Coining it – The new Royal Mint Experience

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend the press day for the new Royal Mint Experience in Llantrisant, South Wales. The attraction, run by Continuum Attractions, celebrates the rich heritage of the Mint and the importance of coins throughout history.

Royal Mint Experience AV

While I’ve always had a healthy interest in money, I soon realised how little I knew about the coins rattling around in my purse.

Did you know, for instance, that one in three pound coins in circulation is a fake?

Royal Mint Experience Coin Film

The attraction, designed by Mather & Co, and AV by Figment Productions, features a short intro film, a view of the factory floor (the sound of money is amazing!), a film showing the life of a coin and a fantastic projection showing the various locations of the Mint through history.

Royal Mint Experience Factory Tour

There are 5 zones: Money Around the World, How Coins are Made, Military and Sporting Commemorative Medals, the Meaning of Coins and Collecting Coins.

There are also some great interactive elements for kids including a hidden ‘see a penny pick it up’, a wishing well you can throw pennies into, and an interactive Penny Farthing.

Royal Mint Experience kids interactive

The tour guides deserved their own commemorative medals for the sheer volume of information they had memorised for the guided tours:  the force needed to press each coin, the number of coins made per minute, the production rate of the factory… Small change is a surprisingly big deal.

I learnt so much on the tour and I think that’s why it will appeal not just to coin enthusiasts, who no doubt will love it, but to families and tourists alike.

My Top 5 Fascinating Facts:

  1. This is the first time the Royal Mint has opened its doors to the public in its thousand year history. Originally based in the Tower of London for 500 years, the Mint moved across the road to Tower Hill to accommodate steam machinery. It finally moved to the much bigger site at Llantrisant to accommodate the huge amount of new coins needed for decimalisation.

Royal Mint Experience Tower of London

  1. The Royal Mint is the World’s largest exporter of coins, producing coins for over 100 countries worldwide – 15% of the worldwide market.
  2. The Royal Mint Experience is the only place in the country where you can mint your own pound – I got to push the button and 650 tonnes of pressure marked my blank coin with the last round pound design.

Royal Mint Experience £2 Coins

  1. 1 billion new 12-sided pound coins are being produced in the factory ready for introduction in March 2017. The new coins are extremely intricate to help dissuade counterfeiters.
  2. The inscription on the £2 Coin – “Standing on the shoulders of giants” – is a quote by scientist and mathematician, Sir Issac Newton, who was Master of the Mint for 30 years.

Royal Mint Experience Penny Lane CarThe attraction sold over 10,000 advanced tickets before its official opening on 18th May 2016. A winner?  I’d put money on it.

blooloopLIVErpool 2016

We are delighted to have Continuum Attractions as Gold Sponsor for the Northern Powerhouse Panel Session at BlooloopLIVErpool on the 29th June 2016. The session will be led by Continuum CEO Juliana Delaney and include Jamie Christon, MD of Chester Zoo, Nick Thompson, Deputy Managing Director at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and Heritage GB. 

Eventbrite - blooloopLIVErpool

Dubai: Fast Track to a Global Attraction Destination

 motiongate overview dubai parks and resorts

“Do you like to shop?” was the question my colleague replied when I asked him, what was there to do in Dubai for fun when I was planning my first business trip to the UAE in 2006. As someone who had lived there for a few years, he explained that besides desert tours and malls, Dubai had very little to offer for leisure time.

by Joseph Joy, Director, Strategic Accounts, TriotechJoseph Joy Director of Strategic Accounts at Triotech

I don’t consider shopping as entertainment but I did trek to the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping malls in the world, to see the recently opened “Ski Dubai” indoor ski attraction. The cab travelled from my hotel in Deira, the “Old Dubai”, down Sheikh Zayed Road, which slices through modern Dubai.

