In general, the fee or the images is reflective of the activity fee: A $200 zip line tour in Maui might offer a $50 photography package, whereas a $50 zip line tour in Utah might offer a $15 bundle of photos. “In Hawaii, the return on investment— assuming that the operator has two to three cameras—would be a few months, tops,” says Kottke. Most Fotaflo clients experience a 50 percent conversion rate and a first-year ROI, Walsh says.
For clients of Action Photo Systems, which specializes in zip line and aerial photography solutions, a typical three-camera system costs about $25,000. “That cost includes the server, two point-of-sale kiosks, and the RFID tags. If they want more cameras or printed photography, those things are add-ons,” explains co-owner Nate Pfefferkorn. The company’s clients usually see the payoff in three months to a year, he says. MAINTENANCE Maintenance of photo systems is relatively simple. Typically, software updates occur automatically, and hardware maintenance is minimal. Kottke says, “Usually, maintenance—what is needed to keep the system running—is only required every couple of years, when we need to swap things out.”
Often, a remote Wi-Fi antenna will need more attention than the cameras themselves. After many years of use—something like 500,000 photos—a camera might need to be replaced. And if a glitch or issue ever popped up, Snapsportz is virtually available 24/7, Woodward says. “Snapsportz is very responsive. We get email alerts every time something goes down, so we hear about it immediately. If it’s something that they can work on themselves, they work on it remotely and it’s generally fixed within the hour,” he says. POTENTIAL CHALLENGES Experience in the field has revealed some challenges—and spurred solutions. One aspect to consider is the strength of the site’s Wi-Fi connectivity. If a park’s location does not have reliable internet, it may want to consider having an on-site server versus uploading images to the cloud via Wi-Fi. Case in point: Treeosix Adventure Parks is so remote that it was necessary for Kirk to opt for the Samsung smartphones as cameras. “In an area that is really rural, the devices that we use for photos need to be able to upload the photos quickly by connecting to cell phone towers rather than Wi-Fi, so that the images arrive at the office before the guests return,” he explains. Walsh says one of Fotaflo’s clients is a boat tour in Alaska with no connectivity for much of the tour. “They signal to guests once they’re within Wi-Fi range so guests can check for photos while they are still on the boat,” she says. Another factor to consider is the location’s power source. Catalina Island, for instance, draws power for lights and electrical equipment from solar panels. Once the automated photo system was added, the batteries that store the solar power could not replenish at a fast enough rate to support the new energy needs. As a result, up-to-date battery banks have been introduced, and more upgrades are ongoing. However, for now, says Woodward, when it’s not sunny, the system sometimes goes down—resulting in a loss of revenue and disappointed customers.
THE FUTURE Where are photo services headed? Several developments are in the works. Companies are adding a video component. Snapsportz is introducing the ability to host 10-second-long video clips. Eventually, those clips will be automatically spliced in a prearranged film, canned, and offered to guests to share. Videos require more data than photos, ergo, a larger server is needed to accommodate and process the data. Fotaflo is also launching an automatically compressed video clip—like a highlight reel—that is sharable on social media with an intro clip, outro clip, and three clips taken during the tour. It is launching the video component later this year, and at no additional cost, because it sees the market value. Free photo services could also become a trend. When Kirk crunched the numbers, he realized that 30 percent of his customers were not buying photos. But he also realized that referrals from that 30 percent would generate more revenue than photo sales to them would. The decision to offer free photos to everyone was easy to make. The change also streamlined the customer service— employees don’t need to spend time explaining the photo packages—and the satisfaction rate of the tour photos jumped to 98 percent. Photo services also provide useful customer intelligence. Fotaflo, for example, is able to provide its clients with extensive marketing data. “We are able to track all photos and the activity that happens: how many times they were shared, emailed and downloaded, and how many times Facebook guests viewed and liked the photos,” Walsh says. Action Photo Systems is focused on developing its partner base. “Any additions or changes [to the system] will be incremental at this point. We’ve developed the system to a point that is 100 percent reliable with 100 percent capture rate. Now we just want to work with people to get photos to their clients,” says Pfefferkorn.
Growing competition, and concern over consumer confidence, are compelling both commercial and traditional operators to innovate and expand.
About This Report BY SARAH BORODAEFF
We tallied more than 100 respondents at press time, roughly half the estimated total that will be included in our final report. Of these, 59 are pay-to-play operators, and 44 traditional. More than 75% of the respondents are high-level owners or managers. While the results described here are preliminary, they reveal some key trends that we will explore further in the full report.
AND RICK KAHL
As in last year’s report, we segmented respondents into two general groups, pay-to-play (P2P)—commercially and recreationally focused businesses—and traditional—programs that are developmental, therapeutic, or educationally-focused in nature. Here’s a look at the major trends and information we gathered so far. VISITATION Visitation for both P2P and traditional programs rose in 2017, on average.
visitors rose six points, to 26%, for P2P operators, and was up nine points for traditional programs, to 49%. REVENUE Revenues were mostly flat for both types of operations, based on preliminary analysis. However, we asked operators to report revenues in set ranges in 2016, and to provide more precise numbers in 2017, so specific comparisons are difficult to make. Near as we can tell, in comparing the10 traditional and 15 P2P operations that reported revenues for both years, traditional respondents reported an average 4% increase in revenue, while P2P operations reported a 2% decline. Both differences are well within the margin of error, though.
For traditional operations, revenues from lodging, food & beverage, and/or retail could help account for an increase in revenue, as all these categories were offered at an increased number of operations compared to the previous year. P2P operations that reported for both years saw a decrease in revenue per visitor, from $60 to $56. We will watch to see if this changes in the full report, and also explore the revenue story for all revenue sources. ACTIVITIES AND AMENITIES The main formulas for adventure parks and traditional programs are pretty well set. Adventure parks feature either a zip line, zip tour, or aerial adventure courses. Traditional programs lean heavily on high and low ropes courses. >> cont.
ANNUAL VISITATION FOR 2017 0-5,000 5,001-10,000
For the 40 P2P operators who reported visitation totals for this year and last, visitation increased 6% year-over-year. But visitation among them varied widely, from a 20% decrease to a 20% increase.
For the 29 traditional operations that reported visitation totals for both years, the reported increase is 9%.
On another positive note, return visitation increased on both sides of the industry. The percentage of return
0% BASE: 82 RESPONDENTS
PAY-TO-PLAY RESPONDENTS: 46
TRADITIONAL RESPONDENTS: 36
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Business varied widely for pay-toplay and experiential operations over the past year, according to Adventure Park Insider’s second annual industry-wide survey. While overall, operators mostly saw single-digit increases in revenues and visits, individual operations reported increases or declines up to 20 percent or more. The results highlight the rapid changes and evolution that the industry continues to experience.
P2P operations continue to expand the range of complementary activities they offer. The biggest growth categories are kids courses, climbing walls, and free fall devices, as operators round out their businesses. Disc golf was another fast-growing category among this year’s respondents. It’s clear that P2P operators are expanding their range of activities, both high-thrill and low-thrill, to appeal to a wider, family audience. Many P2P operations are beginning to blur the line between traditional and P2P formats by offering traditional team-building challenges, either ground-based or traditional high and low ropes courses. (See “Adventure Rec. Vs. Adventure Ed,” p. 68, for more on this trend.) This suggests a need for consumer education on the difference between “team building” and “team bonding.” In traditional operations, high and low ropes courses are typically augmented by zip lines, climbing walls, and giant swings. Zip lines are the fifth-most-commonly offered activity, but are the third-most-frequently visited, demonstrating the activity’s popularity.
