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TRENDING # inspections # OTAs # training_review # DIY_video # managing_risks # shade # and_much_more

Adventure Park Insider Pricing Strategies: Deft discounting can boost revenues and profits.

WINTER 2020

State of the Industry Survey

FIRST LOOK!

TROLLEY TECH EXPLOSION

Joerg Dressler 5 Pleasant Street Provincetown, MA 02657 USA


INTRODUCING NEW

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“Data! Data! Data!” he cried impatiently. “I can’t make bricks without clay.” ― Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches.” p

rel In a rapidly changing enviim ina ry ronment, it’s important to know rep or the lay of the land before you start t building a plan for the future. The State of the Industry survey and report aim to deliver that sense of where we are now. At press time, we had just closed this year’s survey, and we present some preliminary findings in this issue (p. 56). The full Industry Report will be ready for release early in 2020.

The topline report provides an overview of the 160 operators who kindly took the time to complete the survey. Many returned to participate for a second, third, and even fourth year, and quite a few participated for the first time. Thank you to all who took part. New this year, we are engaging several experts to help analyze the data for trends and to identify opportunities and challenges. A research firm with expertise and data about the overall outdoor industry will compare our data to this broader universe and relate it to outdoor lifestyle trends. A marketing expert will look at how we promote our parks and programs and how we compare to other like industries. A leadership and teambuilding consultant will offer valuable takeaways about creating effective teams and retaining key staff. But it all starts with you. We thank Shawn Tierney of the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) for his continued support in promoting participation in the survey. We send a thank-you, too, to others who kindly shared the link with their clients, including Paul Cummings of Strategic Adventures and Cameron Annas of Granite Insurance. It takes a village, and we are grateful for the help we have received in preparing and analyzing this report. Beyond this issue’s report, we invite you to come see research manager Sarah Borodaeff present key findings at the 2020 ACCT Annual Conference in Raleigh, N.C., during the Tech Talk series on opening day and in a 90-minute workshop, “10 Key Trends in Industry Data.” The complete report with all the deep dives and expert insights will be available to download shortly after the show. The Editors

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3  Winter  2020

A Finger on the Pulse

• Courant • Head Rush • ISC • Kong • MARK Save A Life • Monkey Hardware • Outdoor Concept • Petzl • PMI • RPE • Bornack • Courant • Kong • MARK Save A Life • Monkey Hardware • Outdoor Concept • Petzl • RPE • Bornack • Courant• MARK Save A Life •

ETTER FROM THE EDITORS

Bornack • Courant • Head Rush • ISC • MARK Save A Life • Monkey Hardware • Outdoor Concept • Petzl • PMI • RPE • Bornack • Courant • Kong • MARK Save A Life • Monkey Hardware • Outdoor Concept • Petzl • PMI • RPE • Bornack • Courant • ISC • Kong •

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VOL. 6 | NO. 1 | WINTER 2020

CONTENTS ON THE COVER Zip line trolleys are a critical piece of equipment, particularly as speeds rise. So manufacturers continue to explore new technology and materials that will make trolleys longer-lived, more reliable, and easier to service. If you are looking to replace or upgrade your current gear, there’s a lot to consider. Our report helps sort through the options. Cover design by Joerg Dressler

3 Letter from the Editors What’s to come in the 2019-20 State of the Industry Report. 6 Park Briefs IAAPA and Arival recaps, and industry news. A Staff Report 12 Inside the New ACCT Standards What’s new, what’s changed, and why. By Scott Andrews 20 Training Review: A Constant Process Using evaluation tools to find strengths and weaknesses will lead to continuous improvement. By Mike King

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30 Adventurous New Parks Unique locations, clever solutions, smart expansions—a sample of recent installations from around North America. By Sarah Borodaeff

EDITORIAL OFFICE P.O. Box 644 • Woodbury, CT 06798 Tel. 203.263.0888 / Fax 203.266.0452 Website: www.adventureparkinsider.com Publisher Olivia Rowan­—olivia@adventureparkinsider.com Editor Rick Kahl—rick@adventureparkinsider.com Senior Editor Dave Meeker—dave@adventureparkinsider.com Associate Editor Sarah Wojcik—sarahW@adventureparkinsider.com Digital Editor / Project Manager Sarah Borodaeff—sarah@adventureparkinsider.com Graphic Design Consultant Joerg Dressler—joerg@dressler-design.com Production Manager Donna Jacobs—donna@adventureparkinsider.com

Trolley Tech Explosion

Pricing for Growth

58

78

34 How’s Your Driving? Smart steps can reduce vehicle liability claims, the costliest insurance category. By Cameron Annas

63 New Products A variety of new tech and equipment for the field and office. By Sarah Borodaeff

36 Be Careful What You Wish For There’s a lot to consider before selling tours through online travel agencies. By Mat Newton

66 Third-Party Inspections Not all inspections—or inspectors—are created equal. By Keith Jacobs and Corey Wall

46 Park Spy “Can I bring my service animal?” An ADA wakeup call for customer service staff.

70  Made in the Shade Providing guests with relief from the hot sun is both financially and aesthetically pleasing. By Bob Curley

50 P eople, Places, and Things: Part 2 The role of non-human factors in incidents, and their legal implications. By Charles R. (Reb) Gregg

74  DIY Video Tools, tips, and tricks to produce high-quality videos that sell your park. By Rachel Moore

56 S tate of the Industry Report How’d the industry fare in 2019? A preliminary look at this year’s survey results. By Sarah Borodaeff

WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Innovations are advancing zip line trolley state of the art. By David Saenz

CONTRIBUTORS Cameron Annas Moira McCarthy Scott D. Baker Peter Oliver Sarah Borodaeff Chris Rooney Katie Brinton Paul Thallner Bob Curley Morgan Tilton Skip King Dave Zook 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—sharon@adventureparkinsider.com Marketing Manager Sarah Borodaeff—sarah@adventureparkinsider.com

Figure out your fixed and variable costs, and the rest is easy. By Lee Kerfoot

Visit adventureparkinsider.com for industry news, articles, classifieds, and more.

CIRCULATION / SUBSCRIPTIONS 70 Pond Street • Natick, MA 01760 Tel. 508.655.6409 / Fax 508.655.6409 subscriptions@adventureparkinsider.com Circulation Manager Sarah Borodaeff—sarah@adventureparkinsider.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. 6, No. 1, Winter 2020, is published quarterly: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, by Beardsley Publishing Corp., 238 Woodbury Rd., Washington, CT 06793-1519. Periodicals Postage pending at Watertown, CT 06795. Copyright 2020 Beardsley Publishing Corp. All rights reserved. POSTMASTER: send address changes to Beardsley Publishing, P.O. Box 644, Woodbury, CT 06798.


PARK BRIEFS Arival Highlights “The Best Part of Travel” By Dave Meeker

Nearly 1,200 attendees from all over the world made their way to the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., Oct. 28-31, for Arival—a conference event dedicated to the creators and sellers of in-destination tours, activities, attractions, events and experiences. It was quite the extravaganza. The mix of attendees included representatives from a host of different online travel agencies (OTAs), reservation tech companies and ticketing systems, tourism marketing thought leaders, more than 60 speakers, and nearly 400 tour and attraction operators. The daily schedule included traditional workshops presented by experts in their respective fields, along with sponsored product demos by a variety of tech providers. Each morning, though, everyone gathered to watch and listen while Arival leadership—including CEO Douglas Quinby, COO Bruce Rossard, and managing editor Jenna Blumenfeld—facilitated on-stage talks with industry executives and presentations from different companies, small and large. These daily kickoffs had high production value, akin to an Apple product launch.

IAAPA 2019: Hot Trends, Familiar Faces

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By Olivia Rowan

Adventure Park Insider made the annual pilgrimage to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) expo in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 18-22, along with many players in the aerial adventure world. All came to get a first-hand look at the latest trends and new products. There was a lot to take in, and the show halls were packed. The show itself continues to grow (26,000 buyers last year and 27,800 this year), and there was even talk of expanding the space for 2021. In the broader amusement and attractions world that

One of the more entertaining, and revealing, interactions occurred when the heads of four major reservation systems—Checkfront, FareHarbor, Peek, and Rezdy—joined Quinby on stage for a roundtable discussion aimed at addressing operator concerns and questions, and the future of the industry. Some fairly heated exchanges ensued. FareHarbor CEO Max Valverde, whose company was acquired in 2018 by Booking Holdings, parent company of OTA booking.com, was often the target. Many feel an OTA acquiring a reservation system creates conflict. It presents potential issues of sharing guest data between the two, and operators are concerned “about the pricing power OTAs have exerted in other industries,” said Peek CEO Ruzwana Bashir, likely referring to how the hotel industry has lost control of its pricing and booking channels due to the clout of OTAs. Valverde wasn’t deterred. “Honestly, this is just fear-mongering,” he responded, and assured everyone in the room that data privacy is paramount at Booking thanks to

NEWS FROM AROUND THE AERIAL ADVENTURE INDUSTRY its army of lawyers. And when addressing booking software company consolidation, he said, “When you run with the elephants, there are the fast and there are the dead,” which drew a mixed reaction from the crowd. Pointed—yet far less contentious—conversations prevailed, which made for an incredibly productive and educational four days. The Adventure Park Insider team members who attended saw several of our supplier partners and friends, but few aerial adventure operators. Arival does focus a lot on tours—food tours, bike tours, boat tours, etc.—but the content of the event, and the networking opportunities it presents, would likely benefit many in our industry. It’s worth looking into.•

Douglas Quinby, left, leads a panel discussion with (left to right) Chris Atkin, Rezdy; Ruzwana Bashir, Peek; Jason Morehouse, Checkfront; and Max Valverde, FareHarbor. Photo courtesy of Arival Event.

IAAPA represents, virtual reality continues to be the biggest craze, as it has been the past several years. In nearly every aisle of the gargantuan show, attendees wore the familiar VR goggles as they tried out new virtual experiences, from killing zombies to a thrilling motorcycle ride while being chased by vampires and wolves. One surprising trend with legs: Recreational axe throwing. Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like: Guests hurl axes at targets. There were half a dozen axe-throwing booths, demoing a variety of axes and targets—everything from traditional wooden targets, with an archery-style bullseye hung at the far end of a metal cage, to a digital, laser-projected “target” on wood. The projected target can be just about anything: a creepy clown, a zombie, or even “your ex-wife,” said the company president. Always good to get out your aggressions. >> continued

Axe Throwing Builders was just one of the many companies touting axe-throwing products at the IAAPA show this year. This is a trend that continues to grow.


PARK BRIEFS

In keeping with the wood-products theme, we saw some new entries for the smallest of our customers. Sandy Creek Mining, producers of the popular mining sluice products fabricated from wood, debuted a new 10 lb. bag of ore for sifting, called the “Motherlode.” Each 10-lb. bag includes a gigantic crystal that will delight kids and adults alike. SunKid had some new entries in its Wood’n’Fun products line, including a new “wood-ball tracks” activity. Think of a giant marble run with myriad dips and tricks. To play, kids TOP LEFT: Social meet-up at the Xtrem Aventures Group booth, (left to right) Tomas Huting, BigAirBag; Raphael Jamgotchian, Xtrem Aventures Group; Stephane Vachon and Didier Bachaumard, The Trekking Group; and David Saenz, LiveWire Aerial Designs. TOP RIGHT: Adventure Park Insider publisher Olivia Rowan (right) ran into three ACCT past and current board members at the Granite Insurance booth. Left to right: Keith Jacobs, Experiential Systems; Mandy Stewart, ERi, and Cameron Annas, Granite Insurance. BOTTOM LEFT: Didier Bachaumard of The Trekking Group with Sharon Walsh of Adventure Park Insider. The Trekking Group’s Treewalk Village won first place for best kids’ ride/attraction. BOTTOM RIGHT: IAAPA gives industry players a chance to size up the broader attractions industry and catch up with others, such as (left to right) Ben Woods, Holmes Solutions; Mike Wake, Craig Dick, and Peter Wirth of Xtreem Ziplines; Dan Brennan, Holmes Solutions; and David Saenz, LiveWire Aerial Designs.

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purchase a logoed wooden ball, which they can then take home as a souvenir. Guerilla marketing for the win.

Experiential Systems Adds New Rocky Mountain Office

We also saw continued innovation with climbing wall products. Perhaps the most eye-catching was Eldorado’s new experience, Kinex, that has ninja-like elements. Pictures and more complete descriptions of several of these products can be found in “New Products” on page 63.

Experiential Systems Incorporated (ESI) opened a new office in Colorado in November 2019 to better serve clients in the Rockies and the western U.S. John Lazarus, formerly of Northeast Adventure, LLC, is heading up the office.

The adventure park world continues to be a relatively small part of IAAPA, but it earns a lot of attention at the expo. One sign of that: both Tree-Mendous Aerial Adventures and Sandy Creek Mining received awards for excellence in booth design at this year’s show, and The Trekking Group’s Treewalk Village was honored as the best kids’ ride/attraction.•

“I am thrilled to announce this new Rocky Mountain initiative,” said Keith Jacobs, president of ESI. “Having known John for a very long time, I am happy to welcome him into the ESI family. I know he will be a great asset, and his presence in the Rocky Mountain area will be very beneficial to our many clients in the West.” “The chance to work with the experienced staff at ESI, and the resources they provide to clients, is an incredible opportunity at this point in my career,” said Lazarus. “Keith and I share the same dedication to quality and safety and effective programming in our industry, and I’m excited for this new challenge and the opportunity to continue doing a vocation I enjoy in a location that I love.” •

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Gerhard Komenda and Sarah Blatt of Tree-Mendous holding their Brass Ring Award for excellence in booth design.

Get the latest industry news delivered right to your inbox for free with the Park Beat e-newsletter. Sign up at www.adventureparkinsider.com.

John Lazarus will be heading up the new Experiential Systems Incorporated Rocky Mountain office.


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REGULATIONS AND STANDARDS

INSIDE THE NEW ACCT STANDARDS What’s new, what’s changed, and why. BY SCOTT ANDREWS, Policy Director, Association for Challenge Course Technology

In September, the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) published the ANSI/ACCT 03-2019 Challenge Courses and Canopy/Zip Line Tours Standards (revision of ANSI/ACCT 03-2016). The book is the result of three years of work and significant public comment. The new standard is available in print and in digital format online from ACCT at ACCTinfo.org. The revision of the ANSI/ACCT Standards supports the new and creative

program designs that have developed in the industry, and provides a solid foundation for existing operations. The changes in the standards may be significant for some operators, though. Here are some of the most notable ones. DEALING WITH CHANGING TIMES No surprise: this industry is growing fast. Challenge courses and related services were once the exclusive province of the military. Next, they were adopted by experiential education programs. To-

day, we see a wide variety of different offerings based on elements of challenge courses, including adventure parks and zip tours. The ownership model has changed, too: some remain not-for-profit, some are

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ACCT STANDARDS almost exclusively for-profit, and some effectively blend those models. The tension between the historic industry practices and new and emerging concepts is always part of the standards development process. Since ACCT was founded, we’ve seen that this tension exists primarily between educational/ non-profit operations and commercial operations, and between proponents of older and newer safety systems. But as the challenge course concept evolves, the need for solid standards evolves with it. That’s in no small part due to technological advances. But another driver is the newsworthiness of challenge course accidents. Though rare, serious incidents often result in calls for regulation. All these considerations present a significant challenge for standards writers. Though the industry is evolving fast, the pace of the standards change process is deliberate and slow, in part

to assure that the industry continues to have a stable and reasonable level of minimum expectation. After all, that is what a standard really is: the minimum expectation for designers, installers, inspectors and operators. The deliberate pace of change assures that the foundation of the industry,

As innovators provide new and interesting designs and operations, the need for new or adjusted language arises. which standards certainly represent, does not shift too suddenly. Whether for-profit or not-for-profit, it’s unrealistic to expect an operator with an older but still well-functioning system to tear it all down and start afresh each time a shiny new bauble is introduced to the market. A deliberate approach also assures that professionals are prepared

for the shift when it does happen. But as innovators provide new and interesting designs and operations, the need for new or adjusted language arises. For example, how does one write standards for aerial adventure parks with different lanyard systems, or to address the different approaches to staff/ participant interaction? As a result, the proposed changes were drafted by highly experienced members of the community and then circulated to the community for comment. A dialog ensued, changes and amendments were made, followed by more reviews until, ultimately, the standards were approved and published. SO, WHAT’S NEW? The ANSI/ACCT Standards has long been intended as a “meet the current practice” standard. With this round, that was viewed as both vague and potentially impractical, so the new ANSI/ACCT 03-2019 Standards states explicitly, “On pre-existing elements and courses, ‘grandfathering’ of materials and

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ACCT STANDARDS techniques is allowable only when such materials and techniques comply with the strength and performances requirements of the current edition….” This is markedly different from standards that imply or state specifically that an attraction must meet the standards at the time it was designed or built. The foundation of our industry, ACCT Standards continue to raise the level of practice, producing incremental and relatively consistent progress of the standards. That helps owners, operators, builders, and regulators advance the safety and effectiveness of the aerial adventure industry.

