A summary of the latest theme park reports: What do they tell us?

 

dubai
Concept Art of Dubai Parks and Resorts credit:Dubai Parks and Resorts

I’ve been interested in the recent reports released recently by OmnicoGroup and Picsolve, two market research companies affiliated with Blooloop who publishes news and research related to the theme park and entertainment industry. Both have been publicised pretty widely on Twitter and in the mainstream media, but each explore different aspects of the current and future theme park visitor experience.

 

OmnicoGroup: The Theme Park Barometer

The offering from OmnicoGroup is the Theme Park Barometer, a set of questions based on another of their surveys. The full report is 15 pages long, and offers the responses to 38 questions based on 677 UK, 684 US and 670 Chinese respondents. The questions cover the full pre, during and post visit experience including what visitors do as well as what they’d like to do. Their main focus is on the online activities of visitors before and during their visit (18 questions).

Picsolve: The Theme Park of the Future

This report was based on research for Dubai Parks and Resorts, and focuses on  photos (7 questions) as well as wearables and cashless technology (8 questions). The whole report is 12 pages, and reports the results of 24 questions based on responses from 500 Dubai residents that had attended a Dubai theme park in the last year. Their questions focus almost entirely on future technology, and it seems their research serves as an exploration of some specific ideas more than a full strategic suggestion.

The results

The two surveys cover eight subjects, with four subjects covered exclusively by one survey or the other. The subjects as I can derive are:

Subject Description
During Visit What visitors do and want during their visit
During Visit Online What visitors do and want to do online during their visit
Post Visit What visitors do and want to do online after their visit
Pre Visit What visitors do and want to do before their visit
Photos What visitors do and want to do with the photos and videos of their visit
Wearables and Cashless The current and future usage of wearable and cashless devices
VR and AR What visitors expect from Virtual and Augmented technology during their visit
Merchandise What visitors do and want from their shopping experience during their visit.


I’ve posted the full set of responses to both surveys by subject, as it makes it a little easier to digest it all. However, despite half the subjects being covered by both surveys, it’s difficult to combine the two for many valuable insights.

Probably the most promising subject to look into here is the During Visit Online block, as it has by far the most coverage. Ignoring the different audiences surveyed, we can see that recommendation systems and information applications are highly desirable for a park, however there is still a quarter unable to connect to the internet (24%). While there is a lot of interest in the industry in selling the park online and building the post-visit experience, the two reports suggest that today’s parks may have a long way to go to satisfy the visitor’s expectations during the visit itself.

Another insight is that while Picsolve is reporting a large number of people expecting a range of advanced technology in the future, the OmnicoGroup research shows that they’re not expecting it in at least the next three years. For example, while around 90% have said they would attend a theme park offering Virtual Reality in the Picsolve report, only 65% expect to see this in the next the three years according to the OmnicoGroup report. Another example is 42% of people saying they want holographic entertainment in queues, but only 20% expected to see holographic assistants in the next three years. Admittedly having holograms in queues that just talk at you isn’t the same as the AI suggested by the term ‘holographic assistant’, but it shows that none of these expectations are for the near future.

Other than the few insights we see by crossing the two reports, there is also some evidence that despite some of their expectations of online services at the park not being met, visitors still want to engage with the park after the experience. However, the low positive response to questions asking about what visitors actually do after the experience suggests that these post-experience needs are not being met either. The same pattern holds for OmnicoGroup’s pre-visit questions, indicating that there is still a lot of low-hanging fruit to grab from visitors before and after their visit. This area should be particularly lucrative for parks considering that serving a lot of the needs visitors indicated they had, such as reserving merchandise (71%), ride times (81%) and VIP experiences (82%) really cost very little to develop and maintain compared to physical features during the visit.

Some criticisms

While I’m really interested in the results of these surveys, there are a couple of things that bug me about them as well.