Amenities can be another source of revenue, and more and more P2P operators are adding these. In the past year, the number of operations with photo services has increased by 15 percentage points; more than half of our responding P2P operators now offer photo services. These services account for an average of 8% of overall revenues, but can be as much as 25% of total revenue. (See “A Snapshot of Photo Systems,” p. 58, for more on photo services.) Other popular amenities include food and beverage and retail, and free services such as on-course water, picnic areas, and Wi-Fi. Shoe rental is also showing up more frequently. EMERGENCY ARREST DEVICES Another item that zip line operators are addressing is their equipment. In the past year, there was a flurry of activity and inquiry regarding back-up braking systems, also known as emergency arrest devices (EAD). Among the survey respondents, 57% of P2P operators and 53% of traditional operators have some
OPERATION SIZE BY REVENUE 3% 6% 17%
5% TRADITIONAL RESPONDENTS: 22 <$100K $100K – $300K
PAY-TO-PLAY RESPONDENTS: 35
$300K – $500K $500K – $1M
$1M – $2.5M $2.5M – $5M
ACTIVITIES OFFERED ALPINE/MOUNTAIN COASTER BUNGEE TRAMPOLINE AIR BAG RAFTING INFLATABLE COURSE
AERIAL ADVENTURE COURSE, KIDS UNDER 7 ZIP LINE TOUR FREE FALL GROUND-BASED COURSE, KIDS UNDER 7 MOUNTAIN BIKING CANOPY TOUR AERIAL ADVENTURE COURSE DISC GOLF GIANT SWING ZIP LINE RIDE CLIMBING WALL GROUND-BASED TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITIES TRADITIONAL LOW ROPES TRADITIONAL HIGH ROPES in percent 100 80 60 40 20 0 20 40 60 80 100 BASE: 103 RESPONDENTS TRADITIONAL RESPONDENTS: 44 PAY-TO-PLAY RESPONDENTS: 59
sort of emergency arrest system, including Prusik brakes, brake blocks, spring banks, or eddy-current brakes. Some respondents commented that they are reviewing their systems with an eye toward upgrading them. INJURIES & INCIDENTS Major injuries, incidents, and near misses get attention in the mainstream media, as we’ve seen over the past two years, but how common are they? We asked respondents to rank the
most common types of injuries they see at their operation. Roughly 90% of P2P and traditional operators ranked scrapes, minor lacerations, and bruises as the most commonly seen injuries, followed by sprains. Other common injuries seen include rope burns and insect bites/stings. The most common causes of injury are slips and falls, and—especially for injuries to guides—guide error, according to respondents. While it’s impossible to
Once the survey is complete, we will perform a more in-depth analysis of the data on injuries and report on any significant findings. FUTURE PLANS A majority of existing operations—55% of P2P respondents and 51% of experiential programs—are making capital investments to attract new visitation, increase repeat visitation, and keep their activity lineup fresh. An additional 32% of P2P respondents and 16% of traditional operations were still considering possible capital expenditures at survey time in mid-November. While aerial adventure courses remain the number one planned addition, operators are increasingly looking to add ancillary activities and amenities to increase time spent on site, increase spend per visitor, and to appeal to wider audiences. Topping the list of planned amenities for P2P parks are climbing walls, free fall devices, photo services, disc golf, and offerings for children under the age of 7. Traditional operators are planning to add items such as giant swings, climbing walls, and traditional low-ropes elements. Both groups of operators are planning updates to existing infrastructure. FUTURE CONCERNS All these expenditures come as both P2P and experiential operations prepare for more competition and worry about consumer confidence. Operators in both camps ranked lack of consumer confidence and competition from family entertainment centers as their top concerns for 2018 (see chart, p. 77). This is a dramatic shift from the concerns for the 2017 season, when finding and managing a qualified staff ranked number one for both segments of the industry. That concern has fallen to the bottom of the pile. These concerns likely stem from the flattening growth in visitation numbers. As more and different types of recreation businesses adopt adventure and experiential elements, the novelty of an
AMENITIES OFFERED PHOTO SERVICE FOOD & BEVERAGE RETAIL LODGING PUBLIC WELCOME AREA ON-COURSE WATER TRADITIONAL PAY-TO-PLAY
PICNIC AREA SHOE RENTAL FREE WI-FI
OTHER (PLEASE SPECIFY) in percent 100 80 60 40 20 0 20 40 60 80 100 BASE: 91 RESPONDENTS TRADITIONAL RESPONDENTS: 42 PAY-TO-PLAY RESPONDENTS: 49
PLANNED CAPITAL EXPENDITURES PUBLIC AREA SHOE RENTAL LODGING ZIP LINE TOUR FOOD & BEVERAGE AERIAL ADVENTURE COURSE: KIDS UNDER 7 INFLATABLE COURSE
CANOPY TOUR (I.E. EXCLUSIVELY AT HEIGHT) MOUNTAIN BIKING RETAIL FREE FALL DEVICE PICNIC AREA GROUND-BASED TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITIES ZIP LINE RIDE DISC GOLF GROUND-BASED COURSE: KIDS UNDER 7 PHOTO SERVICE AERIAL ADVENTURE COURSE ON-COURSE WATER TRADITIONAL HIGH ROPES CLIMBING WALL TRADITIONAL LOW ROPES GIANT SWING OTHER (PLEASE SPECIFY ACTIVITY) WE HAVEN’T DECIDED NOTHING 0%
BASE: 95 RESPONDENTS PAY-TO-PLAY RESPONDENTS: 54 TRADITIONAL RESPONDENTS: 41
adventure park or traditional program gets diluted. That makes the present time an important moment for operators to identify and market their unique value proposition.
Another concern is regulation. This is especially true for traditional operations, which worry that the growth of commercial parks will lead to more >> continued on page 77
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eliminate all incidents, staff training can play a key role in reducing the frequency and severity of incidents, for both guests and staff.
UP FOR DEBATE Five vendors and operators weigh in on some of the pressing
BY THE EDITORS
questions of the day. A lot has changed since we first did a roundtable with industry leaders back in 2015. The aerial adventure park industry has grown, matured, encountered challenges, and made adjustments. To help illuminate what has changed and what has remained the same, we ask some of the same questions, and pose some new questions as well. We interview three of the veterans included in our first roundtable, and welcome two first-time guests. Here’s their collected wisdom.
Adventure Park Insider: WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING THE INDUSTRY? WHAT KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT?
