Feasibility Analysis
Design Masterplanning
Operations Planning

“At ITPS…Fun is a SERIOUS Business!" 

Episode 1:   How Covid-19 is Impacting Vendors & Suppliers
Guest:  Jim Seay, President & Owner, Premier Rides

For this inaugural ITPS podcast, Dennis is joined by Jim Seay, President & Owner of Premier Rides. Jim is a safety industry expert and a globally respected industry icon. Hear how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted manufacturers and suppliers around the world in both the short and long term. Dennis and Jim also discuss their insights on our industry’s performance, including how vendor transactions will be carried out in the future.

Additional Questions after the Podcast

During the podcast with Jim, questions were submitted by participants and answered live. However, due to time, a few outstanding questions submitted were not answered. We would like to follow up by providing those questions below, with answers from Jim or Dennis.

QUESTION: Is it anticipated that manufacturers will re-allocate resources in order to enter other industry markets? Will these companies be able to survive solely in the themed entertainment industry during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Jim Seay: There is definitely a significant period of time, perhaps another 18 – 24 months, where manufacturers and suppliers need to adjust to a market with significantly reduced demand. To come out of this period strong, the opportunities both inside the industry and outside, should be evaluated based on each business’s fiscal condition. Going outside the industry is best done in financially sound environments, such as government-backed fabrication programs – ventilator fabrication as an example. The challenge in going outside is that the existing relationships may be harmed or superseded by competitors. Inside the industry, suppliers with import expertise were some of the first to pivot and find ways to be a resource for COVID 19 related products. As an example, IAAPA member, The Virginia Toy and Novelty Company, was one of the first in our market to rapidly make masks and sanitizer available to the industry at a time when it was desperately needed for reopening efforts.

There is a long term need (opportunity) within the industry for a wide array of COVID 19 products. Those products that require high level industry expertise are a real opportunity. Examples are software to manage capacity, touchless ticket sales, mobile food ordering, virtual queuing, shields for trams and trains, and touchless vending machines. From the ride manufacturing perspective, it is important to note that the labor base that makes up the teams who fabricate and deliver the amazing rides we all appreciate are highly trained and qualified machinists, welders, mechanics and electricians. This labor force is well suited to provide service support for parks and attractions in the form of both off-site and on-site contributions. Off-site can include specific ride equipment rehabs such as trains and brakes, or the fabrication of new trains and other replacement components. On-site support can be for specific service projects and inspections.

Due to the significant reductions in park labor, there may be an opportunity for short term skilled labor support. It should also be noted that these technicians are appropriately well paid due to their skill level, so the idea of reallocating them to the production of non-industry equipment should include careful consideration of the production costs, especially when competing against imported goods such as PPE that may have a much lower cost basis.

QUESTION: Premier is always fantastic at marketing (well done, Sara and team). Other than the obvious “pivots” in service, how do you continue to market the Premier brand, while being sensitive to your customers?

Jim Seay: Premier Rides’ goal from the start of the pandemic was, and continues to be, to both focus on the positive and to be mindful of the unprecedented situation our global clients are going through. Premier redefined its marketing approach to halt sales activities out of respect for our customers and to focus on being a support resource in order to be part of the solution.

Our efforts have included participating in webinars, video meetings with colleagues around the world, one-on-one client chats, emails, phone calls and social media engagement in an effort to work together to develop opening guidance, to listen to and to share ideas, and to provide support in any way needed. During this time, we experienced a lot more face-time than one might think a pandemic lockdown would allow.

Our team also worked to find a balance between promoting positivity without failing to acknowledge the gravity of the situation at hand. We provided online “destress” activities such as word challenges that spotlighted the magic that happens at the parks. These activities were shared with the hope it would provide a much needed break from reality, to promote a “mental regroup” to boost the focus on determining new operations to safely reopen. We received a lot of complements for the efforts. We continue to listen to our clients, to promote them and of course provide service support. Our focus remains on the client and when the time is right, we will both know and at that moment we will sell again.   

QUESTION: Supposing that operator social distancing and sanitation measures for guests carry on into 2022 or longer, how might this impact design choices?

Jim Seay: From the overall attraction perspective, this is an excellent question for Dennis’ next podcast guest Keith James of JRA!

From a ride perspective, I have to say a very interesting question. One of the challenges is the fluctuating guidelines. If measures continue beyond 2022, it will be important that global standards bodies like ASTM, EN, and the GB code establish harmonized specific guidelines that designers can work to. For example, in June the UK established a 1-meter social distancing guideline for people wearing masks. The impact for parks like Blackpool Pleasure Beach was that a number of coasters had seating far enough apart that every row could be loaded, but there were some coasters that were just shy of the 1 meter distance which meant they could only load every other row. Here in the US, Chance Rides pivoted quickly and provided modification clear shield kits for their trains and trams to allow loading in every row so equipment capacity could stay sufficient. It would be good for these approaches, and others that are appropriate, to be considered for formal adoption so future designs can be guided.

There are many additional considerations that can be incorporated. Station layout design, as an example, will require consideration of the location of operators with respect to both their fellow operators and the guests. Additionally, from an equipment standpoint there, could be a greater focus on material choices that are easily sanitized. The Ralph S. Alberts Company is a foam supplier with whom Premier works. They are developing foam with anti-bacterial agents and products that are more resistant to antiviral cleaners which can be very harsh. Another design choice might be using more automated restraint checking systems especially for the lower restraint classes that allow self-checking but where the operator might want a redundant check. 

QUESTION: With the importance of the Halloween seasons for the parks, do you see a strong showing?

Dennis Speigel: As a matter of fact, no. We are seeing a tremendous number of Halloween programs greatly diluted from what they typically are (shoulder-to-shoulder, scary fright fests) to cancellations. Halloween is our largest industry cross-promotion put on by small to large parks. This is a program that will get back to normal once we get back to normal.

QUESTION: To Dennis and Jim both……for fun……when travel fully re-opens, what is the one country you hope to return to more than any other, and why?

Jim Seay: An extremely hard question to answer as I have had amazing fun adventures in all corners of the globe. I could easily say any country in Latin America! If forced to choose, I will say the Philippines as my wife Sara and I have had the good fortune for many years to join wonderful friends on a post IAAPA Expo: Asia tour, organized by Cynthia and Mario Mamon of Enchanted Kingdom, which has allowed us to experience the most stunning and magical destinations of the Philippines and it always includes full immersion into the local culture.

Dennis Speigel: I do not miss airplane travel anywhere! I do miss visiting my friends and clients in countries on every continent. Having worked on over 550 projects in 50+ countries and having over 12 million air miles, it has been a change to basically stop travel 100%. I look forward to getting back to all of the continents once we are through this pandemic.

Episode 2:  Attraction Design Challenges in a New Operating Era 
Guest:  Keith James, Owner & CEO, JRA

A LIVE ITPS Podcast - September 23, 2020 @ 10:00 a.m. EST

Dennis is joined by Keith James, Owner & CEO of JRA, a world-class attraction design company that has planned, designed, and produced hundreds of experiences for international audiences. Join Dennis and Keith as they discuss how the design process has changed as a result of the new operating era that parks and attractions are implementing, both short and long term. Keith will also talk about the process of design in a remote working environment, including both difficulties and advantages, and will shed insight on how this new process can affect and help developers.

(If you can't attend live, the podcast will be available after the event. Please register to receive notice that the podcast is available on demand.)

Feasibility Analysis - Design / Masterplanning - Pre-Opening Operations Planning - Management

International Theme Park Services, Inc.
International Theme Park Services, Inc.

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