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report | theme parks


Tech innovations A key trend is parks embracing technology. While 3D and even 4D rides are well-established, the greatest strides are in customizing and smoothing clients’ experience. Legoland’s Q-Bot device, which reserves ride slots, is being updated to a smartphone system, while Disney is finalizing MyMagic+ linking website and app vacation planning tools to MagicBands bracelets, which act as entry ticket, fast pass and hotel room key. Parks are also getting more tech savvy about


harnessing interest. “Social media has proven to be a key medium for brands looking to reach potential visitors and as a way to keep fans engaged long after they’ve left the park,” says Gabi Lieberman, Mintel’s social media analyst. Among recent innovations, SeaWorld is


creating interactive animal-themed digital story books and recently launched AnimalVision, with cameras streaming 24/7 footage from penguin, turtle and ray habitats and integrating it with Twitter feeds and downloadable games. Newberg Travel & Cruise president Donna


Mantie says 30% of its clients make visiting a theme park the main reason for their vacation. Among recent boosts is Cars Land, a themed area that has had a ‘huge impact’ on bookings for Disney California Adventure. Tis is also the experience of Rebekah


Mahnken, president and CEO of MEI-Travel and Disney-dedicated Mouse Fan Travel, who praises Cars Land’s


“amazing technology”.


Beyond Disney, she highlights Universal’s Harry Potter attractions as a great example of “bringing immersive experiences to the fans”. Mahnken has been a Disney fan since she was


seven and says nostalgia is part of the appeal for many, adding: “It’s also a name and brand we trust. We know what we’re getting before we arrive.” Her team has harnessed this brand loyalty to entice clients on Disney Cruise Line


WHAT’S NEW


n HARRY POTTER: Universal Studios Florida is extending the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to include Diagon Alley and an Escape from Gringotts ride, linked to the Islands of Adventure’s Potter attractions by the Hogwarts Express. A second Potter park is due to open at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2016. universalorlando.com n FALCON’S FURY: North America’s tallest free-standing drop tower ride, Falcon’s Fury,


opened on May 1 in Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s remodeled Pantopia area. The ride takes passengers 335ft up and turns them so they drop face first. seaworldparks.com n DISCOVERY COVE: At the new Freshwater Oasis at Discovery Cove, Orlando, visitors can swim and float to meet otters and an island full of marmoset monkeys. discoverycove.com n TREASURE COVE: Shanghai Disneyland, set to open in 2015, will include Disney’s first


pirate-themed land, Treasure Cove, with a new Pirates of the Caribbean hi-tech battle ride. Also next year, Disneyland Paris will debut a Ratatouille area with a themed restaurant and ride. shanghaidisneyresort.com n CABANA BAY: The 1950s-themed Cabana Bay Resort has opened at Universal Orlando Resort. Guest benefits include early access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. universalorlando.com


and Adventures by Disney vacations and to parks abroad, primarily Disneyland Paris. She encourages her theme park clients to stay


on site to keep ‘immersed’ and access resort benefits; to build itineraries based on must-dos, rather than hope to see everything; to use flexible Park Hopper passes; and not to forget to relax by the pool or over a nice meal. Increasingly, Newberg Travel sees customers


looking for value for money from their theme park vacation, while Mintel’s research attributed rising costs among reasons for a decline in US


teens visiting theme parks. Here agents can have the edge, however. Mouse Fan Travel’s Mahnken says: “Packages and special seasonal offers are always rolling out that provide price breaks and savings on rooms, tickets and dining, or all three. When you book direct with Disney, you won’t likely get a phone call that says ‘Hey! I just applied a new offer code that saved you $850 off your vacation!’” Travel agents who keep abreast of theme park


deals and developments can prove their value and keep those repeaters coming their way. n


48 | ASTAnetwork | summer 2014


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