Dennis is joined by Jane Cooper, President & COO of Herschend Family Entertainment, considered the nation’s largest family-owned themed attractions corporation. Its entertainment and hospitality properties currently span 23 locations in six states across the USA. Do the observations and experiences from COVID provide opportunities? Jane addresses the current risk to talent in our industry and provides insights as to how to build bench strength.
About Jane Cooper
Jane Cooper is President and COO of Herschend Family Entertainment (HFE), the nation’s largest family-owned attractions company. The company creates, develops and operates entertainment, tourism and hospitality properties. Cooper leads the day-to-day operations for all HFE properties. She joined HFE in 2006 to diversify the company’s portfolio. She led the acquisitions of the highly successful Adventure Aquarium in New Jersey and the Newport Aquarium in Kentucky and, in 2008, Wild Adventures, a theme park in Valdosta, Georgia. Under her leadership HFE has earned numerous industry awards both Silver Dollar City and Dollywood have won the prestigious industry Applause Award. Jane began her career with a summer job at Paramount in 1972, going on to serve the company for 25 years, including as president and CEO. As a passionate advocate for the industry, Cooper has served as Board Chair for the IAAPA organization. She currently serves on the Board of Hershey Entertainment and Resorts.
Thanks to Jane Cooper for joining us on Episode 5 of the ITPS I’M4FUN Podcast on November 5th. During the Podcast, many of you who were with us live submitted questions. We were not able to get to all of them, but want to provide these questions (and answers) below. Enjoy and do not hesitate to reach out to email@example.com if you have further questions!
QUESTION 1: What steps did Herschend take from a marketing standpoint this year to help make sure that guests came to the parks that were able to open?
JANE COOPER: Our Message during the shutdown was one of empathy. During the initial reopening, we started with the COVID safety message. The ongoing message has been one of Festivals and reasons to visit.
QUESTION 2: Which of the pandemic restrictions and safety protocols do you think will continue into 2021 and beyond?
JANE COOPER: I believe all current safety protocols will be in place until a vaccine is being distributed or there are proven therapies in market.
QUESTION 3: We have seen globally a sense of fear that still looms in our industry; is Herschend experiencing this too?
JANE COOPER: We are all good planners and executors, we all search for clarity on when this will end, and until we see a path forward, we are nervous.
QUESTION 4: How have you managed the morale of the staff and kept them motivated when the attractions could not open?
JANE COOPER: Our primary tools have been information, communication, and staying connected to our teams.
QUESTION 5: Has Herschend ever considered pursuing international opportunities?
JANE COOPER: In my 14 years with Herschend, we have been approached but have not pursued International opportunities.
QUESTION 6: On the educational virtual events you mentioned, have you found a need to bring in folks who are more tech-savvy to support the virtual offerings, or have you found a way to train the existing teams?
JANE COOPER: We have not brought additional tech talent to the company. We are primarily focused on sharing our programming and educational assets with Guests in a Virtual event. Our current staff has been able to manage the technology piece.
QUESTION 7: You spoke of various considerations of capital investment, and this year has certainly included new capacity thoughts. Do you believe new investments and designs should accommodate smaller groups like the aquarium experience, or design with the idea that the vaccine and therapeutics will eliminate this distancing need, especially on attractions like the DW train?
JANE COOPER: COVID has given us an opportunity to observe how guests respond to a different environment, and we are experimenting with different delivery methods for our products, such as smaller groups, virtual, and added premium experiences. I do believe with a vaccine, social distancing will not be as big a concern as it is today. We are always looking at innovative and creative ways to engage our guests.
QUESTION 8: Further to the safety discussion with respect to all of the new COVID safety obligations, are there any training considerations to avoid the new obligations affecting the baseline safety requirements for the rides?
JANE COOPER: Safety is our number one priority; we follow the Science.
International Theme Park Services, Inc.
2195 Victory Parkway
Cincinnati, Ohio 45206
United States of America