by the accesso team
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, attractions have had to rethink their operations from top to bottom, not yet knowing (at the time) the role their decisions would play in inspiring innovation and change – both within their own industry and across a multitude of others.
In particular, contactless technology took a giant leap forward while much of the world was figuratively, and literally, standing still. This includes eCommerce, advance ticketing, mobile food and beverage (F&B) and virtual queuing
Contactless technology is certainly not new. For years, theme parks and attractions operators have dipped their toes in the water as leading technology solutions providers have continued to roll out new functionalities and advancements designed to improve the guest experience and further drive revenue, both on- and off-site.
However, when COVID-19 took hold, the timeline for the “smart park of the future” accelerated. Venues had to prepare for safe reopening. All while navigating changes to the modern consumer’s day-to-day that no one could have predicted.
While any period of accelerated innovation comes with its challenges, it inevitably comes with even greater opportunity … if you know where, when and how to harness it.
Improving the guest experience
This is where leading technology solutions partners come into play, like accesso – an award-winning provider serving over 1,000 venues in 30 countries around the world.
In the over 20 years since the company’s inception, it has evolved into the premier provider of ticketing, eCommerce, virtual queuing and guest experience management technologies for leisure and entertainment operators.
As COVID-19 shuttered venues around the world, accesso worked quickly to adapt its technologies to help operators adapt to and overcome new and emerging challenges. Many of these are outlined in the company’s white paper, “Re-Imagining the Guest Journey in the Age of COVID-19.”
The team at accesso, along with so many others in the industry, has discovered that many of the adaptations made and new technologies adopted directly in response to the pandemic are already planting roots as “future-proof” solutions. These have the power to not only meet the modern consumer’s expectations but also exceed them in the future.
Contactless technology: from COVID quick fixes to post-pandemic fixtures
For decades, theme parks and attractions have leveraged emerging technology designed to enhance the guest experience. Meanwhile, these technologies have also unearthed new and unique ways to drive revenue.
This remained true throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Operators have needed to rethink the ways technology could be used to facilitate safe operations. Without compromising the quality and convenience of their guests’ experiences.
In a survey conducted in late 2020, more than two-thirds of consumers indicated that their loyalty to even their most-loved brands would be impacted by the measures that the brand put in place to deal with COVID-19.
This cast a light on what many already knew. Not only having the necessary protocols in place but also communicating them – effectively, clearly and early on in the consumer’s decision-making process – would be crucial to regaining traction as venues around the world reopened.
With the right eCommerce platform, operators can easily bridge the gap between evolving guest expectations and the measures being put in place to meet them.
According to a recent analysis, online sales in the U.S. skyrocketed by 44% in 2020 from the previous year. This mirrored trends around the world. In response to this boom, operators across the globe quickly went to work. Either to enhance or to establish their online presence.
This allowed operators to tap into new communications channels to engage with potential and existing guests. It also provided them with the opportunity to build in strategic up-sell and cross-sell opportunities to drive incremental revenue.
Mobile F&B and guest experience management
Another great example of a “future-proof” contactless technology solution is mobile F&B technology. The use of mobile devices to carry out day-to-day activities has been on the rise for quite some time. However, this consumer behaviour has rapidly advanced over the last year.
Research shows that more than 24.8 million people in the United Kingdom used online food ordering apps in the past year alone. This is a 25% increase from 2019.
That spike is in line with the increased use of mobile ordering services across the globe. During the pandemic, countless individuals were quarantined for months on end. Therefore, the use of mobile delivery expanded from food to essentially anything a consumer might desire.
Today, even a car can be delivered to your home without ever stepping foot out the door. So, as consumers begin returning to their favourite tourist destinations, their expectations for convenience will remain on par with what they’ve become accustomed to in their daily lives. Mobile F&B ordering is sure to be a part of that mix.
Contactless technology for a streamlined visit
Fortunately, with a powerful guest experience management solution – such as The Experience Engine (TE2) from accesso – operators can do much more than simply enable guests to order in advance.
The use of technology solutions like TE2 can empower operators to offer contactless payment options and establish unique guest profiles through a centralized guest identity and stored wallet feature. This links mobile F&B purchases and restaurant arrival bookings to develop a robust guest profile.
By connecting these disparate data points, operators gain the ability to craft data-driven, revenue-boosting up-sell and cross-sell opportunities. These match the preferences of each unique guest, ensuring that the right offers are delivered at the right time and to the right person.
Additionally, operators can offer same-day bookings or advance reservations, allowing for greater, more accurate capacity control. This is key for the safety and security of guests and staff alike in the continued age of physical distancing.
No conversation about contactless technology would be complete without discussing virtual queuing.