Along the route, the landscape was a dense forest of sky cranes feverishly putting up buildings at a frantic pace and it was said that at that time, there were more sky cranes in Dubai then anywhere else in the world. It was the most astonishing thing I had ever seen in construction. That spectacle and seeing the Emirati fathers with Arab headdresses and mothers in hijabs all while bundled in parkas chasing their kids on an indoor ski hill while its 45C outside in the desert heat made for an entertaining outing.

dubailand construction


How things have changed in Dubai in the last ten years! The building boom busted in 2008, the ambitious Dubailand theme park which was planned to be twice the size of Disney World was shelved in 2009, the same year that Abu Dhabi bailed out Dubai and saving it from default. In gratitude, the iconic megatall skyscraper Burj Dubai was renamed Burj Khalifa in honor of the ruler of Abu Dhabi, when it opened in 2010.

Without much pause, plans were announced by Meraas to develop Dubai Parks and Resorts (DPR) with many of the brands – LEGOLAND, Six Flags, DreamWorks – that were involved in Dubailand. Ground broke in 2014 and the park will open this coming October.

sony pictures studios motiongate dubai parks

Orlando 2.0?

Today some analysts are suggesting that Dubai is on a steady path to rival Orlando as a global leisure destination. As seemingly outlandish that may sound to some, it has developed the infrastructure to support tourism, a key driver of its economic growth. Oil is a very small part of the Dubai economy, so it continues to aggressively build its diverse economy based on business, real estate, finance and tourism. Already the hospitality market is $7.6 billion and accounts for 27% of GDP and this is expected to rise through 2020. Dubai has the highest visitor to resident ratio in the world at 4.8 visitors.

Dubai is now a gateway city and the Dubai airport has surpassed Heathrow as the world’s busiest with 70 million international visitors. It is strategically located with roughly 80% of the world’s population, or 6 billion people, living within eight hours flying time from Dubai. The potential visitor pool is deep and can be leveraged year-round.

World Class Theme Parks

Most travelers through Dubai airport don’t stay but that is changing. Within five years, Dubai will be on track to overtake Paris as the third leading global destination for overnight visitors. Further developing a leisure industry with world-class theme parks as an anchor will encourage extend stays. In a recent interview, Jeffrey Godsick, President of 20th Century Fox Consumer Products pointed to this as the rationale for 20th Century Fox World Dubai projected slated to open in 2018. “All of a sudden, there is a reason for people to stop in Dubai for 3 to 4 days. We want to be a part of the attractions,” he said.

Those travelers that do stay in Dubai are affluent. Globally, Dubai is ranked 8th in visitors spending – last year travelers spent $11 billion. The average hotel room rate is $250 and Dubai has the highest hotel occupancy rate in the world. Dubai maintains a steady year on year occupancy of 100%-70% in the winter and 90%-60% in the summer. Planners realize that the city needs more affordable options to build a balanced market that is appealing to a diverse visitor base from across the world. Currently, no single visitors market exceeds 10% of the tourists to Dubai, making it resilient to unpredicted tourism changes.

sheikh zayed road dubai in the eighties

Building an entertainment industry from scratch isn’t unprecedented. Orlando was virtually unknown until the 1970s when Disney World moved in.

At that time, Dubai was not much more than a fishing village at the mouth of Dubai Creek. Since then Disney World has built up its attendance to 19 million and Orlando is the leading destination in the attractions industry.

Dubai has done the reverse, it has built up a tourism industry without any significant number of attractions until now. Dubai Parks & Resorts is targeting close to 7 million visitors in its first year of operation. Dubai’s goal and often-underestimated ambition is to become an international tourist destination for leisure, one that serves not just the greater region, but the entire world. From what I have witnessed over the last 10 years, I have no doubt that they will succeed in their goal.

Theme Park Design: High Praise from Imagineers

theme park design book coverIn “Theme Park Design”, British author David Younger has achieved something special. His new book – a vast and comprehensive examination of the theme park and themed entertainment business – pulls off the difficult trick of being both scholarly and meticulous, yet remaining highly readable too.

