Splash of Cash
IT’S A BALANCING ACT: Every attraction looks for ways to save money and take it to the bank. Using experiences and records from the most recent operating season, water parks can begin planning and forecasting for the next time guests enter through their gates looking to have fun in the sun and splash around. Funworld speaks with water park operators around the world to gain insight when seeking balance—how to cut costs and boost revenues.
Duplicate Rides in Virtual Reality
Located in Aquiraz, Brazil, Beach Park water park is home to the aptly named “Insano” super-tall water slide.
“It’s 131 feet high—as high as a 14-story building—and you go down at a very high speed in five seconds,” says Paulo Menezes, chief operating officer of Beach Park Entretenimento. “Most people don’t have the courage to give it a go, so we created ‘Virtual Insano,’ a waterproof 4D virtual reality (VR) simulator where people can get the real ‘Insano’ feeling without having to actually go on it.”
“Virtual Insano” is housed in a small replica of the actual “Insano” tower slide, next to the real thing. Guests stand up against “Virtual Insano’s” slide wall, put on VR glasses (with sound coming from hidden speakers on either side of their head), and
ride “Insano” without actually physically doing so.
“You can have the same free-fall sensation with the water on your back,” says Menezes. “It’s a virtual inclusive water attraction where anyone, including the elderly, small kids, or people with disabilities can have the sensation of riding [an exciting] water slide.”
“Virtual Insano” is a real money-saver because it allows Beach Park to accommodate three times more guests than those who can experience the actual “Insano” (in the same time period) with only two staff members required. “This innovation is increasing efficiency and productivity, and it improves our attendance because we can entertain a large variety of people,” Menezes says.
Fix Rather Than Replace:
In Macao, China, the 75,000-square-meter Grand Resort Deck provides a centrally located water park for six luxury hotels: Galaxy Hotel, Banyan Tree, Hotel Okura, JW Marriott Hotel, The Ritz-Carlton, and Broadway Hotel. Grand Resort Deck offers one of the world’s longest Skytop Aquatic Adventure River Rides at 575 meters long, one of the world’s largest Skytop Wave Pools, and a 150-meter white sand beach with cabanas, umbrellas, and lounge chairs. Yet, the Grand Resort Deck knows how to save a dollar. “Our water safety team fixes our umbrellas and rattan furniture during low season and winter maintenance closure, rather than buy all-new as replacements or for annual disposal,” says Yik Ho, assistant vice president of resort services for Galaxy Entertainment Group. “This repair work keeps capital costs down, while keeping valued staff employed.”
“Our water safety team fixes our umbrellas and rattan furniture during low season and winter maintenance closure.” —Yik Ho, Galaxy Entertainment Group
Bank Hours for the Offseason:
Overtime costs can add up. Macao’s Grand Resort Deck keeps them under control by having full-time (five days a week) staff work extra hours in the summer, and then use their excess hours as paid time off when things are slow.
“Our team members are all happy to work six-day weeks during peak months (June through August) to increase our manpower for summer season and take lieu days in winter,” says Ho, explaining lifeguards and slide attendants recruited from Western countries save their days to “enjoy long vacations with their family and friends during Christmas and New Year.” Chinese lifeguards appreciate having extra days off during Lunar New Year.
Adventure Park in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, takes a multipronged approach to saving money, by doing everything it can to rationalize expenditures, including water treatment.
“You can automate chemical usage in water park and cleaning supplies to ensure only the set amount is used,” says Adventure Park GM Paul McConachy. “This saves on wastage and overuse of products.”
Other money-savers he suggests include removing all retail products with high cost of goods sold (COGS)—high wholesale costs that result in low profitability—from a park; renting new equipment on a trial basis to test it first (with an option to buy those that pan out later on); and “bringing all external contractors in-house (e.g., cleaners, information technology professionals, and security staff) to “stop paying markups to third-party suppliers,” he says.
Use eCommerce to Your Advantage:
Splish Splash water park on the east end of Long Island, New York, draws guests from New York City. In a bid to lower costs, the park uses online ticketing platforms provided by accesso Technology Group.
“Using online ticket sales reduces the number of people we need to sell tickets on site and maintenance on our ticketing machines,” says Mike Bengtson, Splish Splash’s general manager (GM).
“Using online ticket sales reduces the number of people we need to sell tickets on site and maintenance on our ticketing machines.” — Mike Bengtson, Splish Splash
Freebies Drive Sales:
Giving bar customers free peanuts is a proven way to make them thirsty and boost beverage sales. Macao’s Galaxy Hotel has tested this idea and found that it works at the pool, too. “We offered complimentary snacks like popcorn and nuts at our hotel pool every 60 to 90 minutes interspersed with asking guests if they would like to order any drinks,” says Ho. “This trial significantly increased our beverage covers in the hotel pool, as well as poolside service and engagement with guests.”
The snack giveaway may have been a trial, but Galaxy’s Grand Resort Deck uses a number of additional ongoing freebies to help drive sales. “We package our day pass with food and beverage (F&B) cash vouchers to encourage walk-in guests to consume at our outlets,” Ho says. “Our private cabana rental packages come with F&B cash vouchers and lockers included to make the deal more attractive.” These and other giveaways have boosted Galaxy’s F&B revenues up by almost 10% year upon year and boosted water park admission sales as well.
Use Automation to Your Advantage:
Splish Splash’s use of accesso’s eCommerce platform “increases revenues,” says Bengtson. “We use the online platform to sell season passes, H2Go fast passes, food and drinks, and parking online, plus rent cabanas as well. Offering these items online definitely boosts sales, because people are willing to spend money before visiting to avoid extra hassle once they’re here.” Meanwhile, he says, buying online puts less demand on the point-of-sales staff at the park, “allowing us to earn more revenue with the same number of staff.”
Cashless solutions are another great way to drive sales by allowing guests to buy what they want using preloaded credit cards, radio-frequency identification (RFID) bracelets, or even finger scanning identification. “People don’t want the hassle and worry of carrying their wallets inside the park,” says Tara Morandi, accesso’s vice president of marketing. “Providing them with cashless solutions relieves their stress, while the convenience of cashless solutions makes it easy for them to spend more and enjoy doing it.”
"Providing [guests] with cashless solutions relieves their stress, while the convenience of cashless solutions makes it easy for them to spend more and enjoy doing it.” —Tara Morandi, accesso
Five Fast Money-Makers:
At Adventure Park in Australia, McConachy is quick on the draw when asked for money-making ideas. They include “charging booking fees per transaction, offering premium-priced VIP car parking, and reorienting your F&B to sell meal combos, while removing single-sale options,” he says. “You can also earn extra money by building cabanas for other parks and convincing your suppliers to invest directly into your park by way of sponsorships or holding their group functions with you.”
James Careless is a Canada-based writer who covers the water park industry for Funworld.