Keith Jacobs: The biggest challenge is the fast pace at which the standards have been changing, especially ASTM 2959 and the requirements for zip lines and their primary and secondary braking systems. While the standards (ASTM and ACCT/ANSI) for traditional ropes courses and aerial adventure parks are also changing, they are not as significant in nature as to affect your installation and operation like changes to the zip line standards. An additional challenge is the growing list of regulations and the significant differences that exist between jurisdictions having authority. As a proponent of regulation, I am glad when states and municipalities express interest in our industry and how to keep it safe, but the patchwork collection of regulations across North America makes it difficult for businesses that cross state or country lines on a regular basis to conduct business. Make sure the professionals you hire are knowledgeable on your jurisdictions’ regulations prior to contracting. Abby Carey: For us, the biggest challenges are gaining repeat business, keeping the course interesting, the weather, and marketing. The things that
keep me awake at night are staff issues, weather, participants, and Norman (my baby). Gerhard Komenda: General safety, poor equipment, and insufficient staff training. We are supposed to be the ones that provide a safe environment for families/children to grow in. Emily Goff: I think that biggest challenge facing the industry is training and safety. With more parks than ever, there are differing views on what is acceptable when it comes to training. Our guides go through at least 40 hours of on-site training along with CPR/first aid courses and take practical and written tests before guiding alone. In addition, we have a handful of lead guides who hold ACCT level 2 certifications and we require that there is always someone onsite with a level 2 or higher certification. Because of the part-time nature of the industry, the most difficult thing for us is continued education and training. We are building a network in the Tucson region with other courses to allow our guides to learn about the industry as a whole and gain more exposure to different systems.
HELMETS: GOOD IDEA, OR NOT? AND FOR WHOM?
Ken Jacquot: I do think helmets are a good idea, but not for all situations. Where they do not make sense is where auto belays or auto lowering systems are being used and the helmet can get snagged on a climbing hold or another stationary object. Emily: I believe that helmets are a good idea for both guests and guides. I’ve worked on courses where they are not required, and people questioned why they did not have to use them. Though not always necessary, I think that wearing them adds an extra sense of protection and comfort. Keith: My answer hasn’t changed much since the first roundtable. I still feel that helmets are better protection than not having one. I would still prefer minors be required to wear helmets, and a policy that allows adults to opt out with a waiver. One new consideration is making sure you are aware of manufacturers policies. For example, Head Rush recommends against helmets on TruBlues, as chin straps and helmet brims can get caught on protruding
OUR PANELISTS: EMILY GOFF, OWNER, ARIZONA ZIPLINE ADVENTURES Emily has worked in the challenge course and outdoor industry for seven years, and is now an owner/ partner at Arizona Zipline Adventures in her hometown of Oracle, Ariz. She oversees hiring, training, day-to-day operations, business relations, and marketing, and guides zip line tours and low-challenge activities anytime she gets the chance.
KEN JACQUOT, OWNER, CHALLENGE TOWERS Ken founded Challenge Towers in 1993 to create unique outdoor experiences through innovative ropes course design. Ken has served on the ACCT board of directors and created/chaired the Government Relations committee. He remains very young at heart.
structures—leading to a longer fall than desired.
BELAY SYSTEMS: LOBSTER CLAWS, SMART BELAYS, OR CONTINUOUS BELAYS? WHY?
Abby: For our course, which is pole based with multiple levels, a continuous belay works well. It keeps the flow of the course moving, plus takes the guesswork out of transfers at platforms. Participants can just worry about navigating the elements in front of them. Keith: Our company is a fan of smart belays and continuous belays for commercial installations. The business model for commercial parks lends itself to systems that are simple for participants to operate with limited instruction and supervision. While traditional double-locking snap hook lanyards do have a place within the industry, that place requires a different staff-to-participant ratio than newer systems.
Keep in mind that ACCT did a public comment period on adventure park operation standards last year, and it’s my understanding that much of that document, including the supervision grid, is being integrated into the next revision of the ACCT/ANSI standard. If making a new purchase of equipment, I would want to be on the right side of the new standard. Emily: In my opinion, lobster claws are still great. Allowing people to oversee their own clipping and unclipping provides a sense of responsibility and requires engagement in what people are doing when out on a course. When using either lobster claws or smart
The business model for commercial parks lends itself to systems that are simple for participants to operate with limited instruction and supervision.
KEITH JACOBS, PRESIDENT, EXPERIENTIAL SYSTEMS Keith is a national provider of ropes courses, adventure parks, and zip line installations, inspections, and trainings. A former ACCT board chair, he is a current member of the Inspector Certification Committee, Standards Development Committee and a member of ANSI and ASTM standards writing groups.
GERHARD KOMENDA, PRESIDENT AND CEO, TREE-MENDOUS AERIAL ADVENTURES Gerhard is an Austrian forester and social therapist; combining his knowledge of trees and his experience with people, he helped found Tree-Mendous to build the greenest and most innovative aerial attractions in the industry.
belays, the key is that guests are thoroughly trained on how to use them and that they go through a practice course before going out on the adventure course. Ken: Smart belays and continuous systems make sense for most commercial parks, since the users are navigating often with minimal staff engagement. Old-school belay systems are great for traditional challenge courses, since staff engagement and facilitation is part of the experience. Gerhard: Lobster claws and ADD/ iPhone addicted kids (in a self-guided adventure park) are a lethal mix. You might as well just tell them to simply hold on to the lifeline. Continuous belays are great if you like being stuck in the herd behind slowpokes, and you don’t want to interact with the challenges by actively clipping and unclipping at the decks or throughout the obstacle. Throughput rate can become an issue really fast. However, some will argue that it’s the safest system on the market. Looking closely at overall incidents makes me put a ques-
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ABBY CAREY, CO-FOUNDER, FIRST FLIGHT ADVENTURE PARK Abby and her husband Brad founded First Flight Adventure Park on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in 2014, and in 2016 were part of a group that opened Corolla Adventure Park, also on OBX. First Flight received the ACCT “Best Design” award in 2015, and Corolla was recognized with the same award in 2016.
UP FOR DEBATE tion mark there. That said, we do use continuous belay systems, mostly on attractions designed for really small kids on low ropes trails (three to five feet above the ground) because kids don’t yet have the motor skills to manipulate safety gear, and speed/throughput is not an issue. Smart belays are it for us. Great safety record, intuitive system, integrated zip line rollers, no strangulation risk (with the pilot bar mounted).
HARNESSES: FULL OR SEAT, AND WHY?
Emily: Full body. They allow us to fit people of all shapes and sizes into our gear and get them out on the course to have fun! The last thing that I would want to do is to single someone out in a group for being top heavy and put them in a significantly different harness from the rest of the group (which is what you would have to do if using seat harnesses). For this reason, we use all full body harnesses. Having shoulder straps also gives guests added sense of comfort and security.
Ken: Full body for staff and clients. That’s pretty much becoming the norm. Gerhard: With the majority of today’s body shapes and weight limits, seat harnesses are pretty useless if a customer inverts. Hanging upside down being just secured with a hip belt is like skydiving with an umbrella. A full body harness is more like a three-point seatbelt in a car versus the lap straps from the ’60s. Let’s grow up and use shoulder straps.
We have learned a great deal about tree care, and experts in the field are in favor of bolting.
ATTACHMENTS TO TREES: DRILL, OR WRAP? (OR WHY YOU DO NEITHER, AND BUILD WITH POLES?)
Ken: Back in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s we did a good bit of tree wrapping. The results were dead, damaged, and hurt trees. Wraps can be managed, but they are not the best solution given the amount of care, attention and maintenance involved. We have learned a great deal about tree care, and experts in the field are in favor of bolting. Poles are a different story, and many different attachment strategies work. Gerhard: This question almost has a religious connotation. Depending on your belief system, all others are wrong—they have to be. But I will venture to share my opinion as an Austrian forester, well knowing that I will be accused of heresy (and worse), maybe even through-bolted to a tree. We prefer to wrap. Most builders that drill into trees do this to affix pieces of lumber against the tree to hold up decks, structures, and cables. We achieve the same structural strength by just clamping the lumber to the trunk— no wound needed. I have yet to understand why drilling a hole for a through bolt makes it better for the tree. The compression of the lumber against the trunk is a given either way. Any structure in a tree will require a maintenance schedule to move all wraps and friction locks every so many years, either up or down by six inches and rotating them. Not doing so will eventually harm the trees. Performing that maintenance renders moot the main argument against wrapping, that of choking the trees. Yes, that requires extra effort. But you don’t complain about changing the oil in your car periodically, since it keeps it healthy and running, do you? It’s the same with course maintenance—including moving all wraps.
Emily: Our setting is a unique one, in the middle of the Sonoran Desert where large trees aren’t exactly easy to come by. We built using poles and I am happy with the result. Because our course is in full sunshine 285 days out of the year, we do have to pay close attention to the poles and stain and treat them accordingly. I would have preferred to build with trees if that was an option.
HAS YOUR BUSINESS MODEL EVOLVED? HOW, AND WHY?
Abby: We see quite a number of repeat visitors each year to the Outer Banks area. To give them something new and keep them coming back, we switch out seven elements a year. Also, we now devote a lot of time and energy to staff “socials” to keep staff engaged. We rely on happy staff to create an excellent experience for our participants.
We built our business with the mission to bring people together to enjoy and expore our area. Emily: When we were first building, our model was based primarily around the zip line tour that we offer. Over the past year and a half, we have moved toward also serving as a community space by hosting a variety of events. And we built a restaurant, which has resulted in a larger return customer base. Even if people aren’t going on the course for a second or third time, it allows them to bring friends out and enjoy our venue while their friends are out on the course. We built our business with the mission to bring people together to enjoy and explore our area while creating a memorable experience—sometimes this involves the zip line, and sometimes it means eating a burger and watching the sunset, which is okay by us. Keith: Our company has seen tremendous growth over the past five years. We have enlarged our office and work-
Ken: We have a long and successful history with the traditional challenge course model and are still involved with that world. The expansion of the commercial use of our technology, and how to make it more available to the commercial markets, has pushed us to expand and evolve.
WHAT TO DO TO MAKE ADVENTURE PARKS MORE FAMILY-INCLUSIVE? Abby: Kids’ courses are great to have. The younger the participants a course allows, the more families you’ll have. And since we pretty much see mostly families at our park, a kids’ course is essential. Keith: Smaller parks with limited budgets should, at minimum, get some kids’ games—like giant Jenga, large connect fours, bean bag toss, etc.—to keep small children and their parents engaged while on your property. Organizations with larger budgets should build in a kids’ course, or some kids’ activities that are similar to the elevated ones, but closer to the ground. Additionally, creative play spaces, like net climbs and traverse climbing walls or boulders, allow kids to play without the demands on staff to outfit harnesses and supervise activities. Emily: It is important when building adventure parks to consider the entire
family. We built AZA with a few activities that small children could participate in, free of charge, that don’t involve the zip line course. We have hiking trails, gold panning, and different games that people of all ages can enjoy. This is essential in allowing groups to come out and share an experience, even if it is not the adventure experience.
world more accessible to a greater demographic as a good idea. Keith: I see a combination of low- and high-thrill filling the marketplace. More and more parks are adding low-thrill activities, like courses for small children and kids that are close to or even on the ground, allowing younger brothers and sisters to do some of the same activities
People are getting used to seeing parks all over the country, so trying to amp things up and have different elements than other parks is going to be tricky as the industry gets flooded. Gerhard: It’s important to accommodate smaller kids (if you are an operator you know the younger siblings problem) and to be ADA compliant. Check out our new “Nature Trek” concept located on several acres in the middle of the Bronx Zoo in NYC. The Nature Trek combines fun, some exciting scary stuff, hidden educational elements, contemplative views, and social interaction without any electronics. Grandparents are taking the little ones up in the air, no harness or other gear needed, and all are having a blast. On the ground, a new-generation playground lets the kids use old-fashioned water pumps and play in the mud, build huts out of branches, paint with water on slate, make animal tracks in sand and learn to identify them, and hide in dense plant tunnels. Nature Trek sees several thousand visitors in a single day. With a $6 single ticket price it offers a dream ROI.
ADVENTURE PARKS OF THE FUTURE: MORE HIGH-THRILL, OR MORE LOW-THRILL?
Ken: It is not all about the thrill. Folks like being in the vertical world for different reasons. Zip lines, swings, and drops add the thrill, but folks also like challenges, both physical and mental. I see finding ways to make the vertical
their older peers are doing. Treehouse villages are also low-thrill creative play spaces for kids. These low-thrill activities don’t diminish the fact that courses are still being built taller and harder and zip lines are longer and steeper. Add ninja warrior-type fitness and race activities and courses, and the thrill is definitely there—participants navigate those activities without the benefit of harnesses and traditional fall protection. Emily: High thrill! People love to go fast and get their adrenaline pumping. Our course allows guests to ease into zip lining, and each line gets progressively faster than the last. When people come off our last lines, they want more. With new technology being developed at a rapid pace, there is no doubt in my mind that people will continue to push the limits of thrill and adventure. Abby: People are getting used to seeing parks all over the country, so trying to amp things up and have different elements than other parks is going to be tricky as the industry gets flooded. I’d like to see more in-depth problem solving or virtual reality on course. Who knows where we’ll go? The sky is the limit.
WAIT, THERE’S MORE! To see all our panelists’ answers, and to join the discussion yourself, head to “Up For Debate” at adventureparkinsider.com.
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shop space twice, and our staff continues to grow in size. Probably one of the biggest changes over the years has been moving toward pre-manufacturing as much as we can for installations. This includes prepping every section of wire rope, every piece of lumber, etc., and shipping it as assembled as we can. Our installations become more of assembly projects than construction. Pieces get subassembled on the ground and pulled into place quickly. This has allowed us to reduce our on-site travel expenses by almost half, and to complete a growing number of projects each year.
ADVENTURE REC VS ADVENTURE ED Some adventure parks are discovering they can offer both individual fun and games as well as experiential teambuilding education.
BY PETER OLIVER
Can a pay-to-play adventure park double as an experiential education facility? The evolution of the adventure-park concept from the experiential education business in the last couple of decades has created two distinct paths: one, a commercial park for recreation, thrills, and amusement, the other a program to achieve specific educational, developmental, or therapeutic objectives, team-building being preeminent among them.
The first finds its audience primarily in the general public, just out to have a good time, while the second finds its audience in organizations—schools, corporations, governmental bodies, etc. And both, if well designed and managed, can produce healthy profits. This bifurcation, however, raises some fundamental questions. Which approach works best—or most profitably—at a particular park? Can a single park serve both purposes? And if a park owner or manager chooses to go after both markets, what are the keys to pulling it off successfully? ON THE ROPES All modern adventure parks can trace their heritage back to the ropes courses that gained popularity in the 1980s. And ropes courses can trace a familial link to
military training courses with a history that stretches across millennia. Traditional ropes courses, both high and low, were conceived with developmental goals in mind. The idea was to help participants overcome fears, learn to work together as a team, and grasp what it means to rely on the help of another person (through human belay). Ropes courses and their variations, of course, remain an integral component in the overall adventure-park picture. But as new elements have come into play—zip lines, canopy tours, suspension bridges, and others designed more for individual fun than teambuilding and mutual reliance—and as new
Top left: Facilitator leads a session at Arbortrek. Above: Adventura, Wash., incorporates ground-based activities into its educational programs.
safety devices such as auto-belays and automatic braking systems have been introduced, the idea of simply creating a park for entertainment (fun for the whole family!) has blossomed. In many ways, it’s simpler. No need to tailor programs to meet the developmental objectives of a group. And the potential market is larger. Just about anyone who falls within a park’s height and weight criteria can buy a ticket, put on a harness, get a brief instructional intro, and happily go on their way.
But the growth of pay-to-play parks won’t squelch the education/development concept. A very healthy market still exists for that approach, too. So back to the original question: Can a park do both, recreation and education? Yes—some are doing so quite effectively. While pay-to-play and experiential programs often feature somewhat different physical structures and aerial
TWO IN ONE The main thing that makes a developmental program work is the expertise of facilitators in creating and shaping unique programs that might be directed toward disparate objectives. That’s why for developmental courses, says Sohl, “Invest in staff, not necessarily structures. You don’t put money into your structures, you put money into your team.”
A teambuilding group at Arbortrek works through a spider wall activity.
FOCUS ON OUTCOMES Mike Smith, president of Arbortrek, agrees that the elements, obstacles, or activities in any developmental course are less important than “the approach you take.” That means determining in advance the desired outcomes or objectives of any particular group, and then custom-designing a program and context within which those objectives can best be met.
elements, what matters most is how those elements are used, not the differences between them. In fact, says Scott Chreist, CEO of Adventura in Washington state, in the realm of experiential development, “You don’t really need a course. A good course just augments what you do.” A developmental program may incorporate groundbased activities, a low-ropes course, a high-ropes course, or adventure-park elements. There is no single design model to cover all bases, since program objectives can vary so widely. Leslie Sohl, director of training and operations for Bonsai Design, agrees. A developmental program, she says, depends not on the structures or their design per se, but on “how you use the structures to achieve specific goals through a specific process.”
Adventura has chosen, successfully, to address both concepts. Chreist is the former director of ropes courses for Outward Bound, so he has extensive knowledge on the experiential education side of the ledger. He notes that the two concepts have not (or not yet) dovetailed into a single model; at Adventura, the recreational adventure park and corporate team-building business remain, with some overlap, separate. Some layouts, though, lend themselves to multiple uses more than others. Sohl says that while a commercial park will typically feature larger structures and larger spaces, a developmental course should be more contained, to promote more group interaction. A hub-and spoke layout, adds Chreist, might not work well, because participants become too dispersed. On the other hand, variety can bring its own advantages. For example, Chreist says groups at Adventura may well do group-oriented teambuilding activities in the morning, then have fun playing in the adventure park in the afternoon.
Traditionally, a big part of the experiential process was relying on a teammate to mitigate risk, especially in belaying on ropes courses. The automatic belays and other safety devices now used at adventure parks have essentially turned real risk into perceived risk. Still, activities can be built on the premise of teamwork—say, two teammates stabilizing a wobbly rope bridge while another crosses. The challenges used to achieve a group’s objectives are different, even as the goal remains the same. In addition, the ability and motivation of participants to pursue those objectives can vary widely. Differences in physical fitness, confidence, psychological barriers, and the cognitive makeup of group members all come into play. As Smith points out, there is no single way to approach school groups, since developing a program for fourth graders is an entirely different ballgame than developing a program for high schoolers. For >> continued on page 76
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Team members celebrate a triumph at Adventura, where facilitators design programs based on customer needs and the park’s facilities.
For an adventure park to offer a viable experiential program, says Smith, it’s important to create “activities that provide opportunities for individuals to support one another.” The idea is to set up “a context to create a sense of interdependence.”
More options for kids’ activities means more happy guests.
the trolleys are lightweight to make travel through the course easier for smaller participants. Chick Pea obstacles are similar to the elements in the big course, but lighter and easier to use for little ones.
s adventure parks flourish, operators are having an important realization: Nobody should put baby in a corner. But since they also can’t allow baby to ride in a backpack with mom or dad down the zip line, the need for aerial adventure parks to have activities that appeal to a wide range of family members is key to not only getting folks there, but keeping them around. And while that notion extends to grandma and grandpa, perhaps the biggest challenge, and most in need of attention, is finding activities for smaller children. European operations realized this long ago, and because of more relaxed regulations than one may find elsewhere, they’ve created elements and attractions that are open to the younger set. Here in the United States, it’s taken a bit longer, and still may need some work. That said, progress is being made.
CLIMBING FOR KIDS “We are always looking at adding elements for all different ages,” says Julien Hatton of Treetop Quest, which operates multiple adventure parks in America and also provides equipment to parks across the country. At each of its own parks, children 4 and up can now take part in the fun, on courses designed with them in mind.
Treetop Quest requires parents to supervise their kids, guiding them from the ground (the Chick Pea Course isn’t a babysitter). The elements allow kids to gain confidence, and eco-themed plaques throughout teach the young climbers about the environment. As important, the course gives little kids not just a feeling of inclusion, but a taste for outdoor active fun—queuing them up as customers of the future.
Treetop Quest’s Chick Pea Course is a kid-friendly product that allows 4- to 7-year-olds to discover the fun of an adventure park, in an environment scaled to their size. Kids are hooked up to a continuous belay system, and
Treetop Quest has also introduced Spider Quest, a harness-free course with a giant safety net below. Adventurers have an hour to explore the 15 treeto-tree obstacles as they climb, crawl, and swing through the course. In order
Kids’ courses that are low to the ground, like those at Treetop Quest (opposite page and left), are a great way to introduce youth to aerial adventure. Above, “The Tower” from Star Lifts is a fun, practical, and kid-friendly addition to any park.
Another harness-free installation from Treetop is the Hobbit Village. It includes a variety of things for little ones to explore, such as slides, low-impact obstacles, and treehouses—all set above, and around, a giant safety net. For kids as young as 2-3 years old, Kiddie Quest is a fun outdoor activity. It offers a taste of adventure on a low, near-ground obstacle course as well as adventure games, activities, and recreational play equipment. Each mini element requires parental assistance, and helps tiny tots learn to maneuver; but most important of all, helps them have fun. All of Treetop Quest’s products can be designed and built at other parks. Customer feedback, Hatton says, has been excellent. At Gunstock, N.H., where
Treetop Quest installed a Hobbit Village, “they were really packed during the summer,” he says. Of course, these installations can offer an ROI in addition to the benefit of attracting families and keeping them on-site longer so they spend more organically. Treetop Quest charges for using many of the attractions geared toward little kids. For instance, it’s a $5 fee to enjoy Kiddie Quest. But aside from the cost of installation, these kid-friendly courses have low operating costs, thanks to minimal staffing requirements. Since all such projects are custom built, it’s difficult to give an exact estimate for build time and cost. But typically, Hatton says, a Hobbit Village with five treehouses would take around a month and a half to build and cost around $150,000. A small installation could run as little as $50,000, and a large Hobbit Village could cost as much as $350,000. All told, investing in kids’ activities seems worth the cost. Hatton sees
these types of attractions as an integral part to the general movement of what families are after. “People are looking to get back to the trees, to nature and to be challenged,” he says. “Making it so the entire family can enjoy it just makes sense.” EASY RIDERS Conor Rowan of Star Lifts USA says American adventure parks are still learning about catering to small kids. Star Lifts offers a variety of unique, yet practical, options that could make good additions to an aerial adventure park. The Tower, for instance, is an interactive ride in which the participant pulls on a rope to control the speed, height, and movement of their carrier up and down the vertical structure. “You can make choices, so it’s a bit different from a ride,” says Rowan, and perfect for smaller kids. The company also offers the Sky Dive, which is a kind of junior zip line. A single-seat carrier is attached to a trolley >> continued
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to participate, kids must be at least 7 years old and able to comfortably reach up their hands to a height of 4’ 5” when standing flatfooted. Adults are encouraged to participate as well, or observe from the trails on the ground below.
Kid-friendly options abound. Star Lifts’ The Tower and Sky Dive (far left and top), Sandy Creek Mining sluices (middle and bottom), and Treetop Quest’s Hobbit Village. that travels on a cable no longer than 150 feet long. The seat has a restraint bar to keep passengers in place. The entire ride offers “nothing crazy,” Rowan says, as it sits not too high off the ground and zips down and back—kids get on and off in the same spot.
Rowan says that the advent of more adventurous elements for smaller kids is slower, because rules and regulations can delay the process. Nonetheless, he says it’s important for operators to understand that what pleases a smaller child may not please an older one; and that’s okay, so long as there is something offered for all. Something like The Tower, he says, “Is not as exhilarating to a 15 year old as it is to a younger kid. But if you are a little kid? It’s awesome.” TREASURE HUNTING And then there are the simple pleasures—elements added to an aerial adventure park or resort that thrill in a totally different way and please all ages. The thrill of discovery is something we all enjoy. And, as many parks have discovered, panning for treasure at a mining sluice is one of the more inclusive, interactive, addictive—and profitable—activities out there.
A staple at spots like cavern tours, these long, sloping troughs carry flowing water, and guests use a sluice box to sift through raw mining material they purchase on site with the hopes of finding gemstones. Sluices are becoming more and more popular, and speak to all ages and interests. Justin Woodruff of Sandy Creek Mining Company knows this for sure. As adventure parks also grow in popularity, Woodruff says, operators are realizing they’re not just catering to thrill seekers. “This is a different kind of traffic we are seeing now,” he says. “Lots of day trippers and lots of multi-generational families.” Sandy Creek Mining’s set-ups are low enough for any child who can stand (no one ever has to stand on a bucket, says Woodruff). And using them is simple. “You don’t have to be an athlete,” Woodruff adds. “You just need to have a little curiosity. This is low tech. There are no flashing lights. It’s just simple fun. It’s about the fun of discovery.” There are other benefits to the system as well, he says, like keeping folks busy, engaged, and happy on high-volume days, in much the same way that a
climbing wall can be a good activity to keep people entertained while awaiting their turn on the zip tour or aerial park. “We build these places up so fast with zip lines, and all of a sudden we have so many people there,” he says. “This is something where you can park a lot of people.” The advantage is, they are actually doing something instead of feeling “parked.” So, do kids actually like this? The market studies and planning all say yes, but Woodruff got a more personal affirmation one day at the zoo—with his own kids, who are four and seven. “I took them to the Columbus [Ohio] Zoo, and the kids went panning there. They just went nuts for it,” he recalls. “Like it was the greatest thing that ever happened to them in their lives. They were all excited to discover it, and I was like, ‘You do know what daddy does, don’t you?’” From easy-to-access obstacle courses to tiny zip lines and sluices, parks are beginning to give little ones a more active way to be part of the fun. And that, says Woodruff—the businessman and the dad—is great for everyone. “When the kids are happy, the whole family is happy,” he says.
In part II of our series on booking software solutions, we take a look at many different softwares, and a vision of what the next few years have in store. BY MAT NEWTON, CHIEF TIGER, TOURISMTIGER
PART II GETTING BUSINESS ON THE BOOKS
Don’t make a hasty decision about choosing this vital piece of your business operation. Do your research, ask lots of questions—and then try them out. Now, let’s look at the different products on the market. Who’s muscling in? What are the more experienced hands doing? Time to find out.
WHAT’S COMING IN THE NEXT TWO YEARS? I asked every supplier the same question: Where’s the industry going in the coming future? Here are some things to keep an eye on: • Optimized checkout funnels. Tiny little tweaks to a website or to a booking software can sometimes increase sales by 10 to 20 percent, so you can expect to hear a lot of noise about A/B testing. I’d personally like to see more transparency around
this subject, but it comes down to what operators demand. It’s up to us as an industry to push for it. • Website integration. At TourismTiger, we’re pushing for this—but we’re not the only ones. The software is only as successful as the website allows it to be. You’ll see a lot more chatter about integrations, website builders, and free website services. • Connectivity, connectivity, connectivity. Distributors, concierges, activity desks, and destination management companies (DMCs) will start becoming much more aligned technologically, so that they can all book visits to your operation. • Offline features. This includes ticket creation, ticket printing, check-in kiosks, and mobile payment processing. Expect to see softwares push further and further into every realm of your business. • Integration with pay-per-click (PPC) and marketing channels.
Use your booking software to directly connect with Facebook and Adwords PPC tools. • Acquisitions and shut-downs. With more than 50 different software companies still out there, the industry will continue consolidating. • Specific features for aerial adventure parks. Expect to see software options built specifically for your business or the industry.
OPTIONS ABOUND I spoke with eight different companies that offer booking software for the aerial adventure industry. Here’s a rundown of each, in no particular order.
XOLA Xola has long been wedded to the aerial adventure industry. It’s the official software of ACCT and has written several articles for this very magazine and its website. What They’re Talking About: 1. Connectivity. Xola offers application program interface (API) connectivity with third-party and custom-built applications to support complex business needs with extended functionality. Xola integrates software solutions, marketing tools, and leading distribution platforms. >> cont.
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Personal experience, as everyone working in outdoor recreation knows, is an excellent teacher. So, before we dive into this review, allow me to offer some words of advice based on experience. My company, TourismTiger, has more than 80 web design clients, all in tours or activities, and we work directly with all of the booking software companies mentioned in this article. Through that experience, we’ve learned a few things. When choosing the right software for your operation, be thorough. It’s not just about the cost of the software, or how well it converts, or about how convenient it is to use, or the quality of its customer service, or even how well the software integrates into your business. It’s about all of these things.
PART II GETTING BUSINESS ON THE BOOKS 2. Ease of Use. High volume of walk-up traffic requires fast and easy customer interactions. Xola’s user interface has been refined over years of working with high-volume businesses to make checkout as fast and easy as possible.
offerings, and allows you to easily push different products, such as gift certificate sales.
Pricing: Five percent commission. You choose to eat the cost or pass it to your customer.
2. Performance and data dashboard. Extract useful data and compare it in a way that helps you make decisions.
3. Smart ticketing. Tailor ticket releases to go from zero to max load in the morning without lengthy tapering because of waiver delays. Validate tickets to ensure that no one is overstaying their welcome. And more.
FareHarbor is the largest booking software company in the world for tour and activity operators. Its entrance into the aerial adventure space has been noticed by many.
Pricing: Typically a per-ticket charge; contact sales for details and options.
