For the attractions, theme parks and museums that were able to open in mid to late 2020, everyone was forced to look at their operation differently. Sometimes you need a kick in the teeth in order to rethink how you do business. A lot of what was done in 2020 was out of necessity. New policies had to comply with local and state laws. Many had to be adapted to meet the need of the individual operation.
In the process, it seems that some operators like some of the changes that have come about. Believe it or not, some aspects of the operation have gotten better despite the genesis for them being in a global pandemic. Reservations for theme parks and attractions may be one of the new policies that we see “stick” from that was born from the crazy year that was 2020.
From a guest perspective, you might see this as a pain in the ass. As it stands now, you have to log in and pick what day you’re going to visit a certain theme park. If you are visiting a haunted house or museum, you have to go a step further and pick a start time. This allows the operator to pulse people in accordingly and not have the entrance jammed up.
In the end, the experience can be better for the guest this way. Not being crammed or rushed through the attraction can lead to higher satisfaction overall. You can look at it as more of a VIP experience. Though all you’re really doing is regulating the crowd as they come in.
Often times on holidays, parks fill to capacity within an hour or so of opening. This leaves families stranded who may have drove hours or days that didn’t get up at the crack of dawn. Should they have known to arrive early? Sure, but perception is reality. As a park, you can only do so much to get the word out that capacity is reached or might be hit in the early morning. While it would be a learning curve, after a few years, it will become well known that reservations are needed to visit certain theme parks. Just like you need one for most flights, theater shows and large sports events.
Operationally, who wouldn’t want this? A theme park can tell in advance how busy they are going to be and adjust operations accordingly. Sure, the Magic Kingdom may have an advertised closing of 10 pm. However, perhaps they can shave some labor hours by closing certain restaurants a little earlier if reservations don’t hit the projected amount. Maybe run a few less boats on the Jungle Cruise.
From a smaller attraction operator, the benefits are even greater. Let’s say you’re a seasonal haunt that will run on a reservations-only system in 2021 and start advertising as such in June. Now can you predict your slow nights and potentially shut down operations an hour or two early here and there. In addition, you get your money months in advance with people buying tickets online instead of at the gate.
Why does that matter? You can breather a little easier if you’re selling most of your inventory before you even start admitting guests in September. On the other hand, if your advance sales are slow, maybe you can spend a little more on marketing to drive sales.
On so many levels, this makes sense. However, we don’t expect all attractions and theme parks to adopt reservations. This is not a “what works for one, will work for all” system. Many factors play in, including what kind of market you have, how far in advance do guests usually plan to visit the attraction, is it worth it to offer incentives to book in advance, etc.
What are your thoughts? Do you think theme parks and attractions will start to use reservations beyond the pandemic? Does it make sense for them and for you as a guest? Would love to hear your thoughts.
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