Dennis Speigel leads a discussion in global trends in the waterpark sector of our industry, specifically relating to waterpark operations as part of tourist-based resorts. Joining the podcast is Chris Perry, current VP of Resort Operations at Baha Mar in the Bahamas, and a longtime industry veteran with over 20 years of international waterpark and water safety experience. Chris is a frequent speaker and panelist at industry trade shows and was the host of Travel Channel’s Epic Attractions, providing viewers with an all access, backstage pass to the best attractions in the world. The ITPS I’M4FUN podcast focuses on the experiences of waterpark operations as it relates to product diversity and quality, guest satisfaction, safety and training, and in particular, trends in resort operations with waterparks or water features. Chris provides unique insights into the current state and the future of waterpark operations.
Thank you to Chris Perry for answering questions that we did not have to address during our live broadcast. These remaining questions, and answers from Chris, are below.
Besides waterparks or major water features, what other amenities are critical for resort operations to have in order to be successful?
Know your audience. Determine who your guests are (age, expectations of quality/upscale amenities), and understand what is important to them (often done through surveys or studies). For our particular resort, it is important for us to help guests feel like it is personalized in such a large resort (enough sunbeds spread out, cabanas, poolside service, etc...). We also have a need to provide things for people to do: Mini golf, Excursions, Private Pool Club, Spa, Gym, Art Studio, Kids' Club, Marine Experience (tours of a touch tank and open air aquarium), bird experiences (feeding and private experiences with Flamingos). You get this idea. All of this is done while staying true to the culture that we live in...The Bahamas.
How can waterpark operators best position themselves to compete against other waterpark operators in the same market?
Understanding your waterpark competition is important, but that should not be your mission. Everywhere I have been there have been other world class waterparks. We have always determined our own strategy and then work tirelessly to execute that flawlessly. We focused on service that is above and beyond. That is usually achieved through a committed training program for all team members and culture that everyone wants to be a part of.
Our asset (new attraction) plan always centered around what our guests want. You should work hard at understanding who your guests are, what they want, what you are good at and the things you need to be working on. I'm confident that if you listen and execute on the above, you will be well positioned to succeed regardless of what your competition is doing. (Remember that your competition is not only other waterparks. You are competing for people's free time and money. Any place where they can spend their hard earned money for leisure purposes is competition.
When guests could not visit parks due to the pandemic, many parks used social media as a way to maintain communications and interact with their guests. Did you find social media as a way to maintain a presence and to communicate with guests more, and what did you do to keep them interested?
Our waterpark, Baha Bay had its grand opening on July 2nd, so we did not have a social media presence all through the pandemic, however our resort (Baha Mar) did. We utilize Social Media expert partners to assist us in having an overall digital strategy (inclusive of Social Media). Having a plan allows you to strategize and be more focused on what is being communicated. It doesn't mean that things can't change, but it prevents your social media presence from being a series of ad hoc posts. Social Media becomes strategic, intentional and thoughtful. We focused on the experiences we offer, communication about where things were at with our resort, and we also had a piece on recognizing front line workers and showing them gratitude.
What would you say are the key factors in generating repeat visitations?
Delivering world class safety, service and experiences that your guests want. In order to do this, you need to understand what your guests want and then being able to deliver on that. Our guests are looking for personalized service, in a stunning environment with attractions that can cater to the entire family, all in an authentic Bahamian setting.
Being in the business over 20 years now, you have likely seen many changes to waterpark products. It is probably hard to pinpoint just one, but what would you say has been the biggest change to what waterparks offer today versus 20 years ago?
Some of what makes waterparks great is that the formula of playing in water with your family has remain unchanged. Technology in all aspects of what we do has changed the game: Technology for scheduling, ticketings, checklists, MEP monitoring, child tracking, cashless spending, ride monitoring, people tracking, launch technology and the list goes on.
What are a couple of the most unusual things you encountered or did while hosting Epic Attractions?
In Tirol, Austria we went to Area 47 which is an extreme park that offers many different attractions including the world's highest suspended rope course. We did 2 activities there that I had never done: Blobbing and sledding off a ski ramp into a lake. I was bruised for a week after blobbing! Oh yeah, and I was also in the water feeding gators at Gatorland in Orlando. This was the most nervous our film crew was!
International Theme Park Services, Inc.
2195 Victory Parkway
Cincinnati, Ohio 45206
United States of America