Xola’s “switch experiences” screen allows guests to easily change or correct a selection. Pricing: Flat fee plan or commission based, depending on the needs of your business. Flat fee plan starts at $199/ month. The Flex Plan consists of a six percent commission on the sale, plus 1.99 percent credit card fee, plus $0.30 per transaction.
One of the more experienced players in the game, Rezgo was one of the first companies to connect with third-party distributors. What They’re Talking About: 1. Point of sale advancements. Rezgo’s increased focus on offline aspects has resulted in an optimized check-in process. Examples of these aspects include integrated waivers, and advanced credit card processing facilities.
THE FLYBOOK Another experienced player in the industry, The Flybook has been very busy lately, launching many new products and features.
74 [www.adventureparkinsider.com] [www.adventureparkinsider.com]
Rezgo’s e-commerce page shows available dates and provides details of the guest purchase.
With printed tickets, The Flybook SmartTickets helps control park flows, add key info, and offer rain checks. What They’re Talking About: 1. New online booking tool. Its new booking flow is more optimized for sales, is more flexible to categorize your
2. Network sales features. Work with third-party marketing channels, such as DMCs, to get your product in front of activity desks and concierges and ensure that the right commissions get paid—and no money goes astray. 3. Wordpress. Rezgo’s plugin is one of the most advanced—and Rezgo has continued to make it more customizable, as well as SEO-friendly.
The daily manifest (in this case, for resource management) helps smooth overall park management. What They’re Talking About: 1. Telescope: The industry’s first artificial-intelligence-powered predictive pricing tool. FareHarbor uses its anonymized data set of more than 10 billion unique data points to predict the ideal price for a specific activity. 2. Customization. FareHarbor promises to work with you to make sure that its software fits your business. 3. Resource management. FareHarbor offers the ability to manage and easily view complex availability requirements. For example, you might have a GoPro add-on available on three products, but have 10 GoPros total in the business. This feature ensures that you manage these resources correctly. Pricing: Credit card processing fee, plus six percent commission added to the booking, for online bookings only.
CHECKFRONT Checkfront is proud of its robust system, which accommodates businesses with multiple facets, such as lodging. What They’re Talking About: 1. Automation of everything. Waivers, point of sale, accounting software.
2. Website CMS. Checkfront has launched a website builder that you can use to create a website for your tour company. It is tightly integrated with its software. 3. Further integrations. Expedia LX and Viator are the initial headliners, but that’s just the start.
tiple tours in a streamlined fashion. It reduces hassle for the website visitor, with no need to re-enter details. 3. Native waiver. Peek has an integrated native waiver application, which means no need for third party tools that aren’t designed for aerial adventure operators. Pricing: Credit card processing fee plus six percent commission added to the booking, for online bookings only.
RESMARK Resmark, born from an existing adventure and activity center, is one of the oldest players in the market.
Pricing: Base plan starts at $49/month.
After buying out Zozi, Peek has consolidated its position as the #2 booking software in the tour and activity space. It places a heavy emphasis on marketing tools.
Now that Resmark is migrating to the cloud, its features and dashboard can be accessed on any device. What They’re Talking About: 1. Going to the cloud. Resmark has for a very long time been a desktop app, but it’s recently built a cloud version and is focusing on migrating its many advanced features to that version. 2. Waivers. It owns WaiverSign and is building it right into the cloud app to create what is effectively a one-stop shop.
Peek’s desktop booking interface makes it easy for guests to book multiple products at once. What They’re Talking About: 1. Zapier integration. Zapier is a service that allows you to connect to hundreds of softwares, including marketing and accounting tools. Peek’s integration with Zapier gives you access to all of them. 2. Bundles. Peek now offers the ability to bundle your products and sell mul-
What They’re Talking About: 1. Facebook. Allow your guests to book directly through Facebook. 2. Upsell. Adventure Office is now offering a robust upsell feature, which enables you to upsell travel insurance and other products.
Operations with a more complicated mix of products, including lodging, can use Checkfront to sell them all.
Adventure Office’s Facebook integration allows guests to book through the social media network.
3. Integrations. According to Resmark, it integrates more slowly with external tools, but for a reason—to make sure to integrate deeply and without bugs. Pricing: Plans start at $249/month.
ADVENTURE OFFICE Adventure Office, like Resmark and The Flybook, is another veteran system that is popular with those who have many components to their business. Lodging, rafting, and zip lining, for example, is a snap.
3. Custom quote requests. Don’t just add a contact form to your site. Create a customizable form that allows users to select the options they’re requesting a quote for. Pricing: Contact sales.
CHECKING OUT If you’re thinking of changing software for next season, or need to implement the software for the first time, move fast—there can be many unexpected headaches. If you invest time up front, and dedicate the time to make sure your transition is smooth, your life is likely to be pain free. Unfortunately, time and again I’ve seen operators treat software implementation like a hassle, dedicating minimum time, and then complaining bitterly when things go wrong. Don’t be that guy. Invest the time, do your research, and talk to other operators to find out how their experience has gone. Do the work on your site to ensure a painless transition. Those are the first steps to a happy relationship with software for any aerial adventure operator.
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Checkfront wants to reduce the admin burden on operators.
that at Adventura, the recreational park has roughly a 25 percent return rate, while the developmental side has closer to a 65 percent return rate.
formed, and creative staff is the key to a quality developmental program, and thus a successful sale “depends on the relationship—the trust and authenticity—you form at the start,” he says.
>> Adventure Rec vs. Adventure Ed continued from page 69 a corporate group, inter-office rivalries or perhaps participants suffering from specific psychological barriers need to be accounted for. BONDING VS. TEAMBUILDING Smith acknowledges that “it is a lot harder to sell educational programs” than simple recreation. The least complicated approach to group business, he says, is to lead a group through a park’s pay-to-play elements mainly just to have fun and blow off steam. That can produce the positive outcome of team bonding—“just being outside together,” as Sohl puts it—which can be a worthy objective, and it fits within normal operations of a pay-to-play park. Facilitated teambuilding is a much more involved process. It takes more time to craft a program, and an investment in facilitators who can do just that. Facilitators, says Chreist, need to be involved in a much broader capacity, including in sales. An educated, in-
Once that relationship has been established, a facilitator becomes a soupto-nuts guide throughout the entire process: helping to establish goals, designing a program to meet those goals, taking a leadership role throughout the execution of the program, and structuring post-event review and assessment by the participants. Larger companies often employ a third-party consultant/ planner to help with the process. Adventura’s investment in this process is embodied in a widely differing pay structure. Certified facilitators with an appropriate educational background can earn $150 an hour, while recreational-park guides earn $22 an hour. So why should you consider offering developmental programs? For one thing, well-conceived programs often have a high repeat-business rate. Chreist says
Once that trust and authenticity has been established, companies, schools, and other organizations are likely to come back—say, the executive committee one year, the sales staff the next. Or the fifth-grade class for one session, sixth graders for another. The initial marketing outreach can be a challenge. Sohl suggests canvassing the chamber of commerce and local businesses and doing research to find potential local and regional corporate business. But once a connection has been established, it often pans out as far more than just a one-shot deal. So to answer the question posed at the beginning of this article: Not all adventure parks can address both commercial and developmental approaches. But as Adventura and others have demonstrated, the two can be coordinated to supplement one another.
we move. you smile.
