By Alhasan Kaabous Alzaabi, VP of Operations at Farah Experiences
We live in a fast-changing world governed by many crucial factors. But when it comes to the visitor attraction industry in this day and age, staying ahead of the curve is everything. Any theme parks and attractions veteran will know that there is always a race to anticipate the next big trend and cater to customers. Guests are constantly seeking the best experience and added value within the attractions they choose to visit.
Be it regionally in the Middle East or internationally, the game is the same. Leading players in the visitor attractions industry are set to witness a number of trends in 2022. These will no doubt disrupt the way we engage with customers.
Health and hygiene are here to stay
Although many may perceive the trend of prioritizing health and hygiene in theme parks as a temporary symptom of the pandemic, we know that this is not a fleeting trend, but one that is here to stay. Demonstrating a commitment to the health and hygiene standards of an attraction is something that visitors have come to expect as a standard.
As a result, we anticipate that theme parks and attractions will continue to place a greater focus on promoting and increasing transparency around their health and safety measures to attract and retain visitors in 2022 and beyond.
In recognition of our comprehensive efforts to prioritize guest safety, our theme parks and attractions operated by Farah Experiences were awarded the ‘Go Safe’ certification from the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism. The certification aims to enforce global standards for safety and cleanliness across tourism and retail establishments.
This, along with our ongoing adherence to strict safety protocols, inspires great trust in our brands and encourages consumers to return for a safe and enjoyable experience time and time again.
The demand for family-friendly leisure experiences will grow
With remote working spurring a decrease in business travel, leisure travel has really taken centre stage. So, another trend that we see on the horizon for theme parks next year is a greater focus on family-friendly experiences.
Research has indicated that leisure travellers are more drawn to activities and attractions that they can enjoy and share with the entire family. Key players within the travel and tourism industry will have to adjust their offerings to keep up with the demand.
I believe this is a great opportunity for the visitor attraction industry to level up its leisure offerings. It is pertinent for theme parks and attractions to capitalize on the opportunity. Otherwise, they risk losing out on an invaluable chance for growth and expansion.
Theme parks have a window here and we took that into account at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. Following government-mandated closures, we knew it wasn’t enough for us to just reopen our doors. We had to offer our guests new and exciting ways to create memories with their loved ones.
As a result, we started introducing new leisure opportunities and family-friendly rides for guests of all ages to enjoy. In 2020, we launched the Family Zone for the little ones. This comprises four miniature versions of the Park’s record-breaking rides. To date, it continues to be a favoured attraction amongst guests.
Theme parks and the trend for domestic travel
Similarly, we note that despite the active resumption of international travel, the drive to enjoy local attractions remains strong. Domestic tourism will continue to be a focus in 2022. Families are likely to opt for the safest, no-hassle leisure experiences.
At our theme parks and attractions, we’ve seen a significant increase in our local guest footprint. More and more, guests are opting for and investing in value-added services. For instance, things like annual passes, which give them year-round access and visitation.
The UAE, however, is well-placed to reap the rewards of both local and international visitation. After being ranked among the top countries for its coronavirus response, the country continues to be a top choice for tourists and domestic travellers alike.
Cashless, safe and hassle-free payments
Finally, a trend that will continue to accelerate in the upcoming year, in theme parks and beyond, is the shift towards contactless payments. Although not new, it now stands as a safe and swift substitute for physical cash exchange.
In the MENA region, experts say digital wallets will be the most preferred mode of payment. With safety becoming a primary concern, contactless payments present a quick and safe solution to every transaction.
At Yas Theme Parks and attractions, we became the first in the region to launch FacePass. This is a contactless technology that allows guests the opportunity to enter, shop and dine using facial recognition. This measure was crucial to enhance guest safety and well-being during the pandemic.
The degree to which it has been embraced by guests, however, tells us that contactless transactions will continue to be king in the years to come.
With much to choose from, guests are on the lookout for meaningful experiences that match their needs and interests. In that sense, visitor attractions must present safe and reliable innovations to engage with their audience in 2022. To stay at the top of their game, they need to be agile and quick to tailor their customer journey in line with these emerging trends.
Consumers are raising their expectations now more than ever. So, theme parks of the future will need to adapt to these emerging trends to elevate the overall guest experience. By the same token, they need to mine for creative ways to reduce cost while leveraging their offerings for an immersive journey.
Top image Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi