PW-JAN20-39-40-Guest-Article.qxp_Feature 31/01/2020 14:17 Page 39

Guest Article

Leaving a lasting impression

Robert A. Decker, owner of US based company RAD Design & Planning, LLC on creating social experiences for young families


o you remember your first theme park experience as a child? Theme park, amusement park, county fair, parish picnic, or pleasure pier, those

memorable moments are likely with you even today. My first memories take me back to LeSourdsville Lake, where I remember swaying dizzily away from the Tilt-A-Whirl, moving toward the sound of my parent’s laughter. It was a fun day, and we stayed until nightfall. The appearance of the park transitioned to a festive glow, and I recall holding my father’s hand when crossing a long tall bridge that seemed suspended hundreds of feet above a ravine. Of course, the bridge was likely to have been only a few paces for him, and the drop was undoubtedly shorter than he was tall. From a wide-eyed kid’s perspective, the scale of the park, the ride dynamics, and the magic of a twinkling transition at dusk left an indelible impression on me — a happy one.

The Challenge Psychologists will tell us that it isn’t clear how accurate childhood memories are, but I’ll suggest that recalling all the details


of that day may not be so important. I do remember who I was with, how I felt about our time together, and although my head was spinning, I was also delighted. As I ponder that, I also wonder if there is value to focusing more attention on the qualitative aspects of attraction and park development for families with young kids? Many regional scaled parks have circled back to update “Kiddie areas” of the park by adding more rides and diversifying activities with engaging, immersive experiences. Astonishingly, I’ve found many tenets of proper planning, such as developing a strong sense of place, providing spaces for social gathering, and crafting a beautiful park-like environment to be overlooked and underserved in several other theme parks. Should owner/operators consider placing a higher

importance on these aspects in a kid’s area? Is it that we are all pleasers and hope to frame up or influence the importance of a happy childhood, or is it also a strategic business objective to promote social gathering for young families in our parks and in doing so, build a customer base for life? So how much should we think about the qualitative aspects of the guest experience when we invest? For starters, it depends on your current offering. The challenge in the young family market is to cross an

investment threshold to make enough of an impact to transform the kid’s area to create a beter experience, lengthen the family’s stay, and incentivise

repeat visitation. Sound scary? Isn’t it true that parents are likely to take


“Qualifier, there are many practiced ways to improve revenues and attendance at theme parks. The analysis of theme park demographics is requisite to understanding growth potential through strategic planning and implementation. Hire a professional to explore the many opportunities to create anew or transform your current offering into something memorable.”

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