Topped and tailed by the thoughts of two award winning theme park designers and Disney legends, Tony Baxter and Joe Rhode, Theme Park Design breaks down the theme park experience in great detail.

In 9 chapters – Medium, Business, Process, Theme, Story, Design, Theme Park Design, Land Design and Attraction Design – each themselves carefully sub-divided, Younger guides the reader through an examination of the theme park story, from its early history to the current day. He has clearly put a huge amount of research into creating this book and the hundreds of quotes and examples make it a very practical and enjoyable work.porche owners manual by haynes

Younger’s academic background – a first class degree in Film and Media and a PhD in Art & Design (Theme Park Design) – is evident in the exhaustive scope of this book. The contents themselves stretch to 6 pages. This is a very practical guide to theme parks and theme park design in one, admittedly very heavy, book.

“A Landmark in our Intellectual Space”

It is  a superb manual, an ideal “how-to” guide for any aspiring theme park designer, and a handbook to allow today’s designers to “access the wisdom of their peers”.

The hardback copy I received through the post put me in mind of the Haynes Owner’s Workshop Manuals. These successfully appeal to both professional car mechanics and DIY enthusiasts. Younger’s comprehensive guide will equally be an invaluable read for theme park professionals and hugely interesting to theme park enthusiasts.

Joe Rhode expects Younger’s “encyclopaedic compendium” to be, “Not just read, but discussed, debated and even redacted”, as the theme park  design community continues to develop. He recognises that the book provides a valuable “fixed reference point” for discussion and describes it as, “a landmark in our intellectual space” . High praise indeed.

The book can be ordered at 


The Paradigm Shift in Shopping – An Opportunity for Attractions

By Keith Thomas, Chief Executive, Petersham Group Ltd.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) caught the news headlines with their report on 29th February projecting the loss of up to 900,000 jobs and the likely closure of thousands of shops in the UK over the next decade. Sir Charlie Mayfield, CEO of John Lewis and Chair of the BRC noted that of the 270,000 shops in the UK today, up to 74,000 could shut. Indeed, the story could be much worse in poorer areas, with a disproportionate number of the closures likely to be in already deprived areas.

Woolworths High Street Vintage Photo

Mayfield continues: “People are not realising just how significantly the workplace is changing and I think that is dangerous – it means that people assume that somehow things are going to carry on as they are, when that’s unlikely.”

The report went on to say that rising costs due to the National Living Wage (due to be introduced from April this year across the country) and the new apprenticeship levy could speed up these job cuts. However, whilst these initiatives by the government, which incidentally, the BRC goes on to support, may accelerate matters, that’s only a symptom of a wider problem.

Graph showing the rise of the national living wage and minimum wage in the UK

The challenge which retailers, city centre managers and owners and developers of retail properties, are facing (or refusing to face in some cases) is a paradigm shift in consumer behaviour that is going to comprehensively undermine so many of the assumptions on which their business models have been built, with the risk being high streets and shopping malls decimated and empty of tenants and shoppers alike.

However, for the out of home leisure and entertainment sector, if it is light on its feet and entrepreneurial, this could represent a significant opportunity. Could leisure and entertainment, so often treated as the poor cousin of retail in the eyes of developers and their professional advisers, be the key to saving some of these locations from complete annihilation?

The Rise of Online Retail

So why is this happening? There is, as well all know, an accelerating migration away from shopping being an activity where a store is visited and a purchase is made, to a world where online is the new normal and shops are places where product is seen and sampled, and placed in the context of a consumer’s lifestyle. Why have all the hassle of having to actually make the purchase on the spot, and then carry it around, take it back to your car and bring it home when with a couple of clicks, it’ll be delivered to you, often for free.

Recently, walking around the excellent and modern St David’s Centre in Cardiff with my 20-year-old son, he picked out what he liked, compared prices with other stores on his phone and ordered it online, cheaper and delivered free (Amazon have been very smart in offering Amazon Prime FOC to students in the UK!). We walked out of there hands free!