Virtual queuing technology itself is far from new. accesso has been partnering with clients for years, leveraging its accesso LoQueue solution to help guests step out of physical queues, wait less and enjoy more.
While the core benefits of virtual queuing technology hold true, the pandemic revealed new potential use cases. Operators have harnessed the power of virtual queuing in new ways. And these are unlikely to disappear once the pandemic is in the rearview. For instance, implementing virtual queues for high-traffic retail or dining locations.
accesso adapted its 100% Virtual Queuing model in response to the pandemic to support venues in safe and successful reopening. With this, operators can make the formerly premium add-on available to all guests at an operator-selected list of popular, in-venue rides and attractions.
A number of theme parks and attractions across three continents have already adopted this model. For example, Walibi Holland in the Netherlands. Having just recently publicly announced a one-year extension to its originally contracted use of the 100% Virtual Queuing model, the operator has already extended the renewal even further. It is working with accesso to provide the solution to guests through 2025.
Adjusting to unpredictable variables
Unlike more simple ride reservation systems, true virtual queuing dynamically adjusts to unpredictable variables. For example, guest flow and operational changes. This allows operators like Walibi Holland to employ accurate capacity optimization and real-time communication through guests’ own mobile devices.
Plus, the solution – powered by accesso’s Qsmart virtual queuing platform – is quick and easy to use. After selecting a ride or attraction on their mobile device, the solution places in a virtual queue. Then, a countdown begins.
When it’s their turn to ride, guests are notified to proceed to the attraction. Park attendants simply conduct a contactless scan of the QR code on the guest’s smartphone to redeem the ride reservation.
In terms of COVID-era advancements, this partnership between accesso and Walibi Holland may be one of the strongest testaments to the fact that many new (or newly adapted) contactless technologies are here to stay – and for good reason.
An end-of-season evaluation showed that over 75% of guests made F&B purchases while in a virtual queue over the past year. This illustrates the incredible impact that well-integrated technology can have on building brand loyalty and boosting in-park spending.
Plus, a majority of guests noted they would be more likely to return to the park for future visits if virtual queuing remained in place.
Contactless technology breaks through industry lines
Theme park and attraction operators are quickly coming to rely on virtual queuing and other types of contactless technology. This helps them to meet the challenges of today, as well as the opportunities of tomorrow.
However, they are not the only ones. Other industries have taken note of the technologies used by theme parks and attractions – and the benefits they yield for businesses and consumers alike. Now, they are taking a page out of those operators’ playbooks for themselves.
Ski area operators may benefit from “built-in” physical distancing on the slopes. But they were faced with the challenge of amplifying technological integration across nearly every facet of their operations to ensure guests could fully enjoy all aspects of their visit.
Alterra Mountain Company, planning ahead for an even stronger 2021 snow season, recently expanded its partnership with accesso. The company has now provided six of its North American mountain destinations with mobile F&B ordering capabilities.
Having already leveraged accesso’s guest experience management technology, TE2, to power the operator’s mobile app for its global season pass, Alterra Mountain Company enhanced integration to enable more than 40 F&B service locations to provide guests access to multichannel ordering and restaurant arrival time-booking functionality.
Mobile ordering for hotels and resorts
Mobile ordering has made its way to hotels and resorts as well. Grupo Vidanta is a leading resort developer in Latin America. It had already partnered with accesso in 2019 to launch mobile, inter-resort F&B ordering for guests.
In 2020, as COVID-19 emerged, this contactless technology was expediently enhanced to allow guests to order groceries straight to their resort rooms through a mobile app.
At one of the country’s largest convention hotel brands, operators have harnessed the power of accesso’s technology to enable guests to reserve lounge chairs on the pool deck in advance. This removes the stress of maintaining physical distance and the hassle of hunting for an open lounging spot.
These are just a few examples. But it’s clear that theme parks and attractions are far from alone on their path to creating a truly redefined, end-to-end tourism experience for consumers worldwide.
The future is bright
Operators of all sizes and across all industries worked diligently to overcome the obstacles presented by COVID-19. The economic effects have been practically unprecedented, but through these challenges, an opportunity has emerged.
Operators now have the chance to become true architects of the future. They can leverage technology that helps keep guests safe, while further enhancing the experiences they came to know and love prior to the pandemic. All while driving revenue and operational success.
Change – especially of this scope – can be daunting.
But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from this time, it’s that our industry is incredibly resilient. And now, those involved are working together and more collaboratively than ever before. Many innovations brought forth from such collaboration have already proven their staying power.
As businesses across the globe begin to reopen, the volume and value of “future-proof” technology will only continue to grow.