Comment The Knoebel family. Photo credit: Bill Buckley As with all walks of life there’s the good and the bad.

Some groups of enthusiasts have been described as entitled, especially when they don’t get what they want; some parks avoid working with specific enthusiasts and websites as they can be pushy and almost threatening. The team at Knoebels check up on groups they’ve not previously met ahead of a trip to the park. They occasionally reach out to other parks that the group may have already visited to see how they behaved. Jordan Middleton could be described as a secret agent

When it comes to the opening of a new attraction,

enthusiasts can be the people to call. For the press event of Helix at Liseberg, the European Coaster Club flew in 110 members from right across Europe. Justin Garvanovic, founder of the European Coaster Club, believes this has a number of benefits “ Our members got to be the first riders on one of the world’s best coasters, lighting up social media with reports on just how amazing Helix was. The enthusiasts gave the park a ready supply of international experts for the main stream press to talk to and there was never a photograph of the ride operating that day with an empty seat.” The knowledge enthusiasts can be incredibly useful for

market research. Their experience of parks around the world can be tapped in to for ideas on future attractions and developments, of course remembering that they don’t speak for all your guests and may have their own agenda on the type of ride they most love. And often they have no concept of business aspects like budgets, ride capacity, space or target markets.

During closed season the Knoebel family attend enthusiast

conventions, sharing stories, announcing new rides and food, telling jokes and auctioning memorabilia for charity. This has further strengthened the relationship between the park and their fans.

Rick Knoebel finds this invaluable “Our fans have been

extremely loyal cheerleaders over the years. They are the first to communicate our announcements to the public, and the first to defend us if criticised. They are honest with their feedback and engage with us directly. We have used them as focus groups for ride additions or changes and they have provided us with a much more informed opinion about the thoughts and views of the general public. Enthusiasts have come to our rescue more times than we can count.” As a manufacturer Intamin enjoys connecting with

enthusiasts. “We really appreciate people with a genuine passion for our beloved industry. What would we do and where would we be without them? We regularly read their reviews and often even receive suggestions and recommendations from enthusiasts. We always consider their input very valuable, even if it sometimes is not necessarily in line with our views.” But there’s a reminder that enthusiasts don’t always

represent the majority of park guests “Intamin is very well known for the tallest, the fastest, the steepest. Pushing the boundaries has contributed a lot to our reputation and often at the same time also pleases many enthusiasts. But we do not necessarily design our rides for the enthusiasts only. In other words, it is impossible to please all stake holders.”

54 MARCH 2019

with a foot in both camps. One of the UK’s most well known enthusiasts, Jordan is also brand manager for Thorpe Park Resort. Seeing it from both sides Jordan’s advice to parks is “Engage with fans on social media. And I mean really engage – actually have a conversation or a joke with them. It’s just the same as building a friendship, you get out what you put in and that’s very clear from the relationship we’ve created with our fans here at Thorpe Park. We treat them just the same as we’d treat any press, from making sure they have the latest press release to inviting them to our press events. They’re our biggest fans and we want them to scream from the rooftops about how excited they are about our park and all of the awesome things there are to do here!”

Andreas Andersen, another theme park enthusiast, and CEO of Liseberg has this advice for parks and fans “From a park perspective they can be a very valuable group to invite in. From an enthusiast perspective, think about how you communicate to and about the parks. On both sides stay honest, but be respectful.” The final word on the role of enthusiasts is perhaps one

that can’t be measured, the boost they can offer to staff morale during difficult moments. Following the fire at Europa Park in 2018, enthusiasts jumped to social media to support the park, offering encouragement on being able to rebuild bigger and stronger, and sharing their personal family memories of the rides that had burnt to the ground. The Mack family were so overwhelmed by the out-pouring of support that Roland Mack published a video thanking fans. So no matter what enthusiasts may say or do the rest of

the year, when you really need them, they can be there for you like a supportive member of the theme park family.

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