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The rapid growth of aerial adventure park operations and the increase in zip tours was a major area of focus in the new standards. There are only minor changes to definitions and to Chapter 1 (“Design, Performance and Inspection”). Chapter 3 (“Training”) only had changes to cited references.

Structurally, the significant changes to the standards book are in three areas: 1) removal of the appendices; 2) removal of the Practitioner Certification Standards; and 3) significant changes to the structure and requirements of Chapter 2, “Operations.” WHY THE CHANGES? Let’s examine these changes and the reasons for them. 1. The appendices are now available on the ACCT website (www.ACCTInfo. org) for members to access. Since at least the 6th edition, an effort has been made to make the standards themselves less of a “how to” document and more of a “do this at minimum” document. 2. The Practitioner Certification Standards (Chapter 4 in the ANSI/ACCT 03-2016 Standards) were also moved to the ACCT website and renamed “Practitioner Certification Structure and

Requirements,” because this part of the standards is the structure of a certification program, not a set of standards that can be applied across the industry. Additionally, unlike the remainder to the document, Chapter 4 has not undergone the rigorous ANSI process. These guidelines are important for certifying bodies, but do not rise to the level of standards. The guidelines also include the appendices about the essential functions of a practitioner. Like the other removed sections, these are available on the ACCT website for members. DIVING INTO CHAPTER 2 3. The most significant change to the standards themselves is in Chapter 2, “Operations.” In Part C, “Staff Competencies” was changed significantly. It is now organized around three primary delivery approaches: facilitated, guided, and self-guided. In essence, the new >> continued


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ACCT STANDARDS standards now recognize that different programs function in different ways. This change is important because it addresses the interaction of staff and participants, irrespective of the business model of the operation. For some time, industry professionals have been concerned about whether or not an operation is “commercial” and whether or not the “commercial” or “not-forprofit” status changes what should be required. The reason for this change is straightforward. There are for-profit companies doing therapy and education, and not-for-profit organizations running massive adventure parks. From a safety and standards perspective, the business model is irrelevant. What matters is whether the systems work. Also in Chapter 2, “Facilitation” has become “Interpersonal/Program Management” and crafted to better reflect the wide variety of ways industry

staffers interact with participants. How staff interacts with participants in a therapeutic setting, as opposed to an adventure park setting, has always been a challenge to standards writers. The new definition addresses this challenge in a reasonable way.

Efforts have aimed to make the standards less of a “how to” document and more of a “do this at minimum” document. Additional changes in this section: There is greater detail in “Facilitated Challenge Courses: Activities Using Life Safety Systems,” which should help programs better document and train staff for their job requirements. There is more detail in discussion of zip line operations, to make these requirements clearer. A new section titled “Self-Guided Courses: Aerial Adventure/Trekking Parks” specifically

addresses the operation of these newer types of attractions. CONTINUING EVOLUTION All of these changes adjust the foundation of our industry, and as the industry evolves, we’ll ultimately need to update them in the future. Regardless of business model, those operating challenge course elements should do so with an eye toward providing students and guests with a rewarding experience and minimum risk. That’s the intent of the newly-released standards, and will continue to be ACCT’s primary focus going forward. Scott Andrews has been part of the challenge course and adventure education industry for more than 35 years. He has been a facilitator, Outward Bound instructor, course manager, builder, inspector, zip guide and chair of an ACCT Standards Writing committee. He currently works to assure the industry has good relations with regulators and efficient, effective regulation. He can be reached at the ACCT offices.

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STAFF TRAINING

TRAINING REVIEW: A CONSTANT PROCESS End-of-season training reviews are an important part of running a successful business, yet they’re often overlooked. BY MIKE KING, Signature Research

It wasn’t long ago when challenge courses, adventure parks, and zip line tours numbered only in the hundreds. Today, they’re in the thousands. That’s a lot of new businesses trying to figure it out as they mature. To effectively manage risk, comply with industry standards, and stay competitive in the market, owners and operators must review training practices and program procedures throughout the year. This ongoing assessment of program, documents, personnel, participants, and practices is essential. In a previous edition of this publication, Charles R. (Reb) Gregg said, “… legal counsel for an injured visitor often will investigate the personal history of staff and the employee records of incidents, outside reviews, and inspections.” Reb’s statement illustrates the need for effective assessment of all areas of the business, training practices and documentation included.

more effective partnership with next season’s training provider and helps develop training content that meets the specific program needs.

BUILDING AN EVALUATION PROCESS

ANSI/ACCT changes. The new ANSI/ ACCT 03-2019 Standards address the importance of effective annual training and documentation. They require operators to employ qualified persons to deliver training and establish up-todate local operating procedures (LOPs) that match current industry practices. Owners and operators must stay current. (See ANSI/ACCT 03-2019 Chapter 2: Operational Standards.)

Staff costs are often the greatest single business expense, so it’s important not to waste time and/or money on ineffective training programs and inefficient procedures. How can we assess training effectiveness? Some of the assessment process steps are easy, some are not. Measuring a shift in number of participants, near misses, or revenues are fairly easy quantitative steps. Weighing the qualitative data gathered from participant feedback, staff evaluations, and supervisor observations may prove more difficult.

How do we know if we are effective if we are not committed to assessing training documents and procedures? Does our investment in training and document upgrades result in a measurable increase in the number of visitors, less staff turnover, fewer incidents, an increase in revenue year-over-year, or an improved working environment?

When charged with collecting this type of data, many of us feel like we are trying to measure the air temperature with a tape measure. The key is to build an evaluation process tailored to your program based on existing knowledge and resources. Data collection and information analysis about the program’s activities, characteristics, and outcomes

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The goal: year-round review. Operators sometimes overlook the importance of reviewing training practices and program procedures, not just at the start of a season, but at the end, too, while data is fresh and readily available. This is the time to make adjustments. It doesn’t always work that way, though. Once the season starts to slow down, many managers tend to let data collection, evaluations, and document review take a back seat. Yet the end of the season is a prime time for ensuring that documents and practices align for the future. An effective assessment allows managers to identify training strengths and weaknesses, and also makes for a

The new ANSI/ACCT 03-2019 Standards addresses the importance of effective annual training and documentation.


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TRAINING REVIEW are at the root of the process. The goal is to draw conclusions about the program, improve overall effectiveness, and formulate informed program decisions. Be an explorer. It’s important to start out with the right mindset, though. Consider yourself an explorer out to discover what is actually there. Who better than you and your staff members who manage the course to provide and review this data? But we’re not perfect, of course. Those of us not trained in data collection and interpretation tend to look only for what we want to find. Developing quality evaluation tools is a key next step, as it will take you beyond those already-charted waters.

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Start at the beginning. It is important to recognize that the end-of-season evaluation process starts before your season even begins. Having data from the previous season is critical for comparison. And the tools to measure program

quality and the plan to use those tools must be in place at the start of the new season. Also, performance goals and objectives must be clearly stated for all staff before any training is delivered. It can be daunting to unpack lots of assessment data, but with preparation and some simple steps, it’ll be easier to draw insights from your data. The following is a model I created for end-of-season training and document evaluation to help measure the data collected and better interpret the qualitative data. The steps for each are listed from easiest to most difficult, based on the effort owners/operators typically dedicate to each step in the process. QUANTITATIVE ACTION STEPS: 1. Net Income: Compare net income this season to previous seasons. (easy) 2. Visitor Count: Compare participant numbers this season to previous seasons. You must first track visitor numbers accurately. (fairly easy)

3. Risk Analysis: Compare near misses, incidents, and accidents from this season to previous seasons. First, you must report and categorize near misses, incidents, and accidents. Near-miss identification and reporting can be a proactive approach to risk management. However, collecting near miss data and not using it to change training procedures, operational practices, and polices can carry more liability than not collecting it at all. (moderately easy) QUALITATIVE ACTION STEPS: First, create and use a 4- or 5-point Likert scale format for each category that matches your evaluation questions with program goals to determine what you want to know (see sample, next page). A Likert scale includes a series of questions and a range of, say, five response choices that are each associated with a value, such as “1 = strongly disagree” to “5 = strongly agree,” or “1 = poor” to “5 = excellent.” The scale typically has a neutral midpoint. Create questions that align with your desired program outcomes. >> continued


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TRAINING REVIEW

Sample qualitative questions for staff:

SAMPLE LIKERT SCALE (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree): • Staff were professional and courteous • Overall quality of the experience was very good • The program met my/our goals for participating Second, craft two or three open-ended questions to add after each Likert scale section. Open-ended questions allow you to gather information that is not typically quantifiable.

• What is one thing that was confusing or inconsistent when implementing our LOPs? • In terms of staff skills, execution, and risk management, what is a strength of our team? • What is an area that needs the most attention or improvement?

1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5

2. Staff Evaluation and Feedback: Staff are instructed to anonymously evaluate colleagues and themselves after each program session. (moderately difficult)

Third, craft a supervisory tool. Supervisors can use a staff observation and evaluation tool (see chart, next page) to measure the performance, behaviors, and/or competencies staff must exhibit. This can be objective, subjective, or a combination of the two. The aim is to see if staff can show or demonstrate certain skill competencies or knowledge, not to provide a written grade.

Sample quantitative questions for staff: Here’s what this might look like for the various guest and staff groups: 1. Participant Feedback: Each participant completes and submits an evaluation after each program. (fairly difficult) Some sample qualitative questions for guests are shown in the Likert scale example, above. Here are some sample open-ended questions for guests: • What did you like the most? • Where can we improve the most? • What do you wish was different?

• Rate each facilitator’s performance for the day on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) on the chart (see example, below).

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Technical skill competencies to be assessed

General Knot Tying Skill

Rescue Procedures Skill

TARGET (3) Targeted performance is evidenced by...

ACCEPTABLE (2) Acceptable performance is evidenced by...

UNACCEPTABLE (1) Unacceptable performance is evidenced by...

Having every knot attempted in perfect form, each knot is dressed properly, all loops and bights are of the proper size and dimension and every knot is correctly tied off when necessary. The knot is tied with ease, confidence and little effort.

Knots that are basically tied correctly but are not of perfect form, e.g. the dressing or tie off knot is not performed properly. The prototype is resembled but is not identical.

Looseness within the knot. Rope is not oriented to itself correctly, loops are grossly undersized or oversized, or the knot does not resemble the prototype. There is an obvious struggle, untying and retying, to remember the correct sequence for tying the particular knot.

The removal of a participant from a high ropes course within the program approved time limits. Facilitator consistently manages the risks at all times. Problem solves effectively and efficiently.

Returning a participant to the ground/ floor within 2 to 3 minutes of program approved time limits. Some ability to problem solve.

Returning a participant to the ground/ floor more than 3 minutes above program approved time limits. The safety of the participant or facilitator is compromised at some point during the rescue. Unable to problem solve.

3. Supervisor Observations and Evaluations: For this to be valid, the supervisor must regularly go into the field and actively observe staff in similar program situations. (more difficult)

COMMENTS

Sample qualitative observations:

• Guide used PPE appropriately. • Staff member conducted an accu-

Score: ________

rate group orientation. • Staff member provided adequate supervision for all participants in their area of responsibility at all times. PUT IT ALL TOGETHER

Score: ________

Note: Training evaluators (i.e., supervisors) must have a set of standard evaluation protocols to guide their work. Protocols provide a means for consistent evaluation each time staff are observed.

At the end of the season, take all of the data you’ve collected and compile it to create the “End-of-Season Assessment Summary.” This will take some work, but it’s well worth the effort. Follow these steps to turn your data into a useful summary: 1. Collate the Likert scale data section from each assessment tool. 2. Quantify. To draw conclusions from qualitative data—which includes responses to open-ended questions—you must quantify it by turning the data from words or images into numbers. >> continued

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TRAINING REVIEW Here’s how:

• Review the responses to open-ended questions and look for emerging patterns.

• For each question, place responses

that about 17 percent of the time, staff is conducting the ground school too hastily for the guests. They may be leaving out steps, not providing enough information for participants, or moving through the steps too quickly for the individual or group. 3. Compare the participant, staff, and

supervisors data to identify common strengths or concerns. This triangulation of data reveals where training is effective, what program policies and procedures are working, and what areas need attention. 4. Make changes. Use the results to inform training upgrades, document

that are similar and fit into an emerging pattern together into categories or “buckets.” Ensure that everything in each “bucket” is related in some meaningful way.

• Two or three “buckets” should stand out after reviewing most of the responses.

• Count the occurrences in each bucket, and figure the rate of occurence as a percentage of all comments. For example, one of the “buckets” contains comments that indicate that not enough time is spent at ground school for participants to be comfortable performing skills at height. These comments show up 17 times out of 100 participants. This indicates

Supervisors can gather valuable insights by observing staff while out in the field, and evaluating what they see using standard evaluation protocols.

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TRAINING REVIEW revisions, and make the appropriate adjustments to marketing tools, policies, and/or procedures. Engage staff and training providers in this step. This demonstrates that supervisors value staff input. The result can be increased staff buy-in, improved morale, and reduced staff turnover. FIND A GOOD PARTNER You may well want to enlist a third-party qualified professional to assist with all this, and to get certifications for some staff. In addition, hold an in-house LOP orientation, delivered by a qualified person, for site-specific operational procedures. It’s important to maintain written LOPs, and keep records of staff skills verification, evidence of efforts to stay up-to-date with current industry practices, procedure assessments, and any implemented changes.

End-of-season training review findings will lead to continuous improvement. and practices. However, a trainer cannot address specific training needs unless he or she knows where the needs lie. The end-of-the-year training assessment, training documents review, and an external program review help identify those needs. END-OF-SEASON EFFORTS ARE KEY

Owners and operators should expect that third-party training providers are abreast of current industry standards

The aerial adventure park, zip line canopy tour, and challenge course market

finds itself in a period of enormous growth. In an era of increased competition, amplified public scrutiny, social media, regulation, and, yes, litigation, owners and operators must be more intentional about how decisions are made. Implementing end-of-season data-driven efforts that methodically evaluate programs, documents, personnel, participants, and practices are crucial to growth and sustainability.

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Trees of Mystery Canopy Trail: Making Connections Northern California’s redwood trees are some of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders in North America. The museum, SkyTrail gondola, and educational walking trails at Trees of Mystery have allowed guests to experience the forest in several ways for more than 60 years. Now, guests can experience redwoods from a new perspective—at heights of up to 100 feet off the ground—on the new Canopy Trail, built by Tree-Mendous Aerial Adventures. The Canopy Trail consists of nine cusAbove: Hidden Valley ZipTour uses Terra-Nova’s dynamically controlled ZipTour trolleys. Right: Tree-Mendous developed new tools and techniques to anchor platforms in the redwoods at Trees of Mystery.

tom-built netted bridges ranging from 25 feet to 130 feet in length, strung between support trees. Each bridge is connected to a circular platform that rings its support tree. The Trail loops around the Cathedral Tree—a unique formation of nine trees growing in a semicircle

from the root structure of one “mother tree” that fell centuries ago—back to the base of the SkyTrail gondola. Redwood trees have a bark layer that can be up to two feet thick to protect the tree from fire or infestation. This unique armor makes it challenging to attach anything to the ancient redwoods; Tree-Mendous developed new tools and techniques to properly anchor the platforms.

Hidden Valley ZipTour: Necessary Adjustments Hidden Valley Ski Resort in Wildwood, Mo., 29 miles outside of St. Louis, is now home to a ZipTour zip line attraction, the first non-winter offering at the ski area since its golf course closed in 2008. The tour has four dual spans, ranging in length from 305 feet to 2,806 feet, and involves two lift rides and two short hikes. The zip lines use Terra-Nova’s


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ADVENTUROUS NEW PARKS dynamically controlled ZipTour trolley, which allows riders to control their speed. The tour opened in May 2019 and operates year-round. Not everyone was on board with the project when it was first presented to the town in 2017. A contentious zoning and permitting process ensued. So Hidden Valley worked closely with T ­ erra-Nova to modify the original proposed layout of the tour, moving and shortening one of the proposed lines and limiting operating hours to 9 a.m. to sunset year-round, among other concessions. Local authorities approved the new proposal in October 2018, and construction moved forward shortly after.

Mainland Adventure Park: Ground Breaking The Mainland Adventure Park in Manahawkin, N.J., opened this past July. The installation, adjacent to The Mainland Hotel, includes a 50-element aerial adventure course, a 50-foot climbing wall, a central tower with a kids’ play fort, a go-kart track, and four zip lines that soar over the track. The park was designed and built by Challenge Design Innovations (CDI).

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CDI faced some unique installation

obstacles, namely the composition of the site’s subsoil, which includes layers of iron ore with perched water. Use of guy wires to support the tower would have meant drilling very deep anchors. That limitation, coupled with the layout of the park, led CDI to engineer and construct a central tower able to withstand the load of the aerial adventure park, zip lines, and 125 mph winds without the support of guy wires. Finally, CDI incorporated an ocean theme into the design as a nod to the park’s location near the Jersey Shore. Sharks, jellyfish, and seashells, as well as buoys and lobster traps, are all built into the design and elements of the park.

Old Mountain Outdoor Adventures: Smart Expansion Old Mountain Outdoor Adventures opened in July 2017. The adventure park, located in Winona, Miss., was the first franchise park for Treetop Quest, and is home to a few of the company’s signature attractions, including a Spider Quest zone—a large netted area with 20 unique obstacles—a

Kids Quest zone, and two treetop obstacle courses, among others. Old Mountain’s mission is to provide personal and group growth and learning through adventure, and the park has quickly become popular. So it was time to expand. The operators worked closely with Treetop Quest to add activities that increase the park’s capacity as well as provide new experiences for returning guests to enjoy. In early February 2019, Treetop Quest started construction on several components: a TruBlue Zip Line course featuring seven zip lines, a zip line trapeze, two suspension bridges, and a Leap of Faith; and a third level for the treetop obstacle course, which includes both zip lines and pirate-themed obstacles for participants to make their way though. Both projects were completed in spring of 2019.

Left: A unique subsoil beneath Mainland Adventure Park forced Challenge Design Innovations to engineer a central tower that could support the entire park and withstand high winds, sans guy wires. Right: Old Mountain Outdoor Adventures worked with Treetop Quest to expand its activity mix to welcome more guests of all ages, abilities, and interests.


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HOW’S YOUR DRIVING? Injuries and incidents involving vehicles are the greatest source of insurance payouts, which makes vehicle operations a key area for attention. By Cameron Annas, Granite Insurance

Many operators are surprised to learn that 51 percent of claims in the zip line and aerial park industry come from UTVs, ATVs, and vans. Just think about that for a second. More than half of the insurance payouts in this industry come from a sector of our businesses that has no standards or standard operating procedures. We spend a great deal of time training guides for their work at height, but often assume that ground-based drivers need no special attention. The evidence suggests otherwise. The majority of vehicle claims stem from incidents in which ATVs, UTVs, or vans overturn. These events can be serious and costly because they often involve multiple individuals, and in the case of vans, up to 15 people. So, instead of just one person being injured on a zip line, say, there are many injured guests. This escalates the severity of the incident and number of potential claims very quickly.

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In light of these statistics and perspective, I imagine you are thinking, “Hmm, how can I develop policies, procedures,

and trainings around UTVs, ATVs and vans?” The good news is, it’s pretty simple. Just follow these few tips: 1. Create an “approved driver” list. Only approved drivers should be allowed to operate company vehicles, both onand off-road.

Bonus: Training staff how to properly operate the vehicle can also lead to a long, happy life for your machinery. 2. Develop approved driver requirements. What skills and behaviors are necessary to safeguard guests and staff? Make sure these are tailored to your site and operations. In all cases, though, completing an annual training program should be required. Also, check your potential drivers’ motor vehicle reports and background checks. Your list of requirements should include specific descriptions that define what qualifies as a failed motor vehicle report (for example, two minor violations in three years, or one major violation, etc.). 3. Develop a training program. The training program for each vehicle should include an overview of the vehicle—not everyone grew up operating ATVs, after all—an overview of the roads driven, common areas of hazard on the roads, common issues operators have had with the vehicle, and a test drive with the

employee completing certain tasks. The tasks could include driving on certain terrain that is difficult, turning around in difficult spots, and practicing communicating on one-way roads. This program doesn’t have to take much time—it can be completed in two hours in most cases. As an added bonus, training staff how to properly operate the vehicle can also lead to a long, happy life for your machinery and reduced maintenance costs. Repairs can be expensive. 4. Develop a daily inspection checklist. We have daily inspections for our zip lines, so why shouldn’t we have daily inspections for equipment that’s involved in 51 percent of claims? This should include checking the brakes, tire pressure, fuel level, etc. Relevant checklists are common and can be found online if needed. Final approval of an “approved driver” should be decided by a test and motor vehicle report. All of these should be documented, with follow-up reviews set for annual “recertification” of the approved drivers. Cameron Annas is the adventure sport expert for Granite Insurance. Cameron and the Adventure Sport Team at Granite Insurance specialize in insurance and risk management programs for operators, installers, and manufacturers located in the U.S. and internationally.


TICKET SALES

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR Online travel agencies can help drive revenue and reach more customers, but at what cost? By Mat Newton, TourismTiger

“You want to know my actual opinion on OTAs?” Evan Tipton pauses for a second and sighs. “Let’s just say this: I’ve never had an operator come to me asking me for ideas on how to get more bookings from them.” Tipton runs TOMIS, a marketing agency and travel technology provider that regularly has a presence at the ACCT annual conference. He’s noticed a steady increase in enquiries from aerial adventure operators looking to get away from online travel agencies, aka OTAs.

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Steven Edwards is the COO of iWerx Connect, another adventure marketing business. His take is exactly the same: “Every operator we know is trying to get away from OTAs. They might use Groupon to get the customer to call, but they’d prefer to not have to deal with OTAs at all,” says Edwards. The noise around OTAs is growing louder, and isn’t quieting down any time soon. What’s driving this? And more importantly, how should operators respond? LEARN FROM OTHERS As the old saying goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We’re in a unique position in the tour and activity space, in that we’ve been able to watch the direct bookings of an

adjacent industry—hotels—get eaten alive by companies such as Booking.com and Expedia over the last 15 years. I’ve been in the tour and activity game for years helping operators with web design, and as far back as 2014—as the drumbeat was starting to sound— most operators I spoke to were barely considering the coming tidal wave of new OTAs. Think about it: if gigantic global brands such as Marriott have seen the need to fight back and gain more control with efforts such as the “it pays to book direct” campaign, you need to keep your wits about you and be cautious about which third parties—and how many of them—you get in bed with.

That’s a huge number. Growing Fast: Peek (disclaimer: I consult to Peek), TravelZoo, Headout.com, and Adrenaline.com. Invaders: Google, Booking.com, Groupon, and, reportedly, even Amazon are pushing in. This is just a small sampling of examples picked from a pool of hundreds that are at least dipping their toes—if not fully diving in. Big concern. Commissions are variable, but mostly range from 15 to 25 percent. I’ve also gotten word of some companies paying up to 60 percent commission (not a typo!) of the ticket price in exchange for guaranteed marketing spend.

WHAT’S THE STATE OF PLAY? It seems like everyone wants a piece of tours and activities right now. Here are just some of the categories of companies making a push to get in on our burgeoning industry: Global Players: The top few companies worldwide right now are TripAdvisor, Expedia, GetYourGuide, and Klook. Local Specialists: Florida operators will be familiar with TripShock and its family of websites. Hawaiians will know Best of Hawaii. Companies like these don’t get much attention, but can make up a huge part of an operator’s revenue mix. For example, TripShock delivers more than 50 percent of some operators’ bookings on the Florida west coast.

I’ve also heard of “non-negotiable” commission terms suddenly becoming negotiable, even for very small operators who are willing to be both stubborn and patient. Little impact? Despite the noise, OTAs still represent a small portion of bookings. TOMIS reports that typical operators on their platform see less than five percent of bookings originating with third-party sellers. Peek sees similar results. But there’s a big caveat: The OTA market share is growing rapidly. What does this mean for you? #1: GET BETTER Edwards believes that a lot of mediocre


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TICKET SALES adventure-business operators will be the first to suffer. It takes serious business chops to continue to thrive if you’re shipping 25 percent of your ticket price to OTAs: “You see so many adventure companies here [in Las Vegas, Nev.]. It’s not because they are zip line or ATV experts. Many of them haven’t put together the best product possible, and they’ll be the first to go out of business,” says Edwards.

According to him, it’s time to stop being complacent when it comes to your most valuable asset: your customer relationships. It’s important to encourage your customers to engage on social media, and develop post-visit email marketing strategies to keep customers engaged— these are two ways you can maximize the value of each visitor.

Despite the noise, OTAs still represent a small portion

According to Edwards, each operator hoping to get more direct bookings (and avoid OTAs) should focus first on nailing the basics: taking care of your customers, getting good reviews, and having a great website.

of bookings ... But there’s a

#2: GET CLEVER

“We, the operators, happily feed the OTAs with supply, because they can reach customers we cannot,” says Syme. “By doing so, we are ignoring the longer game, and surrendering our direct customer relationships. Your only strategic advantage as an operator is your customer relationships!”

Peter Syme is an adventure park operator from Scotland who has been attracting attention lately for his outspoken views on the topic of OTAs.

big caveat: the OTA market share is growing rapidly.

#3: GET INTO THE NUMBERS Oskar Bruening is chief technology officer at Peek. He doesn’t sit idle in front of a computer, though. Having visited literally hundreds of companies across the entire spectrum of tours and activities, his advice is to get deep into the numbers. They may show that there are instances when OTAs—or other channels—can be of real benefit. Maximizing each group. “If I have a group already going out on a zip line course, I can sell my last spots and double my profit. This is why operators are attracted to OTAs,” says Bruening. “If I can give someone 20 percent to sell a last spot that was empty, why wouldn’t I do it?” But are enough operators actually looking for other ways to sell that final spot? To that end, Bruening has recently been testing a new mechanism on Peek Pro’s platform to increase last-minute sales. The idea is simple: if you already have enough spots filled to run a tour, you should keep online bookings open right

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TICKET SALES up until the departure and hoover up any last-minute demand. The results have been positive, with some involved in the trial seeing increases in online bookings of more than 10 percent. This is especially notable, given that Peek’s data shows that direct bookings are worth more than OTA bookings— even before factoring in commissions. This is because bookings through OTAs tend to be smaller, with just one or two tickets being purchased. Peek Pro is not the only reservation system working to drive incremental last-minute sales. Talk to your platform provider and ask how they can equip your business to do the same. Revenue vs. profit. It’s also easy to forget the difference between revenue and profit. If you’re earning $100 per booking and paying 25 percent in commission on that, how much actual profit will be left over?

Syme says those profits may be less than some think. “It’s not 20-30 percent of revenue. We the supplier base [i.e., the adventure park operator] need to stop thinking about revenue, we need to start thinking about profit,” he says. “I understand numbers, and if you have 20-30 percent going to the OTA, that’s more 50 percent of the gross profit. That’s unsustainable if you’re running a business that loses the majority of distribution to the OTAs.” #4: INCREMENTAL VS. CORE SALES: WHAT PLACE ARE YOU GIVING TO YOUR OTA? As Peek’s Bruening says: “The last seats are the most valuable ones to an operator.” This is true. If you have covered the cost for the tour already, those last few sales will contribute directly to the bottom line—even if you have to pay a hefty commission. But most adventure parks rightly aim to book their core sales themselves. When assessing whether to access the resources of an OTA, the question

RISK MANAGEMENT DATA SOLUTIONS

should be: Can the OTA drive additional incremental sales that you were never going to see? Major parks such as Disney or Universal Studios ask these questions of all OTAs who come knocking on their doors. Why would they give up 15 percent for a booking if someone is literally typing “Disney World tickets” into a search engine? You may not play at Disney’s level, but you should ask the same question of any OTA that pitches you. Also, don’t ask them what they’re “going” to do, ask them what they are already doing for existing partners. This will be highly illustrative of the value of the relationship. #5: DOUBLE DOWN ON DIRECT MARKETING Booking.com, the hotel booking engine, has caused great controversy with some of its online marketing strategies. It wasn’t just bidding on search terms such as “Miami hotels” or “Sydney accommodations”—anger erupted when it

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TICKET SALES was caught bidding on the actual brand names of local hotels. Imagine the hotels’ plight: they were giving 20 percent to an OTA for a booking that they would have gotten anyway. Since the OTA bid higher for search terms that included the hotel’s own brand name, the hotel’s website wound up farther down in the results. Fighting back. Bidding on Google Ads— formerly known as Google AdWords—to be number one for your own brand is just step one to fighting back. Michelle Micallef of TOMIS is seeing aerial adventure operators succeed by doubling down on SEO and Ads in tandem.

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“On average, every new visitor from organic traffic generates an extra $4.50 to $11.75 in online revenue, and every $1 spent on Google Ads generates $8 in return,” says Micallef. “While our clients make up a tiny fraction of the industry, it is proof that you can still increase direct bookings amidst the ever-increas-

ing presence of OTAs.” Syme agrees, but in 2020’s competitive environment, he recommends using only professionals to manage and execute online campaigns—the return is worth the investment. “Customer acquisition costs will increase due to the increased cost to market in the digital environment. Anyone who questions this should sit down for a beer with an independent hotel operator who has been in business for more than 10 years and see what they have to say,” he says. While it is permitted by Google that OTAs bid against your brand name in searches, they can’t actually include a trademarked term in the ad itself. That won’t stop them from trying, though. Having a trademark is necessary to pull those ads from Google, but before contacting an attorney you should consider more direct methods. If you see your brand name being used in an ad, call your OTA contact and politely, but firmly, ask them to stop. Follow up to ensure that it happens. If your

contact doesn’t comply, ask the same of another employee at the company. If even that doesn’t work, only then should legal action be considered. #6: WORK WITH THE BEST You’ve done your numbers, improved your business, and are humming along with an efficient, profitable operation. Is it now time to work with OTAs in some way? Perhaps, but first do some homework. Check out which OTAs are advertising heavily in your area, and that also need a unique offering like yours. Do some Googling to see if any local OTAs are doing work in your area. Do other operators recommend them? Do they actually get sales? All you need to do is pick up the phone and ask. Next, go through each of the categories mentioned earlier—global players, local specialists, etc.—and make a short list of OTAs that seem to be a good fit. When you get in touch with them, here are some questions you should ask:


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TICKET SALES • What is the commission? Is it negotiable? If it’s not, ask to confirm that no other operators in your area are benefiting from a lower commission.

• What does the OTA do to drive incremental sales?

• How does its algorithm work? What do you need to gain exposure to more guests?

• Does it feature operators in its marketing, such as blog posts? Can the OTA feature you? #7: WHAT ABOUT REVIEWS? TripAdvisor has dominated the review space. Should you keep encouraging your guests to leave reviews on a site that used to be free, but now takes a hefty clip of each sale? According to Edwards, reviews matter— just don’t get wedded to one platform. “As big as TripAdvisor is, it’s not like Amazon or Booking.com,” he says. “People still start their search in Google. TripAdvisor might be ranking well enough, but Google is where it starts.”

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TOMIS’ Tipton adds: “With the data at our disposal, we’ve run correlation analyses between total booking revenue and numbers of reviews across these platforms. TripAdvisor reviews are most highly correlated with total revenue, but we expect this to level out as Google continues to push into the sector.” Operators may want to consider driving guests to submit reviews on other platforms that aren’t also an OTA, such as Facebook or Google. And before you take the plunge with an OTA, ask yourself: Which problem is the OTA actually solving for my business? Am I sure that solving my revenue headaches through a low-risk, high-commission model is going to serve me well in the long run? Only one thing is guaranteed: moving into 2020, this topic is only going to get thornier for operators in this industry.

