By Alhasan Kaabous Alzaabi, VP of Operations at Farah Experiences
The pandemic has unequivocally transformed the leisure and entertainment industry. Despite the overall impact on the travel and tourism sectors, the leisure and entertainment industry was able to bounce back, navigating a rapidly changing environment and quickly adapting to important shifts in consumer behaviour.
Whether to survive or continue to thrive, theme parks, leisure attractions and the global hospitality industry have introduced and innovated key changes to their customer experience journey post COVID. The aim being to satisfy the delicate balance between entertainment and health, safety and wellbeing.
The new normal
Many across the industry feared that precautionary measures including temperature checks, mask-wearing, regular sanitization and social distancing would deter consumers from seeking leisure and entertainment experiences. But we have all been pleasantly surprised.
Not only did consumers welcome these post-COVID measures with open arms, but they have also been instrumental in creating a positive new normal when it comes to leisure experiences.
These adjustments may have been tricky to implement. However, they are critical for the survival of the industry. Critical because our industry is focused on one end goal – creating unforgettable memories and world-class experiences that guests can share with family and friends. Yet in this era of social distancing and heightened concern with sanitization, the joy of sharing experiences can be challenging for some.
To survive and thrive in the new normal, parks and attractions are therefore re-thinking and re-engineering the end-to-end customer journey. Thre is now a large emphasis on health and safety for both employees and guests. From rides to shared leisure facilities and dining – it has become imperative to deliver a safe yet connected experience. One that can be enjoyed with absolute peace of mind.
The importance of human connection
Safety is paramount for all, not just those considering leisure and entertainment experiences. But there is one factor that has become more important than ever before. Especially now that social distancing has become the norm. And that is human connection. Amongst cancelled plans, stay-home instructions and working from home, people are craving meaningful experiences spent with those they love.
Trends are indicating that human connection holds even more importance in the leisure space. A recent survey carried out by Hilton and YouGov indicated that two-thirds of all respondents preferred to live in the moment. They wanted to spend more time making travel memories with family instead of live posting on social media.
This has inevitably had a huge bearing on how leisure and entertainment attractions have had to pivot their offerings. Consumers are increasingly financially discerning, opting for fewer luxuries on average. So, it is important that leisure and entertainment attractions cater to consumers more holistically and provide experiences that are greater value for money.
Leisure experiences post COVID-19
For Yas Theme Parks and attractions, a big lesson from last year is that post-COVID, our guests place a premium on inclusive leisure experiences that can be enjoyed by the entire family. We’ve responded in kind. We have introduced family-friendly rides, shows and experiences at all of our attractions. Some of these have proven to be among the parks and attractions’ most favoured experiences by guests. That alone speaks volumes.
As we continue to face this global health challenge, what might the world look like in the future? What kind of consumer needs we might be trying to cater to then? What will the day-to-day routine consist of?
These are questions that we cannot answer with full certainty. However, research shows that affordability, physical and mental wellness will remain priorities beyond the current moment in time. These are important factors to consider. Not only for those in the leisure and entertainment industry but indeed all consumer-facing businesses.
At Yas Theme Parks, we will always continue to push standards to ensure that guests feel safe and cared for. Although a challenge, and a very difficult one, there is value in seeing the pandemic as an opportunity for the leisure and attractions sector to raise the bar when it comes to elevating the guest experience.
Images kind courtesy of Farah Experiences. Top image: CLYMB Abu Dhabi