Argos Logo Alternatively, you can choose to buy on line at home, at your convenience, and then pick up from a store when you’re next in town, secure in the knowledge that you have exactly what you want, in the right colour, size and at the right price – catalogue shopping chain Argos found their much-derided model particularly well suited to adaptation to this new ‘click and collect’ world, one now being adopted by every other retailer with a foot in this market.

Morrisons supermarket logoThe mighty Amazon recently announced a deal with supermarket chain Morrisons (who previously only had 3% of the online grocery market) to have them undertake grocery deliveries on their behalf, a move which should give a major boost to the slightly beleaguered number 4 grocery chain, whilst having the likes of Tesco quaking in their boots.

We’ve been monitoring and anticipating this trend for several years at Petersham Group, not least since a senior manager at one of the UK’s largest and most innovative shopping mall developers told me that whereas in the past, a brand would require up to 300 stores to comprehensively service demand, the future looked more like 80-90 larger outlets in prime locations.

Amazon Logo online shoppingWith shopping increasingly moving online, and people expecting home delivery, why spend ages driving to a shopping centre, wasting your precious leisure time stuck in traffic or sweating on overcrowded and under-maintained public transport? Customers will increasingly be needing very good reasons to persuade them to actually go out and shop, other than for convenience items.

This is not to say that they won’t do so but increasingly, as in so many other aspects of life, the experience will be the key – they will want to travel to high quality destinations where shopping will just be a part of the equation. Malls that deliberately offer customer hard and unfriendly environments to force them to shop faster and harder will lose out – and not before time!

6 hour traffic jam for christmas shoppers at Bluewater Kent

Towns will have to reinvent themselves as broad spectrum leisure destinations, relying less on the same old mix of high street brands and instead, rediscovering the heritage and culture that made them successful in the first place. And of course, not everyone is going to make it.

An Opportunity for Attractions

Now we start to see the similarities with our own sector where creating memorable experiences and destinations is what we do. We, working in the Experience Economy are uniquely well placed to see the opportunities that this shift will create, assuming we are smart enough to spot them.

V&D Logo

However, when a long-established department store chain with 67 substantial city centre locations, such as Vroom and Dresmann declares itself bankrupt and closes, a golden opportunity presents itself for other users. When a chain of hypermarkets realises that it only requires a fraction of the real estate that it currently owns, another opportunity arises.

Walking through a modern city centre in the UK now, you will be struck by the sheer volume of cafes, coffee shops, fast food outlets, restaurants and bars – no wonder there is an obesity crisis, you’d think we did nothing but walk from one F&B outlet to the next one! Even 10 years ago, those sites were taken up by shops, some branded, some family owned, so many now gone, and yet people still want the ambience and the social environment of a European city for example, just as they want the same thing from their favourite mall in the UAE.

We’ll come back to this subject again I’m sure but a word of warning- for all the lip service being paid to creating diverse retail environments where people can happily spend their leisure time, the reality is that with a few enlightened exceptions, the way that malls and shopping centres are financed and the letting policies implemented as a result by the agents appointed by the owners will make this an uphill struggle and I fear that many of these locations are going to have to go dark before they can be revived.

Images kind courtesy of:  Hat Feathers Vintage,, Argos, Morrisons, Amazon, The Sun, V&D.

4 Big Drivers of Amusement Park Growth

by Joseph Joy, Director, Strategic Accounts, Triotech

Over the last three years the global amusement park industry has increased with a healthy growth rate in terms of revenue and new project pipeline.

Joseph Joy Director of Strategic Accounts at Triotech The main factors driving this growth are economic factors like rising consumer discretionary spending, increasing urban population, growing middle class population especially in Asia and rising GDP worldwide.