20.11.2019 08:24:40


PARK SPY THE QUESTION: “I have a service dog, is there a way for me to participate?” It may seem silly to ask if a dog can ride a zip line, but where service animals are concerned, there’s a bit more to it. Check out all the Park Spy missions online at www.adventureparkinsider.com and use them as training tools with your team! Have a question our Park Spy should ask? Send your question to Sarah Borodaeff (sarah@adventureparkinsider.com) and if we use it, you’re immune for that issue!

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Park #1, CA First contact: Male. API: Stated question. Staff: Thanks so much for calling to ask. To help me clarify, are you looking to bring your animal on the zip line or are you just wanting to bring it on property? API: Well, because I need to keep him with me for medical reasons, I would want to see if there’s a way for him to join me. He is a small poodle, and I often wear him in a chest harness during more physical activity. Staff: May I ask what medical service the dog provides? API: He monitors my insulin levels and notifies me of a drop so I can act accordingly. Staff: OK, now that I understand let me check on that. Hold on just a moment. (on hold…) Staff: Thanks for waiting. Unfortunately, as much as we would like to, we cannot accommodate both you and your dog on the zip line due to safety concerns. The harness that we use is a full body harness, meaning that it has shoulder straps that go up and over your head and those would prevent you wearing the harness for your service dog. API: OK, thanks so much, I just wanted to check.

Staff: If you are able to participate without bringing him on the course, we could certainly make other accommodations, like providing a bag to carry any medications in. API: Thanks! I will think about that. Score: 9 Comment: Super friendly, clearly explained the safety concerns, and offered to make accommodations that may help. Nice job!

Park #2, TN First contact: Female. API: Stated question. Staff: (nervous) Ummm, you know, I am not really sure if that’s something we would be able to accommodate. We don’t typically allow pets on the course, and, I mean, I know that a service dog is not a pet. Can I ask if the dog is a medical support dog or an emotional service animal? API: He’s a medical support dog. Staff: OK, do you need him for mobility, because we do have some things we can do to make the course accessible for people with limited mobility. API: No, he is a diabetes alert dog. Staff: OK, umm, let me check. (on hold…) Staff: Thanks for holding. Unfortunately I don’t think we could accommodate

a dog on the course simply because we don’t have a way to properly secure him to the belay system and it wouldn’t be safe. API: Not a problem. Thank you! Score: 6 Comment: She was nervous answering the question, but she asked me the proper questions, which is good. A little more training and she’ll have this dialed.

Park #3, OH First contact: Female. API: Stated question. Staff: Thank you so much for calling! Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate service animals on the zip line tour due to the need to have everyone harnessed into the belay system. However, you are more than welcome to bring your service animal to The Wilds and participate in the other activities, but we do ask that you call in advance to make arrangements so that we can ensure both your service animal and the animals in the park are safe, as many of our tours include up-close interactions with the animals. API: Great. How would I go about making those arrangements? Staff: If you have a date in mind I can help you with that. >> continued


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PARK SPY API: Not at the moment, I am just trying to find information. Staff: Great. In that case, just give us a call back at this same number when you have a specific date you would like to visit and we’d be more than happy to accommodate you and your service dog. API: Thanks! Score: 10 Comment: This operation gets a 10 because its staff is well trained and knowledgeable about this question. She was friendly and got straight to the point and clearly explained why a dog can’t ride a zip line. Identity Revealed: The Wilds at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

DEBRIEF: We typically share the good and the not-so-good phone interactions in Park Spy. The good give us something to aspire to, and the not so good can give us a laugh, a cringe, and hopefully something to learn from. This particular Park Spy mission is a tough one—not only are there guest service ramifications, there are also legal concerns when it comes to accessibility and service animals. We only published three of the calls here because they were all pretty good—unlike the rest of the calls, which were uncomfortably bad. So, instead of sharing those, we decided it would be more useful to share some definitions and rules that pertain to service animals.

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WHAT IS A SERVICE ANIMAL? According to the Department of Justice, a service animal is “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, intellectual, or other mental disability.” What a service animal is not is an animal whose sole purpose is to provide emotional support, wellbeing, comfort,

or companionship, or to serve as a crime deterrent. (28 C.F.R. Part 35.136) This means the animal must be able to perform a task directly related to its handler’s disability in order to qualify for protection as a service animal. (There is also language to include other types of animals, such as miniature horses, as designated service animals, provided they perform one of the aforementioned services.)

HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY A SERVICE ANIMAL? There is no documentation—certification or licensing, for example—required of service animals, and you cannot ask the handler to provide documentation. And service animals are not required to wear a tag or vest that identifies them as such.

But what about those dogs I see wearing vests? Some handlers choose to outfit their animals so that Joe Public doesn’t run up and try to pet the animal and distract it from doing its job.

OK, so what can I ask? When it’s not obvious what service the animal provides, you can ask two questions: 1. Is the animal a service animal required because of a disability? 2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform? You cannot ask about the person’s disability.

WHERE ARE SERVICE ANIMALS ALLOWED TO GO? “Individuals with disabilities shall be permitted to be accompanied by their service animals in all areas of a public entity’s facilities and areas where members of the public, participants in services, programs or activities, or invitees, are allowed to go.” (20 C.F.R. Part

35.136) That means service animals are allowed in your welcome center, restaurant, retail shop, etc.

WHAT ABOUT MY ZIP LINE OR AERIAL ADVENTURE COURSE? “A business open to the public may impose legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation. Safety requirements must be based on actual risks and not on mere speculation, stereotypes, or generalizations about individuals with disabilities.” (36.301 Eligibility Criteria)

In laymen’s terms: You’re not required to allow service animals to participate in any activity with safety requirements that would prevent an animal from participating. To the best of our knowledge, there is no way to safely harness a dog to a zip line, therefore you don’t have to allow service animals to participate in a zip line activity.

WHAT IF A GUEST ASKS IF HE OR SHE CAN BRING A SERVICE ANIMAL ON THE ZIP LINE? While it might not happen often, it’s important to understand the rules. Train all staff members in what they can and cannot ask—as outlined here, it’s actually quite simple. And provide a clear explanation as to the safety requirements that would prevent a service animal from participating, i.e., the need for a safety harness that meets the manufacturer’s requirements. Have more questions? Visit www.ada. gov for more information on the Americans with Disabilities Act.


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RISK MANAGEMENT

PEOPLE, PLACES, AND THINGS Part 2: How places and things contribute to harmful incidents in our industry, and their legal implications. BY CHARLES R. (REB) GREGG, Counsel to the Association for Challenge Course Technology The legal duty of care we owe to our visitors and clients is to protect them from unreasonable risks of harm. A violation of this duty is negligence. And claims of negligence are by far the most common claims asserted against aerial adventure operations.

O te o p

In part 1 (“People, Places, and Things,” Summer 2019) we discussed generally the legal duty of care owed by operators, trainers, builders and inspectors of our challenge courses, zip lines, canopy tours, and aerial adventure parks. We focused on the role of human error. The article described a number of incidents and court judgments implicating

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That said, it’s essential to run an operation that keeps its promises and takes reasonable care of its visitors and clients.

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Not all risks are unreasonable. For example, we have no duty to protect a visitor from inherent risks—those risks that are such an integral part of an activity that, without them, the activity would lose its basic character and appeal. We have no duty to protect a patron from risks that they expressly assume. And

we have no duty with respect to claims that have been released or waived.

people—both operators and visitors—in failures occurring at our sites. Scenarios included collisions with landing platforms, persons stranded on zip lines, collisions on zip lines and with other elements, falls while moving from place to place at a site, misidentification of cables designed to carry participants, errors in attaching patrons to harnesses and other gear, and misjudging the participant’s suitability for an activity. PLACES AND THINGS Here we consider other factors—places and things—and legal strategies for sorting out the ultimate responsibilities for


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RISK MANAGEMENT a loss to which, inevitably, many factors have contributed. We will examine these other factors in the context of the categories of incidents described previously. Design, construction, and product defects: Collisions and falls from a platform can be the result of design error. A failure to provide railings or anchoring devices, for example, to allow staff to successfully catch or, if necessary, reach beyond the

edge of a platform to retrieve an incoming participant, is an error that could result in catastrophe. Other examples:

• “Hot” arrivals can be the result of a defect in the design or condition of a line or braking system. • Collisions of riders on the line or at the receiving platform may result from a radio or other signal-system malfunction. • Stalls on a line, resulting in collisions or traumatic suspensions above haz-

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ards, may reflect a design issue. • Tree limbs on the line may reflect misjudgments about the location or design of a line, or failure to consult an arborist regularly. • Traditional challenge courses and parks have confronted claims arising from the unauthorized and unsupervised use (read: trespassing) of elements, low and high—swinging logs and elevated walkways, swings and platforms. These losses might have been prevented by different access strategies that block unauthorized access. Where possible and prudent, fences, gates, and other measures must be in place to discourage access. • The failure of brakes, pulleys, and cables, and of harnesses and other gear, including belaying and lowering mechanisms, may result from defects in their design and manufacture, or other failure to perform their intended function. Structures, including platforms and means of access to them, may be subject to the same errors of design, fitness, or installation. Identification and warning: Terrain and environmental conditions can produce slips and falls while moving from place to place. Falling tree limbs and encounters with plants and animals might cause harm. Operators must mark areas that pose some danger. Part 1 described instances of a participant or staff mistaking—and attaching to—cables or ropes used for rigging or support for lifelines or zip lines. Color coding, signage, and warnings can reduce the chances for error by both participants and staff. Note that some issues involving terrain and structures may properly be the responsibility of a landowner who has leased the activity site to an operator, and not the operator itself. Training and inspection: Many issues can be addressed through properly conducted trainings and inspections. An operator’s log of near misses and accidents helps to identify existing and potential problems. Third-party trainings and inspections are especially valuable for the purpose of identifying and addressing these problems, because qualified third parties bring a broader perspective and


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RISK MANAGEMENT

arising from their errors and, importantly, from errors of others.

range of experience to the operation. In addition, a site’s operating policies and practices, regularly reviewed and refreshed, should address risk conditions, their avoidance, and correction. LEGALLY SPEAKING Faced with these contingencies, prudent operators and vendors of products and services will use the legal tools at hand to protect themselves from claims

SINCE 1857

The protections are best achieved in formal contracts for services, in which the responsibilities of the product or service provider are clearly described—what is to be done and by whom, and who has what responsibility for a defect in the product or service. More specifically:

• Vendors must be clear about warran-

• Liability for a failure in a service or product may be conditioned on the operator’s adherence to standards in the industry. • A smart vendor may require the operator to protect that vendor from future claims that do not directly relate to its product or service. Contractual indemnity and/or being added as an additional insured on the owner/ operator’s liability policy accomplish such protection.

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A trainer or inspector should be crystal clear about the scope of his or her work—what is (and is not) to be inspected, and who is (and is not) to be trained—and equally clear about their responsibility for future claims. The inspector/trainer may choose to deny (to the extent allowed by applicable law) legal liability for future claims arising from the services provided. Another approach—reflective of an early challenge course ethic, perhaps—is a service provider’s agreement to accept responsibility for their errors, limited only to those losses that arise solely and directly from the failure of the service, and provided the complaining party has complied with industry standards, including regular inspections and trainings—all of which must be documented, of course.

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State laws vary in the relief available from the types of liabilities described here, including for construction and product errors. Operators, and service and product providers, should consult with local legal counsel and an insurance expert regarding steps available to protect themselves from liabilities for their own errors and for the errors of others.

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Among the tools available to reduce legal liability are waivers, signs, warnings in print and online, insurance, training and inspections, and contracts. The availability and value of each, and the laws, ordinances, and rules that apply to them, vary from state to state, and sometimes even from town to town. Select the proper tools for your site, and you’ll be on the path to reducing your legal liabilities.

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Special thanks to Bob Ryan of Project Adventure for helping gather scenarios and lawsuits for this article series.


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Another key trend: more operations are installing aerial adventure activities as add-ons to existing non-aerial-adventure attractions. This trend includes zoos, aquariums, museums, resorts, and other different types of adventure operations. Fewer new operators are offering aerial adventure activities as a stand-alone or main attraction.

rep

VISITATION

or

BY SARAH BORODAEFF

t

S

tartups appear to be slowing as aerial operations mature and evolve—

that’s the short story of our fourth annual State of the Industry survey. Aerial adventure operations saw mostly flat visitation in 2019 compared to 2018, and an average profit margin of 24%, similar to the 25% margin in 2018. Strength in camp visitation was offset by a decline in participation in traditional programs. However, profits for the traditional segment stayed flat, at an average profit margin of 16%, according to respondents of the fourth annual State of the Industry survey conducted by Adventure Park Insider in the fall of 2019. More than 160 aerial adventure operations responded to this year’s survey, providing comprehensive business and operations data, which we aggregate and analyze to produce the annual State of the Industry Report. The data, along with other insightful resources, can help aerial adventure operators make informed decisions about every facet of their business.

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Here, we present an overview and small sample of this year’s results. Survey respondents reported average gross revenue of $965,485, with a median of $500,000. The variation in the range is significant, with some non-profit operations reporting revenues of $25,000, while some larger operations report revenues as high as $5 million.

We’ll dive deeper into revenue and expense metrics in the full State of the Industry Report.

RESPONDENTS BY TYPE

IN PERCENT

ZIP LINE/CANOPY TOUR AERIAL ADVENTURE PARK

For the third year in a row, visitation on a per-operator basis remained essentially flat compared to the prior year. That said, individual respondents reported fluctuations as much as 40% down to 38% up. By operation type, ground-based experiential operations reported the largest average drop in visitation at -5%. Camp programs saw the largest growth, 6%, compared to 2018. Recreational operations saw small growth as well, with zip lines/canopy tours up 1.6% and aerial adventure parks up 3.3%.

HIGH/LOW ROPES EXPERIENTIAL

Survey respondents welcomed an average of 13,129 participants, with a GROUND-BASED EXPERIENTIAL median visitation of 7,951. The range varies wildly, with some small operaCAMP tions reporting visitation in the hun0% 10% 20% 30% 40% dreds, while some larger operations Base: 160. Percentages total more than 100% because respondents could brought in hundreds of thousands of select more than one type. participants in 2019.

RESPONDENT OPERATION BY SIZE 27% 35%

38%

Small (less than 5,000 visits) Medium (5,000-15,000 visits) Large (more than 15,000 visits) Base: 147

INDUSTRY GROWTH The aerial adventure industry continues to grow in number of operations, though not as rapidly as in past years. Of our sample, 58% began operation in the past decade, 22% in the past five years. That’s a slower rate than we reported as recently as two years ago, when 52% of respondents opened in the previous five-year-period. Five percent of respondents opened in 2019.

Grouping operations by number of visitors, mid-size operations with between 5,000 and 15,000 individual participants reported an average visitation growth of 6.4%, the best of any size segment. Small operations, those with visitation of less than 5,000, saw the biggest drop, down 7.1%. Large operations, those with 15,000 or more annual visitors, hosted 1.6% fewer visitors year-over-year. The relatively stable visitation numbers do not mean the aerial adventure industry has become static. As reported earlier, this industry is still seeing growth in the number of operations, both in dedicated aerial adventure operations and multi-attraction businesses. However, as this growth slows, it will be crucial to see how the market share of individual operators are affected, especially smaller operations.


VISITATION CHANGES, 2019 V. 2018 IN PERCENT

3.3% -0.8% 6%

Aerial Adventure Park

Zip Line/Canopy Tour

High/Low Experiential

Ground-Based Experiential

camp

Base: 160

VISITATION CHANGES, ’19 V. ’18, BY OPERATION SIZE IN PERCENT SMALL (LESS THAN 5,000 VISITS) MID-SIZE (5,000-15,000 VISITS) LARGE (15,000+ VISITS)

-7.1% 6.4% -1.6%

Base: 147

PREDICTED VISITATION CHANGE FOR 2020 IN PERCENT INDUSTRY AVERAGE ZIP LINE/CANOPY TOUR AERIAL ADVENTURE PARK HIGH/LOW EXPERIENTIAL

Staffing worries have been at the top of the list all four years of this survey. This is due, in part, to the tight labor market nationwide, combined with the parttime and/or seasonal nature of many of the jobs in the industry. Regulation, which ranks second in the list of concerns, has slowly crept up the list. The revised ANSI-ACCT 03-2019, proposed changes to ASTM F2959-19, as well as the number of states seeking to adopt one of the several standards applied in North America, have left operators feeling uncertain about what standards they should apply at their parks—and what they must do to remain in compliance.