INTERPRETIVE SIGHT SEEING TOWER DISCOVERING THE WORLD AROUND YOU AT NEW HEIGHTS By lightly pulling on the rope, with the help of a motor; the tandem seat ascends the length of the tower. 360 degree rotation around its own axis Speed and travel times adjustable Self-operated by user under supervision Free-standing set-up with platform and foundation possible Built in speakers
Customized recording of area specific information.
This space is used by the leading suppliers of services to the aerial adventure park industry. • • •
TIONS ATTRAnCour o ! website
STAR LIFTS USA WEST CANADA Marc Wood (PE) 503.799.3893
• • •
Builders Trainers Consultants
This is where the industry looks for the expertise it needs. Shouldn’t your service be here, too?
Contact Sharon Walsh, Advertising Director (508) 655-6408 or firstname.lastname@example.org
STAR LIFTS USA INC. Peter Kavanagh 603.863.0241
Engineers Planners Designers
>> State of the Industry Report continued from page 63
stringent regulations on all aerial-based experiences, not just commercial ones. But regulations are now a bigger concern for P2P operators as well, perhaps because of increased attention from regulators and greater awareness of issues such as emergency braking.
FINDING/MANAGING A QUALIFIED STAFF COMPETITION FROM OTHER LEISURE/ RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES COMPETITION FROM OTHER ADVENTURE OPERATORS SLOW CONSUMER SPENDING
The shifting lists of concerns provide yet another gauge of the fast pace of change in the industry. For many operators, simply doing the same thing could lead to diminishing returns, due to increased competition or more tight-fisted consumers, or both. Increased scrutiny of operations may also force changes to procedures or equipment. In a fast evolving industry, if you stand still, someone else is probably gaining on you—or flying past.
BASE: 90 RESPONDENTS PAY-TO-PLAY RESPONDENTS: 48 TRADITIONAL RESPONDENTS: 42
THE COMPLETE REPORT This preliminary report is just a snapshot of the data collected in the Adventure Park Insider State of the Industry survey. We will present more complete
data and analysis in a workshop at the Association for Challenge Course Technology annual conference and trade show in Fort Worth, Texas this coming
COMPETITION FROM FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT CENTERS LACK OF CONSUMER CONFIDENCE 0%
February. Additionally, we will publish a full 2018 State of the Industry Report, which will be available sometime in late winter. Stay tuned.
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77 Winter 2018
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AD INDEX Action Photo Systems �������������������������������������������31 www.actionphotosystems.com 831.334.4637 Adventure Park Insider Magazine �������������������������76 www.adventureparkinsider.com 203.263.0888 ADG (Aquatic Development Group, Inc.) ...........15 www.aquaticgroup.com 800.458.9283 Aerial Adventure Tech ��������������������������������3, 18, 46 www.aerialadventuretech.com 828.264.0751 Aerial Designs ���������������������������������������������������������23 www.aerialdesigns.com 206.418.0808 American Adventure Park Systems ����������������������9 www.americanadventurepark.com 770.214.1390 Bolt Depot ���������������������������������������������������������������77 www.boltdepot.com 866.337.9888 Challenge Design Innovations �����������������������������43 www.challengedesigninnovations.com 828.727.6850 Challenges Unlimited ��������������������������������������������48 www.challengesunlimited.com 800.480.3867 Checkfront �������������������������������������������������2nd Cover www.checkfront.com 800.559.0985 Experiential Systems, Inc. ����������������������� 4th Cover www.experientialsystems.com 877.206.8967
Fareharbor ��������������������������������������������������������������28 www.fareharbor.com 808.495.0244 Fehr Bros Industries, Inc. �������������������������������������44 www.fehr.com 800.431.3095, ext 219 Granite Insurance ��������������������������������������������������53 www.graniteinsurance.com 828.396.3342 Head Rush Technologies ���������������������������������������29 www.headrushtech.com 720-565-6885
High Peaks Group ���������������������������������������������������76 www.highpeaksgroup.com 267.566.8985
Ropes Courses Inc. ������������������������������������������������4-5 www.ropescoursesinc.com 877.203.0557
Hubbard Merrell Engineering ������������������������������34 www.hubbardmerrell.com 928.526.6174
Ropes Park Equipment ������������������������������������������30 www.ropesparkequipment.com 203.260.4111
Huskie Tools ������������������������������������������������������������38 www.spartacoGroup.com 800-860-6170
SE Group ������������������������������������������������������������������24 www.segroup.com 970.668.3398
Idaho Sewing for Sports ����������������������������������������27 www.idsewing.com 208.983.0988
Signature Research Inc. ����������������������������������������50 www.signatureresearch.com 770.577.8048
ISC �����������������������������������������������������������������������������19 www.iscwales.com 216.276.1581
Snapsportz, Inc. �����������������������������������������������������6-7 www.snapsportz.com 949.291.8817
Kanopeo GmbH �������������������������������������������������������17 www.kanopeo.com +41 79 285 66 38 Koala Equipment ����������������������������������������������������25 www.koala-equipment.com +33 4 50 97 50 18 Kong USA �����������������������������������������������������������������35 www.kongusa.com 401.253.3759 Max Gear������������������������������������������������������������������77 www.maxgear.ca 519.787.1581 Neveplast ����������������������������������������������������������������47 www.neveplast.com 540.798.6955 New England Ropes������������������������������������������������26 Robert.Manson@teufelberger.com 508.730.4512 Outplay Adventures ��������������������������������� 3rd Cover www.outplayadventures.com 201.446.1146 Peak Trading �����������������������������������������������������������52 www.peaktrading.com 845.338.1325 Peek ��������������������������������������������������������������������������39 www.peek.com 855.733.5872 Petzl America ����������������������������������������������������������54 www.petzl-parks.com 801.926.1500
Star Lifts Summer World ��������������������������������������76 www.starlifts.com 603.863.0241 Strategic Adventures ��������������������������������������������40 www.strategic-adventures.com 888-553-0167 Synergo ��������������������������������������������������������������������21 www.teamsynergo.com 503.746.6646 Terra Nova LLC of Utah �����������������������������������������45 www.ziprider.com 435.336.8800 The Flybook �������������������������������������������������������������13 www.theflybook.com 855.909.2665 Tree-Mendous Aerial Adventures �����������������������49 www.tree-mendous.net 518.288.2920 Treetop Trekking ����������������������������������������������12, 22 www.treetoptrekking.com 514.369.8242 Treetop Quest ���������������������������������������������������������14 www.treetopquest.com/construction 404.863.9733 Wiegand Sports USA ����������������������������������������������41 www.wiegandsportsusa.com 866.377.2169
PicThrive ������������������������������������������������������������������24 www.picthrive.com 866.706.9005
Worldwide Enterprises, Inc. ���������������������������������42 www.wwewirerope.com 888.297.3900
Prisme ����������������������������������������������������������������������16 www.prisme-sa.com 450.973.2226
Zip-Flyer LLC �����������������������������������������������������������51 www.zip-flyer.com 212.971.9780
We take inspections and maintenance seriously. Lives depend on it. When it comes to the safety and reliability of your adventure park, you need a team you can trust. ESI has the knowledge and expertise you can count on. Our inspectors stay up to date on the current safety standards. And with over 30 years of experience, we are a leader in the industry. We provide quality inspections on zip lines, aerial adventure parks, challenge courses and climbing structures. Protect your participants and safeguard your investment by hiring one of our certified inspectors today.
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