But other factors unique to the industry are adding to the fertile conditions, including the increasing popularity of licensing media and gaming intellectual property, the near feverish pace of attraction development by all the leading operators, governments recognizing the importance of attraction development to bolster tourism and parks evolving their business model to promote extended stays.

The current project pipeline for the next five years points to unprecedented growth with a compounded annual growth rate of close to 9% by 2019 according to a just published outlook report by IAAPA. The report points to four key drivers that continue to propel the industry forward to the delight of consumers.

Disneyland California's Sleeping Beauty Castle

1. Intellectual Property

Not since the opening of Disneyland in 1956, has the use of already-popular movie properties for theme parks been so widespread to drive attendance. With the success of “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” driving attendance growth for the last five years at Comcast’s Universal Studios, more park developers are looking for popular franchises to attract visitors. Its no wonder, Comcast’s theme park revenue from attendance and in-park sales jumped 27% to $3.34 billion in 2015 year over year and up from $2.2 billion in 2013.

Longtime attractions developer, Warner Bros. continues to license to park developers with a whole new park in Abu Dhabi planned for 2018. A recent entrant to licensing whole parks is 20th Century Fox who have two parks scheduled to open in Malaysia and Dubai over the next two years. Nickelodeon have licensed themed areas in many parks around the world and for the first time also has a whole park dedicated to their IP planned for China in 2020 reported to cost an expected $1.85 billion. After opening “Shrek’s London Adventure” in 2015, DreamWorks and Merlin Entertainment have 6 other locations planned over the next nine years. Even video game companies like Ubisoft and Nintendo are expanding their brands’ reach into theme parks.

Plans for 20th Century Fox World Dubai

2. Rising Investments

In addition to completely new parks being developed in Asia and the Middle East, many operators in mature markets in North America and Europe continue to invest heavily in new attractions – multimillion dollar coaster, dark rides, water parks, etc. – to sell annual passes, draw new visitors, drive repeat visits, encourage longer visits, all which can lead to higher in-park sales. Six Flags has earmarked 9% of revenue towards capital investments in new rides and attractions for their park portfolio. Even smaller venues are making large investments and evolving their business model to attract visitors. Kolmården Wildlife Park in Sweden will open “Wildfire” at the zoo-turned-theme-park in spring of 2016. This will become both the fastest wooden coaster in Europe, and second tallest wooden coaster in the world when it opens in June 2016. This type of significant investment would be in the $10 million USD range.

Destination parks like Disney are building whole realms dedicated to “Avatar” and “Star Wars” at their parks in California and Florida, and Universal to continue to open Harry Potter in Hollywood and Jurassic World in Japan. LEGOLAND is opening the new “NINJAGO™ land” in California, Denmark and Malaysia in 2016.

Ninjago the Ride Legoland

3. Promotion of Tourism

Some governments are realizing that theme parks can be crucial to attracting tourists. About 70 million tourists pass through Dubai Airport, the hub of Emirates, one of the world’s largest airline but most are just transiting onward to other destinations. The ambitious opening later this year of the new Dubai Parks and Resorts, which includes three separate theme parks and one water park, is directly geared towards providing a reason to stay in the Emirate for a longer layover. Even more parks are in the works for Dubai with the planned opening of Six Flags Dubai and Fox World Dubai by 2018. Malaysia is another country where the government is actively supporting the development of theme parks and major park announcement are rumored to be pending. In China, the government has since removed the ban on new park development and currently 60 parks are in the pipeline including projects announced by Universal Studios, Chimelong and OCT.

Motiongate concept art Dubai Parks and Resorts

4. Extending Stays

In mature markets like Europe and North America, where growth has been stagnant, regional parks operators are reinvigorating their product on all fronts to protect market share and grow their businesses. Parks are extending their operational seasons by offering Halloween and Christmas events. Liseberg in Sweden staged their first Halloween event this past year and the park was at maximum capacity and this is in a country that has no “jack o’lantern” traditions. Six Flag staged their “Holiday in the Park” for the first time at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ for the first time in 2015. An event usually hosted at their warmer climate parks. Without these events, the parks would have been closed.