First is that I don’t know how many people the OmnicoGroup report is based on (edit: since posting this OmnicoGroup contacted me with their respondent numbers – many thanks!). I may have missed this and they have been very responsive and helpful, so I can’t hold this against them.

Second, both reports ask very specific questions, then report the answers as if they were spontaneously offered. It’s a very different thing to ask ‘would you accept temporary tattoos for cashless payments’ and have 91% of people say yes than it is to say ‘91% of people want temporary tattoos for cashless payments’. My point here is not that the questions they asked were wrong or irrelevant, it’s that it is very easy to overclaim using this method. As it stands I know certain things about the theme park audience now, but I don’t know what they might have responded to any other question in the world. Given that the questions of either survey don’t cover the full process of the theme park experience (and don’t claim to), I don’t see how these reports could be used meaningfully for any business, operational or strategic decisions without it being something of a magic ball.

Finally, the Picsolve report is so focussed on specific areas of the theme park experience, I really can’t tell if it’s research or a sales pitch. Most of the images were provided by Dubai Parks and Resorts, and the final pages are dedicated to talking in general about how much the Dubai market is growing. Further to this, I don’t know how many people who live in Dubai would actually attend a Dubai Theme Park, so I’m not sure the population is really that relevant. On the other hand, a lot of what they write in this report is corroborated by the comments in the Themed Entertainment Association reports, so they’re either singing from the same songbook or reading the same reports as me.

What I learned

These reports are highly publicised and look like they took a lot of work to put together. However, something I’m learning is the importance of packaging my findings in a very different way from what Tufte would ask us to do. While statistical visualisations provide a very efficient way of communicating rich information in a small amount of time, it seems like for many people sheets of graphs and numbers is drinking from a firehose.

On the other hand, I’ve also learned that even minor crossover between two surveys can provide really valuable and useful insights, if only at a general level. I may spend more time in future looking through these results to see what else I can find, and I look forward to building up more of a database of this type of research as it’s released.

So what do you think? Have I made the mistake of looking too hard into the results, or have I missed other useful insights?

During Visit
Survey Question Overall US/UK China
Omnigroup Expect to see holographic assistants in theme parks in the next three years 20% 15% 32%
Omnigroup Expect to see robots as personal assistants in theme parks in the next three years 31% 22% 49%
Picsolve 3D Holograms and lasers made the visit more enjoyable 48%
Picsolve Want holographic videos in queues 42%
Picsolve Want performing actors in queues 41%
Picsolve Want multisensory experiences in queues 38%
Online services during visit
Survey Question Overall US/UK China
Picsolve Unable to log into wifi during visit 13%
Picsolve Unable to find any internet connection during visit 24%
Picsolve Want apps related to the ride with games and entertainment 40%
Picsolve Would be more likely to visit a theme park offering merchandise through a virtual store 85%
Omnigroup Want ability to buy anything in the resort with a cashless device 82% 77% 91%
Omnigroup Want ability to order a table for lunch or dinner and be personally welcomed on arrival 82% 79% 87%
Omnigroup Want recommendations for relevant deals 85% 84%
Omnigroup Want alerts for best times to visit restaurants for fast service 82% 81% 85%
Omnigroup Providing an immediate response to queries and complaints would encourage more engagement on social media during the visit 54% 50% 62%
Omnigroup Offering a discount on rides for sharing photos would encourage more engagement on social media during the visit 50% 47% 57%
Omnigroup Want recommendations for offers to spend in the park 77% 75% 81%
Omnigroup Want recommendations for merchandise and show tickets 74% 71% 80%
Omnigroup Expect to see voice activated mobile apps in theme parks in the next three years 41% 41% 41%
Omnigroup Expect to see Personal digital assistants in theme parks in the next three years 38% 36% 43%
Post-visit
Survey Question Overall US/UK China
Omnigroup Want ability to review trip and receive offers to encourage return visits 81% 79% 84%
Omnigroup Looked at or shared park videos after the visit 50% 41% 69%
Omnigroup Looked at deals or promotions to book next visit after the visit 44% 37% 56%
Omnigroup Posted a review about the stay after the visit 44% 34% 60%
Omnigroup Ordered further merchandise seen during the visit after the visit 25% 16% 42%
Pre-visit online services
Survey Question Overall US/UK China
Omnigroup Pre-booked dining plans before the visit 32% 28% 39%
Omnigroup Pre-booked timeslots on all rides before the visit 31% 24% 44%
Omnigroup Pre-ordered branded purchase before the visit 18% 13% 26%
Omnigroup Want ability to reserve merchandise online before arriving at the resort and collect it at the hotel or pickup point. 71% 65% 83%
Omnigroup Want ability to pre-book dining options for the entire visit 81% 80% 84%
Omnigroup Want to pre-book an entire trip (including meals, etc.) in a single process using a mobile app 89% 90% 91%
Omnigroup Want ability to pre-book a VIP experience 82%
Omnigroup Researched general information about the Park online before the visit 67% 64% 72%
Omnigroup Got directions to particular attractions at the resort before the visit 44% 35% 62%
Photos
Survey Question Overall
Picsolve Want ‘selfie points’ in queues 45%
Picsolve Ability to take photos from rides improves park experience 56%
Picsolve Would visit a theme park offering on-ride videos 90%
Picsolve Would visit a theme park offering AR videos of park moments 88%
Picsolve Would prefer park photos to be sent directly to their phone 90%
Wearables
Survey Question Overall US/UK China
Picsolve Want to use wearable devices for a connected experience within parks 82%
Picsolve Would use wearables to check queue wait times 91%
Picsolve Agree wearables would be an ideal purchasing method 90%
Picsolve Would use wearables to link all park photography in one place 88%
Picsolve Would use wearables to track heart rate and adrenaline on rides 86%
Picsolve Would use wearables to track the number of steps they take at the park 84%
Picsolve Would be more inclined to visit a theme park offering wearable technology for self-service payments 90%
Picsolve Would consider visiting a park offering self-service checkouts 89%
Omnigroup Want ability to buy anything in the resort with a cashless device 82% 77% 91%
Omnigroup Want the park to offer a wide range of options on mobile apps 84% 83% 87%
Omnigroup Want ability to give their friends/family a cashless wristband and have a mobile app to track a topup payments 75% 73% 79%
Omnigroup Expect to see temporary tattoos in place of wristbands in theme parks in the next three years 27% 23% 35%
Virtual and Augmented Reality
Survey Question Overall US/UK China
Picsolve Would be more likely to visit a theme park with VR 94%
Picsolve Would be more likely to visit a theme park with VR based rides 87%
Picsolve Would be interested in VR headsets to view ride photography or videos during the visit 95%
Picsolve Would visit a theme park offering AR videos of park moments 88%
Omnigroup Expect to see Virtual Reality in theme parks in the next three years 65% 62% 70%
Omnigroup Expect to see Augmented Reality games in theme parks in the next three years 33% 25% 49%
Merchandise and Retail
Survey Question Overall US/UK China
Omnigroup Want stores to find merchandise and deliver it to the hotel room or home if the size, colour or style of merchandise is not available 75% 72% 80%
Omnigroup Want stores to find merchandise and arrange for pickup if the size, colour or style of merchandise is not available 72% 70% 75%
Omnigroup Want ability to buy merchandise in resort and have it delivered to home 74% 70% 82%
Omnigroup Want ability to buy merchandise over an app while in queue and have it delivered to home 75% 70% 84%
Omnigroup Want ability to order anywhere in resort for delivery anywhere 77% 73% 84%
Omnigroup Expect to see 3d print personal merchandise in theme parks in the next three years 36% 29% 51%
Omnigroup Want ability to purchase gifts for friends and family for the next visit 81%
Omnigroup Want ability to split restaurant bills 79%

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