CONCERNS FOR 2020

2019 2018 Finding/Managing a Qualified Staff 3.64 4.38 Regulation 2.89 2.84 Consumer Spending 2.88 2.79 Competition from other Leisure /Rec. Activities 2.56 2.60 Competition from Other Adventure Ops 2.45 2.43 Competition from FECs 1.93 3.09 Lack of Consumer Confidence 1.76 2.28 Based on a 1 to 5 scale, 5 being biggest.

CAMP 5%

This preliminary report is just a snapshot of the data available in the complete State of the Industry Report, which combines proprietary research, third-party data, and expert insight to take a comprehensive look at the marketplace and the broader activities landscape. Additional data and insights from the full report will be presented at the 2020 Association for Challenge Course Technology Annual Conference in Raleigh, N.C., as part of the Tech Talk series and in a 90-minute workshop, “10 Key Trends in Industry Data.” In the complete report, we will deep dive into trends, revenues, visitation, and other important metrics for the various types of operations (zip lines/canopy tours, high/low ropes programs, camps, etc.). We will also a take a look at broader industry implications by segmenting the respondents into two general groups: recreational/recreationally focused businesses and traditional programs. For more information on the complete State of the Industry Report and segmented Deep Dives, visit www.adventureparkinsider.com.

Base: 119

GROUND-BASED EXPERIENTIAL

0%

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…

10%

15%

Base: 120

Respondents predict 8.8% visitation growth in 2020 despite three years of essentially flat visitation. We like to call this growth expectation the “optimism index”—every year, respondents forecast visitation growth for the coming season, which indicates confidence in the market and their product. However, this year’s 8.8% growth forecast represents a lower expectation than for 2019, or the prior three seasons for that matter.

CONCERNS & OPPORTUNITIES Regulations, and finding and managing a qualified staff, remain the top two concerns moving into 2020. Competition from other types of leisure and

Despite these concerns, respondents highlight many opportunities for growth moving into 2020. Operators are increasingly looking to expand their mix of activities and programs to reach new demographics and expand their customer base. This includes focusing on activities for younger children, such as netted activities and play areas. Additionally, in an effort to retain a roster of qualified staff and maintain a quality customer experience, operators are focusing on enhancing company culture, offering more training opportunities, better pay, and more to encourage staff to stay. An increased focus on company culture in operations and in hiring has been shown to reduce workforce turnover, though this requires a strategic approach. These efforts, and more, bode well for 2020 and beyond.

THE STATE OF THE INDUSTRY REPORT AND DEEP DIVES, COMING SOON What are the biggest business challenges and opportunities for the industry today? We’re diving deeper into the areas that make the biggest impact in your operation, including: • Operational Metrics • Visitation • Financials • Activities, Amenities, and Products • Staffing & Training • Marketing • Concerns & Opportunities • And more… The full report and segmented Deep Dives will be available in early 2020. For more information, visit www. adventureparkinsider.com

57  Winter 2020  2020

0.2% 1.6% -5%

Industry average

recreational activities, such as family entertainment centers and other adventure operators, is another area of concern.


TROLLEY TECH EXPLOSION

BY DAVID SAENZ, Livewire Aerial Design

Zip line trolley state of the art is evolving quickly, with advances in ease of use, ergonomics, braking, materials, and maintenance—among others.

The zip line trolley is such a simple piece of hardware, yet every day it seems to grow increasingly more complex. It is one of the most critical components of a zip line system, and its influence reaches well beyond its main job. A site’s zip line trolley choice affects cable replacement cost and frequency, brake system choice and performance, and maintenance costs. It also affects systems compatibility and overall design, rider throughput time (tour length), operational burden, and, most importantly, rider experience and safety.

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The list goes on—including noise ordinance compliance, oddly enough—and all these impacts have fueled a great deal of innovation in what is, at heart, a simple piece of equipment. Those innovations include several that are beyond the scope of this article, such as system-specific trolleys like the ZipRider from Terra-Nova, and zip rail coaster trolleys like the Holmes/CLIMB Works Switchback and Walltopia Rollglider. Here, we’re focusing on standalone trolleys operators might choose to upgrade their current equipment, without other major modifications to their system or operation.

which trolley will best suit your current or future operation can be complicated. I spend a great deal of time deliberating equipment choices for various operations, and I assure you, there is no onesize-fits-all solution.

Trolleys featuring this style of closure are often more expensive than those with a carabiner connection. But the ease of operation, simplicity of the system, and overall style make the feature worth checking out.

INNOVATIONS

Manufacturers currently offering an integrated-connector trolley include Kong, Koala Equipment, Head Rush Technologies, ISC, and Petzl.

Integrated-connector trolleys. One of the most prevalent innovations is the carabiner-less trolley, otherwise known as an integrated-connector trolley. By eliminating the lanyard-to-trolley-carabiner connection, manufacturers can eliminate multiple issues, including failed carabiner gate closures and wear points due to use of dissimilar materials, and also add new features, such as easy, one-hand operation for guides or operators.

Brake-friendly and impact-friendly trolleys. The innovation here involves the leading edge of these trolleys and how they interface with the various zip line brake systems available today. For Head Rush, for example, this innovation is critical, since it is a manufacturer of both trolleys and zip line brake systems. It has designed a flat, non-metallic lead-

So let’s take a look at the innovations manufacturers are making, and ponder some of the characteristics to consider when researching which trolley to purchase next. It is often a large investment, so make sure you have the information needed to make an informed decision. With so many options, though, choosing

Head Rush trolley technology addresses multiple areas for wear, including connection, braking, and a variety of other impact points.


Other manufacturers, including ISC, are addressing this zone of the trolley in various ways. But the common theme includes non-metallic materials and field serviceability. As speeds increase on zip lines and brake systems become more prevalent—not to mention critical—this innovation will grow in demand and importance. Head Rush is also addressing what it has coined as “the overturning moment.” This occurs when the trolley does a wheelie on its rear wheel as the trolley slams into the brake system and the zip line rider swings up. This causes more wear and tear, because the wheelie motion and position often cause the trolley body to rub on the cable at a high speed, while introducing additional friction into the system. If this action occurs only rarely—an emergency stop, for example—it is not a big deal. But when this action occurs multiple times a day, the trolley body will wear quickly, and it will cause significant damage to the cable over time. Head Rush addressed this issue through two different designs: one has a pivoting attachment link, the other, a forward-of-center connection point for the rider. More manufacturers are beginning to pick up on these nuanced design details as sites begin to demand longer-lasting, brake-friendly trolleys. Field-serviceable trolleys. These trolleys allow the owner/operator to replace wear-and-tear parts with OEM parts at their own discretion, without the need to ship the trolley out for service when parts need to be replaced. This offers massive cost savings, is much smarter for manufacturers, is more environmentally-friendly by reducing waste and reusing valuable parts, and should be high on the list of critical features for your next trolley. Integrated magnetic brakes. Ultra-premium zip line system and equipment manufacturers are integrat-

NEW TROLLEY TECH DEBUTED AT IAAPA A couple of innovative trolleys debuted at the IAAPA Expo in Orlando, demonstrating our industry’s innovation amid the show’s more typical rollercoasters, VR zombies, and Beaver Tails. France-based Xtrem Aventures Group showcased a new trolley prototype from Zip-Rush, the Mach II. Noteworthy details: It is constructed with aluminum side plates containing three attachment points and cooling vents near the wheels; has field-replaceable parts, for ease of service; utilizes magnet-equipped wheels to induce eddy-current for continuous trim-braking; and a metal fin provides compatibility with the zipSTOP Brake Trolley catch mechanism. While still in development, first impressions are promising. (Bonus: The booth displayed a prototype harness from paragliding-harness manufacturer SupAir.) A new company, Xtreem Ziplines, prominently displayed the X2 Trolley. Xtreem Ziplines is headed by three zip

line industry veterans who are making a big statement with their first piece of equipment. Visually, the X2 is a major departure from traditional trolleys: it is easy to see how its form follows function. And there’s a lot of technology to see. The X2 features onboard adjustable magnetic trim-brakes, massive heat sinks for radiating heat away from the wheels, polyurethane wheels with a deep v-groove, and ingenious spring-loaded clips to prevent trolley derailment. It also has a handlebar and spreader bar, and built-in integrations for soon-to-be-released brake trolley catch mechanisms and a launcher. Plus, all the trolley parts are field-replaceable. Honorable mention goes to Skyline Ziplines (Whistler, B.C.), a longtime IAAPA exhibitor and zip line manufacturer, for its updated magnetic trim-brake version of the Rocket Trolley. The update focuses on revised polyurethane wheels with improved temperature shedding and tolerance dynamics. Skyline is offering retrofit upgrades for existing Rocket Trolleys and has a field kit for approved sites to install the retrofits themselves.

Two innovative trolleys unveiled at the IAAPA Expo: (left) Zip-Rush Mach II trolley, distributed by Xtrem Aventures Group; (right) Xtreem Ziplines X2 Trolley.

ing magnetic trim-brakes into zip line trolleys. The purpose of a trim-brake is to reduce the overall top and average speeds on a zip line, thereby allowing steeper zip line designs. This innovation opens a world of possibilities for zip line locations previously considered impossible or too dangerous, while also helping existing operations ensure their brake speeds are within the manufacturer-specified parameters. While this technology is promising,

early iterations have struggled with adequately dissipating the build-up of extreme heat. However, a next-generation design from recently-formed Xtreem Ziplines (see “IAAPA report,” above), currently in the prototype stage, is proving successful in decreasing heat build-up and allowing end users to easily tune the trim-brake force to account for variations in user weight, zip line designs, and environmental conditions. Keep an eye on this area of innovation, as it is poised to deliver an advantage

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ing edge to all its trolleys. This ensures the interface with the braking system is smooth and non-damaging, resulting in extended life of both the trolley and the brake system.


TROLLEY TECH EXPLOSION

^ ISC Zippey Trolley

^ Robertson Harness Large Zip Trolley

< Petzl Trac Plus

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that every operation can leverage for a safer user experience. Polyurethane wheels. Most sheaves (i.e. wheels) are constructed from a steel-alloy material, but an innovation becoming more readily available is polyurethane wheels, which have more dynamic properties than the standard steel-alloy options. Rollercoaster wheel manufacturers, including Uremet and Millennium, have started producing polyurethane-based wheels for ultra-premium trolley manufacturers. With the new polyurethane technologies, these companies are able to modify the hardness (i.e. durometer) of the tread material, which in turn influences the speed and durability of the sheave. For example, a softer tread will run slower, have a lower heat tolerance, and

have a shorter lifespan due to wear than that of a harder wheel, which will run faster and have a longer overall lifespan due to better temperature performance. As zip lines grow increasingly more complicated, designers are considering these factors more often and, in some rare cases, even beginning to specify “winter” and “summer” wheels with varying polyurethane compounds. As an added benefit, using polyurethane sheaves completely eliminates “crowning” on cables, which is the result of wear from traditional steel-alloy sheaves. CHALLENGES Cost and durability. These are the two big challenges facing the manufacturers I spoke with. Cost and product longevity are two factors at odds with each other

due to various considerations, such as ease of operation, small manufacturing quantities, and performance criteria. There are trolley options available at both ends of the price-and-durability spectrum. Economical options often fall short in high throughput and highspeed operations; expensive options that last a long time are often financially unobtainable for many businesses. Finding the balance within this spectrum is further complicated as engineers, designers, and site operators look to solve more complex zip line system challenges or suit wider operating ranges (i.e., speed and rider weight) with zip line trolley technologies. The challenge here, aside from cost and longevity, is designing a universally applicable, fail-safe solution that does not introduce further room for human


error—selecting a special trolley, adjusting trolley settings, etc.—which is the leading cause of zip line incidents. DESIGN AND SYSTEM CONSIDERATIONS There are a few basic considerations when choosing a trolley. Cable size. One of the first filters to apply when deciding on a trolley is considering the cable size parameters for which the trolley is intended. In the past, cable size has not been an issue, as the standard sizes for cable were 3/8” or ½”, but we are now seeing systems with 5/8” all the way up to 7/8” diameter cables. Trolley manufacturers are responding to this shift in a few ways, including size-specific sheaves, and specifying multiple size ranges for a trolley, with a minimum and maximum cable size. It is important to never exceed the maximum cable size, as this may result in negative consequences.

greater cycle use counts. For these advanced performance needs, quality, name-brand, sealed ball bearings are essential. It is important to note that bearings are very different in design from bushings, which are not appropriate for any zip line applications. Lastly, the trolley body design can influence its maximum speed, based on how it allows the heat from the wheels and bearings to dissipate (or not) and what crash force or speed the body and its components are rated to. And the aerodynamics of the trolley body can also impact the maximum speed. Braking. As mentioned earlier, the style of braking and design of the braking system have a dramatic influence on a manufacturer’s trolley design, and on which designs are appropriate for a given operation. Without belaboring the ideas of “the overturn moment” and brake-rated front plates, make sure that the trolley designs you consider are

compatible with your braking system in terms of functionality, brake impact force, and overall application. Connection and closure styles. It’s important to consider the various connection methods and trolley closure styles for equipment and systems compatibility, ease of maintenance and inspection, and overall preference. For some, it will be an integrated system with a “direct to lanyard” connection method, which reduces the number of components and therefore shrinks inspection time, inventory of on-hand maintenance parts, and risk of dropped components on course. For others, it will be the more traditional setup of combining individual components to create a custom assembly tailored to their needs and preferences. Make sure your equipment choices suit your site’s long-term needs, system compatibility requirements, and guest experience. >> continued

Speed. The maximum speed of a trolley is a consideration as more sites push the speed envelope. Three factors are instrumental in determining the maximum rated speed: durability and heat tolerance of the sheave material, bearing rating, and trolley body design.

The rating of a bearing and its overall quality can span a wide range—a less expensive bearing is an easy cost-savings choice for lower-speed applications, but more demanding applications require a performance increase to address higher maximum speeds, increased running temperatures, and

Left: The updated SkyTECH Rocket Mag Trolley, from Skyline Ziplines. Right: The Kong Zip Evo Trolley.

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As discussed earlier, the hardness rating (durometer) and heat tolerance of the material a sheave is made of can greatly influence the overall speed of a zip line trolley. The hardness factor impacts the overall speed of the trolley on the system due to rolling resistance, while the temperature tolerance determines the range of speed in which the sheave can operate. Some polyurethanes may only be rated for a specific maximum speed sustained over a definite distance or rolling time before encroaching on the material’s melting point.


TROLLEY TECH EXPLOSION Ergonomics. Ergonomics is important for both guests and guides. For your guides, consider the ease of handling the trolley during the attachment and detachment processes, as these steps are critical for safety, are repeated numerous times a day, and are opportunities to inspire trust or lose trust with the participants. For guests, be aware

Other certification stamps may include: CE, for use in life safety applications worldwide; UIAA, for use in climbing and mountaineering; and NFPA, for certification by the National Fire Protection Association. These certifications aren’t normally all required, but it helps to know they exist so that you can ask more informed questions and make confident decisions.

When choosing a zip line trolley, making an informed decision means paying attention to small and often nuanced details. of the ease of transporting the trolley (attached to them or carried), comfort of riding the zip line with the lanyard or crossbar attachment, and the comfort of the braking experience. As with all design decisions, there are trade-offs. Weigh and prioritize features, cost, and durability, and choose wisely.

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Testing and regulation requirements. The testing requirements for zip line trolleys vary. Be vigilant and educated on the testing certification requirements implemented by your local regulators, certified course inspectors, and insurance company. Common tests include pull tests, destructive testing, and cycle testing to ensure that the design and manufacturing of the trolley meets safety requirements. Among the many details produced by the tests, the rule of thumb in the U.S. aerial adventure industry is that the trolley assembly must be tested to a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds (22.2kN) at the connection point. The maximum load limit is oftentimes etched on the equipment, just as with carabiners. If a trolley doesn’t have a load rating associated with it, it’s best to not use the equipment.

HOW TO CHOOSE Got all that? Great. Now, here’s the process I use to determine the best zip line trolley for my customers and their sites. 1. Seek out as many options as possible. This normally involves a lot of Google searching. Good resources to find manufacturers include the Adventure Park Insider “Supplier Directory,” ACCT’s Vendor Directory, and IAAPA’s Member Directory. 2. Apply a big filter to narrow the search. That filter tends to be either cable size compatibility or brake system compatibility. Either will cut down the number of choices and are necessary considerations regardless. 3. Filter further by harness and lanyard connection style. You may need or prefer a single attachment point, or a dual connection style with a crossbar, or perhaps an integrated connector style. 4. Consider the nitty-gritty of regulations compliance. This can take some time, but the trolley you choose must meet any state and/or local requirements, so it’s unavoidable. If you haven’t filtered by brake system compatibility yet, this is the time to do so.

5. Final due diligence. At this point, you’ve narrowed it down to a few trolleys that meet your criteria. Time to verify specs and suitability with a few phone calls or emails to suppliers, manufacturers, and other qualified parties. This is the point at which ergonomics, special features, field serviceability, parts availability, and price can become deciding factors. When choosing a zip line trolley, making an informed decision means paying attention to small and often nuanced details. Keep your priorities straight and your end goal in mind. Remember, in the end, the zip line trolley is a simple machine with a simple job: to keep people safe while they are having fun. TROLLEY MANUFACTURERS Note: trolleys from many of these manufacturers are available from suppliers such as Aerial Adventure Tech, Ropes Park Equipment, American Adventure Park Systems, High Country Hardware, Peak Trading Corp., and many others. Head Rush Technologies www.headrushtech.com ISC www.iscwales.com Kanopeo www.kanopeo.com Koala Equipment www.koala-equipment.com Kong USA www.kongusa.com Petzl www.petzl.com Robertson Harness www.robertsonharness.com Skyline Ziplines www.skylineziplines.ca Xtreem Ziplines www.xtreem.co ZipFlyer www.zipflyer.com Zip-Rush www.xtremaventures-concept.com www.zip-rush.com


NEW PRODUCTS _______________________________ Adventure Park Insider rounded up a variety of new products, including equipment for the field, technology for the office, and more.

BY SARAH BORODAEFF

signature gzl dismount system The Signature GZL Hydraulic Dismount System is designed to assist with accessibility issues on gravity zip lines (GZL). To increase accessibility for participants who may not wish to, or are not able to, make the climb up or down, the system offers two options. For traditional, shorter single-zip lines, the GZL lowers the zip line to ground level for entry or exit and raises it back in place. In addition, the hydraulic system can be paired with a locking swing arm and 4:1 pulley system to raise participants to the start point or lower them from the end point. www.nature-outfitters.com

Merinio Merinio

Dispatch is a workforce management system that automates scheduling-related communications. Operators can utilize the system to send automated calls and text messages to staff regarding upcoming shifts, including scheduling changes, shift exchanges, weather-related adjustments, etc., allowing operators to more easily manage staffing levels, no matter the weather. www.merinio.com

Kristallturm 3d konfigurator KristallTurm, designer and

manufacturer of aerial adventure towers, has released a 3D configuration system, allowing operators to digitally design, build, and modify a KristallTurm adventure tower that best suits their location and operation. Operators can select from pre-set layouts and activities, or customize their own. The system also provides related measurements, capacity, staff requirements, and climbing time for chosen designs. www.kristallturm.com

sunkid wood’n’ball Participants purchase a wooden ball from a vending machine before rolling them down the fully customized course. The course, similar in style to a Rube Goldberg machine, can be customized in design, length, and elements to fit the site and operation. The balls can be custom branded with the operator’s logo and taken home as a souvenir. www.sunkidworld.com >> continued

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The Wood’N’Ball race from SunKid is an interactive children’s activity.


INTOUCH BUSINESS INSIGHTS InTouch Business Insights is a business analytics platform. Built

on the foundation of an enterprise guest management and transaction platform, it provides access to an organization’s data using tools optimized for analysis. Users can create custom visual reports and dashboards accessible from both desktop and mobile devices. This system integrates directly with InTouch Campaign Management, allowing operators to execute targeted marketing campaigns incorporating guest demographics as well as transactional, behavioral, and analytical data. www.connectintouch.com

SKYTECH SAFE LAUNCH The SkyTECH Safe Launch system takes a multifaceted approach to limiting the

risk of operator error when launching participants on a zip line attraction. The system is comprised of an electronic launcher, electromagnetic launch gates, and RFID brake reset protocols that integrate directly with the system inspection software, digital waivers, and an optional automated photo capture and sales system. A closed-circuit audio and visual system may also be added. All of the inputs are fully redundant, limiting the risk of operator error. www.skylineziplines.ca

Teufelberger Chameleon Static Rope The Chameleon Static Rope from Teufelberger is a 32-braid nylon rope made for

all-around use, and meets EN 1891A standards. The rope is produced in a manner that yields little waste. In production, yarn left over during a color change in the extrusion process is used rather than discarded. As a result, the rope’s color changes based on the raw materials available, and the upcycling helps to reduce waste in the fiber production process. www.teufelberger.com

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Designed by KOALA Equipment, the CLIMB-UP is a fall arrester for rigid vertical-ladder

elements and seamlessly integrates into the KOALA continuous belay system. The CLIMB-UP allows the belay cable to run directly up the side rails of a rigid vertical ladder, eliminating the need for participants to transfer between belay systems. Participants can now progress their POULIZ trolley up the belay cable attached to the side rail of the ladder. As they climb, the trolley passes through a series of CLIMB-UP arresters that act as gates until they reach the top of the ladder and continue through the course. www.koala-equipment.com


XTREEM X2 Trolley The X2 Trolley from Xtreem is a high-speed zip line trolley capable of

speeds in excess of 100 mph and is rated to support riders weighing up to 300 lbs. The X2 features redundant manual magnetic brake adjustments, with a brake on each side of each wheel. Operators can adjust the brakes to apply more or less braking force as needed for situations such as high wind conditions. This trolley is currently going through certification processes. www.xtreem.co

MAGPIE Magpie is a content management and distribution platform designed spe-

cifically for the tours and activities market. Operators can use Magpie to load, store, manage, and deliver the product content that appears on the various sales and OTA platforms utilized by the operation—all through one cloud-based system. It acts as a bridge between the operation and the reseller by supporting the distribution of product descriptions, images, and pricing to each reseller’s onboarding platform. Operators can also make real-time updates that are then automatically delivered to all selected resellers. Plus, Magpie has translation, SEO optimization, and image enhancement services. www.magpie.travel

eldorado kintex action tower The Kintex Action Tower from Eldorado Climbing is a freestanding, multi-chal-

lenge climbing tower with multiple unique, action elements. The tower can be fully customized to appeal to a wide range of ages and abilities, and the elements are easily changed or modified to keep it fresh for returning guests. Each climbing station comes equipped with a TRUBLUE auto belay, and a single tower can accommodate up to 12 guests at a time. The Kintex Action Tower is designed for both indoor and outdoor use. It comes in four different heights and can fit into virtually any building. www.eldowalls.com

Zip-rush Mach II trolley trolley. The aluminum-sided trolley utilizes magnet-equipped wheels to induce eddy-current braking. The design features cutouts near the wheels for better residual heat dissipation, and its polyurethane wheels are field-replaceable. It can reach a maximum speed of up to 160 km/h (~100 mph). The Mach II is also available without internal braking for a 3/4” cable. www.zip-rush.com, www.xtremaventures-concept.com

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The Mach II trolley from Zip-Rush is an update from the company’s Mach III


THIRD-PARTY INSPECTIONS As the industry grows, so do the reasons to hire an outside inspector. Many challenge courses, zip lines, and aerial adventure parks subject themselves to an annual inspection from an outside vendor. But not all inspections are created equal. Some course owners and managers do not fully understand the differences between the various types of inspections—specifically, a typical annual inspection vs. a third-party inspection—and it’s good to know the differences.

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BY KEITH JACOBS, EXPERIENTIAL SYSTEMS, AND COREY WALL, CHALLENGE DESIGN INNOVATIONS

The International Standards Organization (ISO) offers detailed definitions for the three types of inspections: First-Party Inspection: Typically, a quality control activity that is completed by the product or equipment vendor, manufacturer, or seller. For example, you may hire the course or equipment manufacturer to verify how its product is performing against a specific standard or the manufacturer’s own inspection

ment. The challenge course industry often refers to these as “in-house” inspections, in which a course manager and staff inspect the course on a daily, weekly, or monthly cycle in compliance with both manufacturer requirements and industry standards. Third-Party Inspection: Refers to inspection activities that are completed by an independent person. The third party may be hired by a buyer or seller

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Within the adventure park world there are generally three types of inspections: first, second, and third party. In simple terms, think of the first party as the seller and the second party as the buyer. A third party is someone who is neither the seller nor the owner, and is not affiliated with either in any way.

criteria. First-party inspections are generally completed on an annual basis, or more frequently as required by the product manufacturer.

to inspect to a known industry standard, contracted specifications, and/ or course manufacturer’s technical manuals and notices.

Second-Party Inspection: Typically refers to inspection activities that are completed by the individual or organization that has purchased the product or equip-

THIRD-PARTY INSPECTORS This article is really about understanding the need and value of a third-party


inspector. An outside inspector can remove speculation or doubt about the integrity of the person or company performing the inspection, as well as elevate the industry through accountability and refined practices. It may also be required by law. So, in what situation would an adventure park or experiential program use a third-party inspector? It may be required by industry standards such as ACCT, PRCA, or ASTM; it may be required by the operator’s insurance provider and risk management team; or the operator may be subject to one of a growing number of Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) that require third-party inspections by law. This might include the law or code of your state or province. IT MIGHT BE THE LAW An increasing number of states have adopted some degree of regulation of zip lines and challenge courses, and obtaining an operating permit often

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rides. The Department of Labor and Employment Division of Oil and Public Safety states that a third-party inspector (required for new installations and all major modifications), “shall not be affiliated by employment or Subsidiary Relationship to the Operator of the Amusement Ride or Device, or the manufacturer, whose modification or new installation is being inspected.” Tennessee has similarly adopted the ISO classification of third-party inspectors in an effort to eliminate potential conflict of interest between operators, vendors, and inspectors. Many states, including Tennessee and Washington, also include language to specifically exclude inspectors from providing the

nitions of a third-party inspection. In addition to being unaffiliated with the installer and operator, “the inspector must not be a principal, owner, or employee of any amusement company or manufacturer doing business in the state of Washington, unless authorized by the department to conduct specific inspections on a case-by-case basis.” The rules even address potential sources of conflict in inspector business practices, requiring that inspectors “have an adequate diversity of clients or activity so that the loss or award of a specific contract regarding amusement ride or amusement structure safety certification would not be a deciding factor in the financial well-being of the inspector.”

Photos, left to right: 1. Inspectors are trained to look for small deficiencies, such as broken strands of wire rope; 2. A go/no-go gauge helps determine when to retire a wire rope; 3. Sometimes third-party inspectors must brave the cold, especially if an operation wisely schedules its inspection well in advance of the season; 4. Support pole damage is one flaw inspectors look for; 5. This wire rope clearly needs to be retired; 6. A portable tension tester measures the holding force of anchors.

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hinges on compliance with state-wide inspection requirements. Many AHJs require a third-party inspection within the regulatory code. Colorado, for example, recently revised the state definition of third-party inspection providers used by the department responsible for regulating amusement

initial inspection on any ride for which they have modified or repaired—eliminating the common industry practice of hiring one vendor to both repair and inspect a course each year. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has one of the more narrow and prescriptive defi-

These are just a few examples, but a requirement for third-party inspection is trending nationwide. Every park needs to ensure inspections are compliant with applicable state codes. Consider pending regulations and trends as you make decisions regarding your 2020 inspection season. >> continued

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THIRD-PARTY INSPECTIONS MANAGING RISK In addition to regulatory agencies, insurance providers are now taking a much closer look at the aerial adventure and challenge course industry. They want assurances about the products and services they are covering in order to help mitigate losses. Similarly, with premiums on the rise, buyers and sellers are looking for ways to distribute liability. A third-party inspection is one means of simultaneously validating the quality of the product and sharing liability with another entity (the inspector). As the insurance market continues to adjust to the growth and exposure in our industry, we may see more insurers requiring third-party inspections, or providing discounts to those operators that take advantage of them. INDEPENDENT ASSURANCE A third-party inspection is a great way to ensure that a new product has been installed in accordance with the contract, the engineering plans, and the correct standards. Further, the inspector should be able to determine if the course can be operated appropriately with the manual and the equipment provided.

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This sort of assurance benefits all parties. An acceptance inspection conducted by a third party validates a vendor’s compliance with standards or a contract, and removes any question

regarding intent when an inspector fails a component or element. (Some vendors have been accused of failing their own product to increase sales of replacement equipment or maintenance services.) Similarly, a third-party inspection can help owners separate their wants from needs. Potential conflicts between the buyer, seller, and inspector can be alleviated early if the seller (i.e., builder) includes the third-party inspection in the installation contract and develops a relationship with a variety of inspection firms. By communicating clearly and anticipating what an inspection provider will want to see, buyers and sellers can be prepared with the right content to ensure there are no hiccups in getting the new installation or modification operational. Potential conflicts persist unless the inspector has ZERO financial stake in the operation, maintenance, or sale of any installation or equipment to the purchaser of the inspection. The inspector’s only goal should be the safety of the staff and users of the course or structure they inspect. Because there is no other financial incentive than the inspection itself, third-party inspections typically cost slightly more than first- or second-party inspections. ELEVATING THE INDUSTRY Third-party inspections also help vendors to refine their work and learn from

others in the industry. Inspectors may lead vendors to develop or improve their documents, procedures, manuals, and field practices. Each inspection is an opportunity for vendors to view their work differently, and either validate their process or make changes. Third parties hold both owners and vendors accountable for their performance. In the end, both the buyer and seller have a better product. HOW TO VET A THIRD-PARTY INSPECTOR Who can act as a third-party inspector? That may be determined by an accredited status, certification or education credential, and/or local law. Essentially, third parties are verifiably knowledgeable in the standards being applied and course/systems being inspected, and are operating in compliance with the AHJ. Here are some key steps to take when hiring any inspector, not just an independent third party: • Check licenses. Ensure the company or firm is registered and licensed to conduct business in your state or province. If a conflict arises between you and the inspector that requires mediation or legal remedy, your options are better if the company is licensed and regulated. • Verify local knowledge. Ensure the company and individual inspector are familiar with your jurisdictional requirements, laws, and codes. Simple errors, such as to which standard applies (such as ACCT or ASTM), can prove quite consequential. • Look for certification. Ensure the company and inspector carry any licensure or certification required to conduct the inspection. Certification validates the inspector’s qualifications. Many states have adopted specific certifications, such as ACCT Certified Professional Inspector, the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officers

Left: Inspectors often find damage caused by animals, such as woodpeckers. Right: An earth tester is used to measure ground resistance.


Inspectors use a variety of instruments, such as the wire rope tension meter here, to quantify their work.

(NAARSO), or the Amusement Industry Manufacturers and Suppliers Association (AIMS). But be sure you understand the nuances of each regulatory code. For example, while organizations like ACCT offer a supervisor endorsement for apprentice inspectors to be carefully supervised by a more qualified professional, many states require that the inspector on site is the one certified.

• Check for conflicts. Ensure the individual and organization they work for is indeed a true third party and has no conflict of interest. PUT IT IN WRITING A written contract or service agreement protects both the purchaser and the seller. As the purchaser, your contract should incorporate information from the vetting section (vendor is legally registered to do business in the state; inspector is licensed and certified in compliance with jurisdictional laws, and inspector is familiar with the specific structure and equipment type). A good contract will also include the following: • Indemnification. Identify the responsibilities of each party, and agree to release the other party if they have no responsibility if a future claim arises. • Timelines for Deliverables. Some companies return written reports within a few days; others can take months. Clearly state a turnaround time for the final report, say, three weeks, and require a written list of deficiencies, to be delivered by the inspector onsite or within 24 hours of the inspection. • Scope of Services Definition. Define the type of inspection and the standards to be applied. Is it a commission-

ing, acceptance, or annual inspection? Is it a program or accident review? Know what’s being inspected, and how. Include your paperwork (manuals, records, forms, etc.) as part of the inspection, to ensure compliance with standards and regulations. • Statement of Costs. Be clear on costs and what’s included in your contract and what’s not, such as expenses for travel. Specify how changes in the scope will be handled. • Mediation. Select a venue for mediation or legal remedy that’s convenient for your organization if a conflict does ever come up that needs to be addressed formally. • Legal Review. Have the agreement reviewed by a legal professional. Update your contract regularly. Not only do standards change, as the ACCT and ASTM ones have in the past year, but regulatory requirements also change. Ensuring compliance to the law, not just the standards, should receive the same scrutiny as your structures. IF DEFICIENCIES ARE FOUND Unlike first-party and second-party inspectors, a third-party inspector cannot perform maintenance of your course. If he did, by definition he would no longer qualify as a third party. So, schedule the inspection well in advance of opening for the season, if possible. Allow time

for the inspector to submit a report detailing any deficiencies that were found, and include time to complete the work. Note: Regulations may require that repairs or modifications are re-inspected by the third party; this is the case in the many jurisdictions that regulate our industry under the amusement codes. We recommend developing a relationship with two or more vendors. These should include one or two specifically for third-party inspection services, along with your original installer or another vendor to address repair needs. FINAL THOUGHTS Third-party inspections are quickly becoming common practice in North America. They are valuable even for organizations that are not currently required by regulation to have one. Yes, a third-party inspection may increase costs. But the benefits can be substantial, including greater peace of mind. And that’s worth a lot. Keith Jacobs, president of Experiential Systems Inc., has more than 25 years’ experience inspecting challenge course structures and is the current vice chair of the ANSI/ACCT Standards Consensus Group. Corey Wall, owner of Challenge Design Innovations, has 25 years’ experience inspecting challenge course structures, and is a member of the ACCT Inspector Certification Panel.

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• Ask about specific experience. Ensure the individual coming out to perform the inspection has experience on the type of structure or equipment your facility uses, and has the needed insurance to perform the work.


MADE IN THE SHADE

Adventure parks look to keep guests cool—and

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make attractions cooler, too. Some adventure parks are literally made in the shade, with ropes courses and other attractions built beneath a canopy of trees that provide natural cooling. Others, however, don’t have the benefit of being located in a mature forest, or have elements such as pools and waterslides where guests want to spend some—if not all—of their visit basking in sunlight.

and co-founder of Shade Sails Canada, which has installed shade structures in playgrounds as well as locations such as Blue Mountain Resort in Ontario and Revelstoke Mountain Resort in British Columbia. This “shade revolution” is good for guests’ health, improves aesthetics, and can also be a boon for the bottom line. GOOD FOR HUMANS

That’s where creating artificial shade and other protected, cool spaces can be the difference between a fun day of play and a brutal, sunburned ordeal—one unlikely to be willingly repeated. “There’s a big shade revolution happening,” says Brydon Roe, CEO

We’ve all heard temperature expressed with the proviso “in the shade,” but in fact, shade does not decrease air temperature at all, researchers say. Rather, being in the shade and not the sun reduces the perception of temperature

BY BOB CURLEY

by 10º F to 15º F, because shade blocks solar radiation. In short, people feel cooler in the shade even if they really aren’t. That’s not just true on hot summer days: Shade increases “thermal comfort significantly in the spring, summer, and fall,” according to researchers led by Ariane Middel, Ph.D., from Arizona State University, who added, “Thermal sensation responses did not significantly vary by shade type, suggesting that artificial and natural shade are equally efficient in mitigating heat stress.” In addition to making guests feel cooler, some shade products provide up to 99 percent protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays. “When you’re working


with kids, that’s very important to have,” says Maria Ramirez, marketing manager at Shade Systems, Inc., of Ocala, Fla. So important, adds Roe, that providing adequate sun protection is mandatory in settings like school playgrounds and other kid-friendly public spaces, decreasing potential liability issues. “A lot of deaths are due to heat, so there’s a concern for health and a liability issue if there’s no shade,” says Roe. “And melanoma is one of the most prevalent forms of cancer people get. It’s a legitimate health risk.”

In Grapevine, Texas, for example, visitation rose 100 percent after multi-level sail shades from Shade Systems, Inc., were installed over a children’s play area and over seating areas at the cityowned Dove Waterpark in 2013. “Attendance is up because our facility is now usable to more people for more hours of the day,” says Kevin Mitchell, director of the Grapevine Parks and Recreation Department. “Many play features would become unusable in the direct summer sun, and the play hours for children were extremely restricted during July and August.”

GOOD FOR BUSINESS In addition to keeping people healthy, aerial adventure parks can keep their guests feeling good—and keep them in the park longer—by providing adequate shade in exposed areas such as ropes course platforms, water stations, and areas where people line up for tickets or to access attractions.

OPPOSITE PAGE: After installing shade sails from Shade Systems, Inc., visitation to Dove Waterpark in Texas grew 100 percent. ABOVE: New shade structures from Shade Sails Canada at the entrance to Revelstoke’s mountain coaster.

GOOD FOR LOOKS At Blue Mountain, Shade Sails Canada created shaded areas over the entryways to zip lines and outdoor dining areas, with great feedback from visitors. At Revelstoke’s new adventure center, the mounting and dismounting platform for the mountain coaster is also protected from the sun. So is the ticket line for the Banff Gondola in Alberta. “More comfort allows you to sell more tickets,” says Roe.

Compared to a tent, sail shades can be more aesthetically pleasing, coming in multiple color choices to match the setting—bright colors for a waterpark, muted ones for a wooded setting, for example—and varying heights and sizes. Metal or concrete posts make the shades permanent, durable structures that are “much

Blocking the sun for spectators at an ampitheater makes it a much more comfortable experience. (Shade Sails Canada)

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Shade elements for the zip line launch at Niagara Falls help guests stay cool on the platform. (Shade Sails Canada)


MADE IN THE SHADE

MADE IN THE SHADE cheaper than a roof,” according to Roe.

half-hour, in most cases, thanks to the company’s proprietary “turn and slide” fastening system, says Ramirez. MIST-ICAL EFFECT

“You don’t want to be putting lime green sails on a mountain, but we can do a forest green with rust-colored poles,” he says. The height and angle of the sails and poles can also be modified to accentuate the surroundings. Shade materials are waterproof, typically, although the sail variety, while durable, isn’t meant to hold the weight of snow and must come down in the winter. Other types of shade solutions can stay up year-round, however. Retractable shades also are available. Shade Systems, Inc., offers canopy-like square, rectangle, hexagon, octagon, and cantilevered shades. “We make all kinds of shades for all kinds of weather,” says Ramirez. The company has brought shade to playgrounds, pools, waterparks, bleachers, restaurant and bar patios, and over walkways and benches. Shades can range in price from less than $4,000 to more than $100,000, depending on size, height, and the complexity of the install location (flat surfaces are cheaper). The company mounts its shades on columns sunk into the ground; the shaades can be installed or removed by maintenance crews in less than a

Something that actually does cool bodies down is water, which is why attractions often pair shade with misting systems that spread a fine spray in the air without soaking the skin. “As mist evaporates, it brings the temperature down,” says Bryan Roe, president of California-based Koolfog. “The purpose is to provide coverage to a space without wetting it.” Misters are commonly used in cooling tents but can also keep guests comfortable while waiting on line for attractions. Systems consist of a high-pressure pump, plumbing, and misting pipes, fans, or poles—the latter not too dissimilar from the snowmaking towers used at ski areas. In a cooling tent, the misting pipes are typically arranged around the edge to create a wall of moisture that guests move through as they enter or exit. That’s the setup at the adventure park at Killington, where misting systems from a company called Mr. Mister were added to a series of simple, 10’x10’ canopy tents to create heat relief for mountain bikers and other guests.

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Koolfog also makes heated- and chilled-water fog systems that can become part of attractions themselves. Imagine zip lining through a blanket of fog. “You can get more creative in attractions,” says Koolfog’s Roe. “Mist and fog give you the ability to create a unique effect and add some mystery to an attraction, to give it more of a ‘wow’ factor. Maybe it’s not strictly about cooling, but there’s a cool byproduct of it.”

TOP TO BOTTOM: Misting fan at Anakeesta, Tenn.; Koolfog’s water fog system creates the misty fog in the background at the OKC Boathouse Rumble Drop; Shade is appreciated when the line is long at the Banff gondola.


This “shade revolution” is good for guests’ health, improves aesthetics, and can also be a boon for the bottom line. Misting and fogging systems can be tied to motion detectors or run continuously, such as in the fogged-out slide tubes at Universal Studios’ Volcano Bay waterpark, or on the Sandridge Sky Trail adventure course at Riversport in Oklahoma City, which includes the Rumble Drop free-fall into a mist-shrouded landing area.

MULTI-USE SHADE

Price points are based on numbers of misting nozzles, with prices ranging from about $300 to $5,000. Fewer nozzles are needed in less-humid regions, says Roe.

As the name suggests, umbrella bars are structures covered by big, retractable umbrellas. Most are round or square, and cover anywhere from 172 sq. ft. to 2,147 sq. ft. The tops of the

Umbrella bars like those sold by Umbrella Bars USA are shaded structures that have benefits far beyond providing an escape from the sun—such an installation can become the social epicenter of an outdoor space where guests can enjoy food and drink.

umbrellas open electronically, making weather-based adjustments easy, and side panels can also be opened or closed based on whether the operator wants to keep heat in or out that day. They come with fully equipped bars, too. Prices for umbrella bars start at around $200,000 for a 7-meter (23 foot) diameter model, according to Umbrella Bars USA president Tom McHugh. Larger models can run upwards of $500,000 and seat up to 120 people. BE COOL Aside from umbrella bars that generate food and beverage revenue, calculating the ROI for shade structures can be challenging. It’s apparent that in certain situations, though, they drive more business—remember the example of Dove Waterpark. One thing is for sure—giving your guests more options to enjoy the shade is a very cool thing to do.

A twinkle-lit Umbrella Bars shade structure can add ambience at night as well as a shady resting spot during the day.

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Umbrella Bars structures can provide both shade and unique F&B venues in a variety of settings.


PART TWO IN A TWO PART SERIES

How to shoot and edit video that impresses viewers and drives business.

DIY VIDEO BY RACHEL MOORE, Really Social, Inc.

Part I of this series showed the tremendous value video adds to any aerial adventure operation’s online presence. This second installment shows how you can go about planning and producing your own videos, and offers some suggestions for the tools you’ll need to successfully do so. By the end, you’ll have all the pieces you need to start harnessing the power of video. To refresh your memory, in Part I we outlined several types of videos you might want to create and publish. For example:

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Explainer videos. Inspired by your FAQs, these uncomplicated videos are generally about how to enjoy a day at your park—what to wear, what to expect during a visit, etc. About-us videos tell background stories about the park, the people, and the experience. Action videos. These provide a ridealong experience for viewers on each feature of the park. Testimonial videos. Interviews with customers serve as reviews as well as revealing your park’s features. For any type of marketing video, Fotaflo president Ryan O’Grady offers some simple guidelines. “Videos should be impactful, short, viewable, embedded with a brand, and create a measurable benefit to the business,” says O’Grady. “You need to have intent for that video.” You know video is powerful, and you’ve brainstormed ideas. Now, let’s go through the process to create a video that’s perfect for what your park wants to accomplish.

Squad Goals

because you can. Make a video because you should.

Before we venture out with cameras and microphones, there are a few steps to complete. First, let’s figure out your goals. Ask yourself a few key questions:

• What answer do I provide over and over to guests that could be provided in a video? • What communication gaps do I consistently experience and need a new way to resolve? • What is the most successful aspect of my park that deserves additional spotlight? These aren’t the only questions that can help you figure out the goals for your next video. Marcia Herteis, VP of sales at PicThrive, suggests it’s important to “understand who your target audience is,” too. The point is: Don’t make a video just

For our purposes here, let’s select a theme for a video that can accomplish more than one goal: “A Day at Our Park!” This has all the fixings for a phenomenal outcome: a testimonial-type message, an explainer of all that goes into your park’s experience, and an overall show-and-tell of what your park offers.

Storyboard, Not a Bored Story The next step is crucial, yet often overlooked: storyboarding the video. The word “storyboard” can be intimidating, mostly because it sounds like something only movie studios and ad agencies do. In reality, all you need is a three-column table like this one, below:

Scene Description

Set Plan

Script and Text

Teenager in driveway as family leaves home for day at the park.

Background: Minivan in driveway with family members getting buckled in, chatting.

“Hi, I’m Chelsea, and today is finally the day our family is heading to [YOUR PARK]! Let’s go!”

Subject: teen girl speaking to camera, then climbs into minivan.

Caption: Dress for a fun day, just leave the flipflops at home. And remember sunscreen!

Time-lapse dash cam of approach to park.

Forward shot from dash-mount using GoPro or Smartphone of highway, exit off ramp, taking turns and pulling into parking lot with park sign clearly visible.

“Take exit 722 and you’re just five minutes from fun!”

Small child getting into harness with staff help.

Wide shot: Chelsea talking to camera while, to the side, younger boy and staff person working on harness assembly.

“It’s so weird how Joel hates getting buckled into the car, but loves getting harnessed up for the zip line. Well, this IS way more fun!” Caption: [YOUR PARK’s] harnesses fit kids as small as X lbs. and adults up to XX lbs., and we make sure they fit comfortably and for safely.


Your storyboard can also include additional columns for planning transitions, music, effects, and so on. It all depends on how detailed your imagination can get. In general, though: “Build your brand and personality into the video,” says Herteis. “Capture the quirks and highlights of your [tour or park].”

Plan the Video Project Once your storyboard is fleshed out, start planning your video shoot. That means people, places, and things. People: Staff members are your top resource for this aspect of the video, especially if you’ve included them as characters in your storyboard. For authenticity, also include family, friends, and even customers. You can always incentivize them for participating by offering vouchers for a free climb or zip.

BACKGROUND VIEWS B-Roll—stock footage, oftentimes without sound—helps provide visual context to what a narrator is saying. For example, a tree-based aerial adventure park makes a video to promote climbing during fall foliage. Footage of colorful trees and people climbing among them is shown while a voice describes the experience. That background footage is B-roll. It’s an important aspect to sharing the full story in a great video. Plan to gather a library

Places: Establish where each shot will happen, and when. Some notes to consider as you proceed:

• Permissions: If any shots will take

place on property you don’t own, get prior authorization from the owner to shoot video there. A video shoot can draw a surprising amount of attention, so make sure you can prove you’re allowed to be there if someone asks. • Weather: When shooting outdoors, Mother Nature is essentially one of your cast members. Have backup times and dates in your plan if she doesn’t cooperate. Rain, wind, and flat light are not good for video shoots.

Kirk Draheim, product design lead with video system supplier Revl, agrees. “Quality means capturing the best moments of the experience, crafting a compelling storyline, and capturing amazing B-roll to help tell the rest of the story and give the viewers context,” he says.

• “Extras:” If you’re not shooting in an area that’s closed to the public, bystanders may prefer to gawk rather than pretend it’s business as usual. You don’t want them in your shot, so put up notices that a video shoot is under way, and have one or two people present to wave people through or direct them around the action.

2 # e n e c S Energy is key here: The people in your video need to look like they want to be there, so choose folks who actually enjoy the activity you’re filming—and are also game to be on the big (or little) screen.

of B-roll that can be used in specific video subjects, such as the fall foliage example, or gearing up, as well as footage that can be used in just about any video.

Things: Whether it’s a minivan or a harness, make sure you have all props and objects lined up and set aside for your use. Never assume an object that has always been there before is going to be there on the day of your shoot.

Also, make sure your props are clean and look good. This applies to everything and everyone that will be in front of the camera, in fact.

Tools of the Trade

At last! We’re just about ready to send out the crew and make a video shoot happen. We have the goals, we have the storyboard, and we have the plan— now we just need the equipment that will capture the magic. Let’s cover your options for cameras, microphones, lighting, editing, and miscellaneous tools. Most of these are available to purchase from Amazon.com or other online sellers; check https:// www.amazon.com/shop/rachelmoore to compare options.

^ A DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) professional photo camera can take really great video as well.

CAMERAS Today’s cameras are small, fast, and easy to use. You don’t need to be a seasoned pro or have a movie-studio budget to effectively shoot a top-notch video. The tool options: Smartphone Stabilizer. It’s perfectly fine to use the very adequate camera on your smartphone. But to ensure the footage looks professional, get a handheld stabilizer. This tool lets you take a truly steady video using your smartphone, even if you’re in motion. Smove makes a fantastic and easy-to-use Bluetooth stabilizer for smartphones. >> continued

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As you add each row and fill in the detail, the video structure begins to take shape in your imagination. You can also easily move scenes around to ensure the flow makes sense. Ask for opinions from your team to make sure the flow looks good on paper—because then it’s more likely to look good on video.


a company like Revl, which uses DJI drones—can be a great option. The footage provides a cinematic aspect that is harder to achieve when you’re bound to the ground. However, there are rules and even laws around drone use, so know before you buy and fly. (Approx. $800+)

MICROPHONES You must-must-must use microphones in your video shoots. A video consumer will often forgive subpar video as long as the audio is clear. But if you’re investing in a high-quality video, poor or unclear audio will lose any points you would have gained.

Note that there are some Bluetooth-enabled microphones that work with any Bluetooth device, including smartphones. However, in addition to questionable reliability, the use of such devices is being evaluated by the FCC— buyer beware.

n o i t c A

Revl uses DJI drones to get high quality cinematic video from above, while controlling from below.

NOTE: Videos take up a ton of storage on a smartphone, so make sure the device you use has plenty available. (Approx. $140-$250) Mobile Camera. The DJI Osmo Pocket is compact, easy to use, and has a native stabilizer. It shoots HD-4K video, and can also capture photos, time lapse, and slow motion. There is even an easy editing feature in the accompanying free mobile app, plus motion tracking for action shots. For storage, it uses an SD card, which needs to be purchased separately. (Starts at $399)

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Wireless lavalier microphone system. To lose the cords and wires in favor of action and mobility, you can invest in a two-piece wireless lav mic system: a clipon lav mic that runs to a belt-clip pack, which sends the audio wirelessly to a receiver pack that clips to a DSLR or larger camera. Both packs are battery-powered and can allow your subject to move freely as you capture their audio while shooting the video. (Approx. $600)

DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex). This is the type of professional photo camera most of us are used to seeing. Nowadays, these take really great video as well. DSLRs are the most common type of high-end camera used by pro photographers and non-studio videographers. They are a bit more complex as far as features and how to use them beyond a simple point-and-shoot, so the learning curve is steeper than for a smartphone or mobile camera. (Approx. $350 and up) Drone. If you really want to add dimension to your video with the power of flight, investing in a drone—or utilizing

It’s incredibly affordable today to make good audio happen. Here are a few suggestions:

Mobile lavalier microphone. A simple lavalier (lav) mic is affordable and easy. It consists of a clip-on mic, a really long cord, and an eighth-inch audio input that works with your smartphone or any standard audio input. They even come

Boom microphone. Especially useful if you’re using a DSLR camera, a boom microphone can be affixed to the top of your camera to capture nearby audio. This isn’t the ideal option for distance or

^

^

with windscreens and pop filters to reduce ambient noise. (Approx. $20)

If you’re shooting video from a mobile phone you’ll want to use a stabalizer, like this easy-to-use one from Smove.


outdoor shots, but if you’re indoors in a somewhat controlled environment, it works great. (Approx. $25)

OTHER HANDY TOOLS Mounts. Just like stabilizers, camera mounts and tripods can make an amateur video look like the work of a pro simply by steadying the shot. Dashboard camera mounts, floor mounts, tripods, etc., can be found from companies like Arkon (use REALLYSOCIAL at checkout to get 20 percent off).

^ Fotaflo systems can provide guests with the means for easy personal video production.

Internet and Wi-Fi. Draheim from Revl has some great advice for any park: “Make sure your park has the proper infrastructure to handle high volumes of videos, the most important piece being high-speed internet with fast upload speeds.” For editing and uploading your videos as well as allowing your guests to share their own videos online right away, providing the digital highway for your video traffic is crucial.

^

^

The PicThrive photo system, which can create custom videos, is used at Royal Gorge Rafting & Zipline Tours.

Revl helmet mounts produce personal and shareable zip line videos.

A LAST WORD ABOUT VIDEOS… ALL OF THEM

^ Using Smove to capture the action.

Simple signage around your property marking “selfie spots” and/ or “great view for video” locations is smart. Take it a step further by including a call to action on the signs to tag your social media channels along with relevant hashtags. The exposure your brand will get through guest-created content is incredibly valuable. Equally as valuable, and more predictable, are videos created and shared by one of the systems available for parks to install, such as Revl, Fotaflo, and Snapsportz.

These systems can produce quality, edited, and branded video of guests enjoying your park, and distribute it to them automatically. In either case, you can incentivize guests to share the videos by including on your signage and related digital communication (i.e., follow-up emails) a message saying their video could be “our next spotlight,” where you choose a guest video to share on your own social channels. People love that sort of recognition. VIDEO SYSTEMS SUPPLIERS Fotaflo www.fotaflo.com PicThrive www.picthrive.com Revl www.revl.com Snapsportz Media Inc. www.snapsportz.com

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You absolutely should be creating your own videos, because you can control and relay your specific message to your customers. But, just as great audio is an absolute must-have, so is empowering your customers to create and share their own videos, or having a system that creates the videos for them.


If you know your fixed and variable costs, you can make smart decisions about your base prices and promotional discounts—and increase both revenues and profits.

PRICING FOR GROWTH BY LEE KERFOOT, Kerfoot Canopy Tour

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Priced right and offering value for both the guest and the business, the “holiday decorating weekends” at Gunflint Lodge sell out two early-December weekends that previously sat empty.

What can a remote wilderness resort, a minor league baseball team, and your income statement teach us about pricing and growing your revenue during the shoulder times at your business? Quite a bit, actually. If boosting revenues and growing profits is of interest, of course. Assuming it is, let’s first discuss pricing by looking at your income statement. A traditional income statement is broken down into three categories: revenues, expenses, and profit. Pricing your experience requires you to first categorize your expenses as either fixed costs or variable costs:

In exchange for discounted rates—that exceed costs—guests who book the holiday decorating weekends all pitch in to make and hang holiday decorations around Gunflint Lodge.

Fixed costs stay the same regardless of the number of guests you have. Examples include: your mortgage, year-round salaried positions, vehicle payments, insurance, and utilities.

your actual numbers to create your own income statement, and use that to help determine what price to charge for your experience.)

Variable costs go up and down based on the number of guests you have. The two largest variable costs are guide payroll and marketing. For this article, variable costs refer to your guide payroll and marketing costs collectively as one number.

Let’s make the following assumptions about the year’s business: • Your variable costs are $30/guest. $15/guest in guide payroll + $15/guest in marketing costs. • You expect to have 10,000 guests. So your variable costs will be $300,000 ($30 x 10,000).

BUILDING AN INCOME STATEMENT To determine what to charge for your tour, let’s look at the following scenario. (You can replace the numbers here with

Add up your fixed costs (mortgage, insurance, vehicle payment, utilities, etc.). Let’s assume the total is $500,000. Your total expenses (fixed costs + variable


costs) are $800,000. Now, to make our income statement look rosy, let’s add a profit of $200,000. It looks like this: Fixed Costs Variable Costs Profit Total

$500,000 $300,000 $200,000 $1,000,000

To make this work you need your revenue to equal or exceed $1,000,000. If you expect to have 10,000 guests, then your price must average at least $100/guest. Of course, simply writing attendance figures down on paper doesn’t necessarily make that many guests show up. Your marketing message needs to align with your pricing and experience. But for our current purpose, we’ll assume our basic profit and cost projections are spot on. How can you improve this income statement and increase your profits? There are several ways. For example: change your experience to be something new and different; increase the number of guests during the shoulder times of the day, or times of the week, or months of the year. How to accomplish that? Let’s look at a few examples, starting with the Gunflint Lodge.

When Scouts have a great experience, they rave about it while out in the community.

MAKING WORK PAY Gunflint Lodge is a remote wilderness resort in the highly seasonal market of northern Minnesota. The property sells out during several shoulder weekends thanks to two unique specials. Work weekend. In late October, after all of the leaves have fallen off the trees, Gunflint offers a “work weekend” at a discounted price when the resort was historically empty. Guests pay $100-$120 per person, per night for two nights at the resort (a 25 to 50 percent discount, depending on the number of guests) including one breakfast and one lunch. In exchange, the guests work for Gunflint on Saturday morning from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Typical projects include raking leaves, splitting and hauling wood, or putting away summer furniture. Crazy idea? Hardly. Gunflint Lodge is 100 percent sold out for the two fall work weekends. It is not uncommon for families to get into challenges to see who can split more wood or rake more leaves. Gunflint gets a lot of work done, and the discounted rate more than covers the lodge’s costs. Decorating weekend. Gunflint Lodge was also 100 percent empty during the first two weekends of December. Inspired by the success of the “work weekends,” it packaged “holiday decorating weekends” during those December dates. Two nights, heavily dis-

An annual event like Scouta-Palooza makes it easy for troop leaders to plan.

counted, one breakfast and one lunch. Again, discounts ranged about 25 to 50 percent. Guests spent Saturday morning putting up Christmas decorations throughout the entire resort. And once again, Gunflint Lodge was 100 percent sold out during shoulder (non-peak) times of the year. Plus, the resort looked great during the busy holiday season. ZIPPING IT UP Closer to home, several zip line tour operators have similarly found ways to fill shoulder times of the day and week to grow revenue. How? They have created shorter tours, and offer them at a lower price point. This new shorter tour is often only offered during slower times of the day or on slower days of the week. The purpose of the shorter tours is to sell out times that would not have normally sold, thereby increasing overall revenue. Another way to change your adventure park experience is to change the lengths of time you let guests explore your park. Your base price could be for three hours. Do you offer a two-hour pass, or a onehour pass? How about a full day pass? Do you make more money if your twohour price is 80 percent of the threehour price? What would happen if you only offered the one-hour pass during the very early hours or very late hours? New experiences at different price points during non-peak times help grow overall revenue and profitability. >>

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Targeting specific groups and strategically pricing events, like Kerfoot Canopy Tours does with Scouts for its “Scout-a-Palooza,” can fill slower shoulder-season dates and can boost revenue.


PRICING FOR GROWTH Jesse Cole (in yellow tux), owner of the Savannah Bananas minor league baseball team, has reimagined the game experience and created such value that games sell out months in advance.

The businesses that offered shorter zip line tours found: 1) Their guests are more likely to come back for the full tour (effectively lowering marketing costs and increasing repeat business); 2) it increased overall revenue; 3) it kept their guides more fully utilized; 4) it created a product offering for price-sensitive guests, and; 5) it did not cannibalize the pricing integrity of the main experience.

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Targeting particular groups can work, too. For example, Kerfoot Canopy Tours created a “Scout-a-Palooza” on two consecutive Sundays in early October, a typically slow time. Combined, more than 175 Boy Scouts participated, so it was an exciting experience. And the event created 175 new fans in the community who raved about the tour. Plus, the scoutmasters have an easy event to offer each fall. PRICING PROPERLY How do you price your experience for price sensitive groups such as Scouts, schools, or churches? When crafting a new one-time event, basing prices on your year-round variable costs could lead to overpricing. So, you need to determine your variable cost per guest for the event. Using Scout-a-Palooza as an example: First, determine how many labor hours you’ll need. Next, multiply the

For families with younger fans, getting to meet the players is a huge value.

labor hours by the hourly pay (plus any payroll taxes), and the total is your labor cost. The formula would look like this: 3 guides x 10 hours x 2 days = 60 labor hours Guide pay is $12/hour, including payroll taxes 60 hours x $12/hour = $720 in labor cost

Finally, let’s assume $200 for marketing of the event. Add the $200 (marketing) to the $720 (labor) to get total variable costs of $920. Divide the $920 by 175 guests, and the per-guest variable cost is $5.25. If you charge guests $20 each, then you need 46 guests to cover the variable costs. Everything after 46 guests goes to pay down the fixed costs, or is profit if the fixed costs have already been paid. REVENUE MANAGEMENT The Gunflint Lodge and Scout-a-Palooza have one thing in common with airlines, hotels, movie theaters, and even Amazon: they practice revenue management. This can be generally described as selling the right product, to the right person, at the right price, during the right time. Tours that charge more during periods of strong demand, such as weekends, and charge less midweek when demand is weaker are practicing revenue management. These moves encourage

Pregame high fives and a new twist on the 7th inning stretch are part of the draw.

guests to come during a time and price that is best for them and the business. If guests are price sensitive, they can come during the slower (lower priced) time periods. If guests value a particular time more than price, they can pay peak prices for peak time periods. PLAY BALL! Jesse Cole and his wife, Emily, own the Savannah Bananas, a minor league baseball team in Savannah, Ga. To say they do things differently is like saying the sun is kind of warm. They have altered just about every typical touch point and tradition in baseball, and revenue has grown as a result of totally reimagining the experience. For example, all of the players wear green jerseys for the first game of the season, because the bananas are not ripe yet. Before every game, the players line up at the ticket booths and high five the fans who arrive early. Instead of the usual 7th inning stretch, the “grandma cheerleaders” come out and do a fun dance to energize the fans. Jesse wears a yellow tuxedo with a yellow top hat to every game and fans love getting selfies with him. He has radically changed the typical minor league baseball experience. Now, back to pricing. Jesse knew he needed to charge enough to cover his variable costs, which were extremely low. So, he decided to charge one price


(at last check, tickets were around $20). That price includes a ticket to the game, parking, unlimited food, and unlimited non-alcoholic drinks. This strategy further changed the experience, and turned a common complaint—high prices for food and drink—into a huge plus. Demand for tickets boomed, and continues to skyrocket. To the envy of every other minor league team, for the past three years and running, the Savannah Bananas have sold out every game of the season—months before the season even starts. Jesse created a new experience by reimaging what a baseball game could be, and adding so much value that fans just had to see the games. How can you change your experience to add more value and attract more guests? ADDING VALUE In my experience, when you attempt to add value, it needs to be something your guests will truly value. For example, free GoPro rentals did not make a material improvement in our mid-week

reservations; it only increased our GoPro costs.

every other week throughout the year, guests would be trained to wait until the last minute to book their tours.

If you don’t want to or feel you can’t add more value—but still feel pressure to discount tours—what should you do? One component of revenue management is to offer discounts as far in advance as possible, and not at the last minute. This trains your guests to commit (and pay) further in advance vs. training guests to wait for a last-minute special before booking a tour with you. Another strategy: One canopy tour sells discounted gift certificates at Christmastime that are only valid during the slower days of the week for the upcoming season. In addition to filling slower days, the sale drives revenue when the course is closed. That helps with cash flow. Selling the discounted gift certificates only during the winter months helps reinforce the pricing integrity of the tour during the main season. If guests saw the zip line tour running discounts

PRICE WISELY Short-term discounts and the associated last-minute reservations can strain operations as the business tries to line up guides and other resources. Guides are often looking for certainty and clarity on their schedules as far in advance as possible, and near-term discounts make that difficult. Instead, use discounts selectively. Knowing your fixed and variable costs helps you understand what price you need to charge your guests. You may discover you can grow your revenue and profits by changing the duration of your experiences, for example, or by creating new experiences, as the Gunflint Lodge and the Savannah Bananas did. If you understand the variable costs of a one-time event or off-peak promotion, you can then price the event or promotion appropriately. Have a great season!

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STAR LIFTS USA WEST CANADA Marc Wood (PE) 503.799.3893

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81  Winter 2020

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We take inspections & 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 35 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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Adventure Park Insider Winter 2020  

The go-to information source for adventure park operators.

Adventure Park Insider Winter 2020  

The go-to information source for adventure park operators.