Scarecrow at Liseberg Halloween Celebrations

Like other operators looking to promote extended stays with a captive audience and become an integrated resort, Liseberg has announced plans to build a hotel and given the climate, an indoor water park in the coming years. SeaWorld have recently announced similar plans to partner or develop their own hotels. Parks around the world including LEGOLAND California, Alton Towers in the UK and Ocean Park in Hong Kong are opening hotels or expanding their accommodation capacity to support an extended stay strategy.


In summary, in areas like Asia Pacific and Latin America, the attraction development market will continue to grow, due to poor park-population ratio, rising income levels and increasing expenditure on leisure activities in the region. Globally, location-based entertainment will continue to expand with operators’ investments in tie-ins with popular IP, new attractions, seasonal events, and more accommodations.

The amusement park industry is not immune should an economic downward occur and impact consumer spending. However, the industry benefits from the fact that it is somewhat isolated from digital competition from online entertainment and uniquely provide a shared, physical experience, which will continue to propel growth to the delight of consumers for at least the next five years.

Images kind courtesy of Disneyland, Liseberg, and Blooloop. 

Social Media and CRM in the City of Dreaming Spires

Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford main gallery

Operators and industry players met in Oxford for a day of thought provoking talks and networking at Gateway Ticketing UK’s Marketing Event.

Held at the beautiful Pitt Rivers Museum, the informal event covered all aspects of marketing: from branding and social media, to guest experience and customer relationship management systems (CRM).

Attendees had come from a breadth of different attractions, including the Roman Baths, Oxford Museums, and even from as far away as Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

On brand

The day began with brand specialist and CAPCO Marketing “Comrade” Johnny Lyle who spoke about branding and social media. Identification of the target audience is key, he says.

“We are rarely our own target audience for branding an attraction. It’s about how can we get inside their heads and find out what motivates the customer?”

Johnny asked the audience “How do you know that this horse is a horse?” demonstrating the power of branding through several examples.

Johnny Lyle on Branding speaking at the Gateway Ticketing UK Event

After sharing insights into his previous branding experience with Bewilderwood and Miniature Audley End Railway, Johnny went into deep “geek” social media territory, highlighting tools and tricks to maximise an attractions presence on social media.

He highlighted that interacting with customers is key to increasing the amount of posts they see on their newsfeed on Facebook, and the importance of good images that include people in them will “organically” boost a post to higher exposure.

Image of Geo Tagging in Oxford

However Johnny also pointed out that Facebook may not be the best platform for businesses anymore, and in fact the much over-looked Google Plus has huge potential to increase an attraction’s google analytics by Geo-Tagging images.

The customer journey

After a networking lunch, attendees heard from Carlton Gajadhar, a customer experience professional, who shared some scary statistics on the importance of trust and relationships between attractions and customers.

“For every customer complaint, there are 26 other unhappy customers who stay silent. And it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unsolved negative experiences”.

Carlton Gadjadhar speaking on Customer Experience Journeys at Gateway Ticketing Event

With this in mind, he then explained the importance of benchmarking, and net promoter scoring to see how attractions can focus on their “advocates” and their “detractors” to improve their customer experience as well as the customer journey.

CRM and Membership

Gateway’s own Technical Director, Dave Langan went into the challenges of membership packages and CRMs which was particularly important in the museum sector where it is difficult to capture data when there are no admission fees.

Dave Langan Technical Director at Gateway Ticketing speaks at Marketing Event 2016

“It’s about getting people up the engagement ladder- they start off as Anonymous visitors, then you get them to sign up to something (maybe the wifi) to become Freemium, then they buy a ticket (perhaps an exhibition) and become Engaged, then they become Committed by buying a deal package, eventually becoming an Advocate perhaps even leaving money to the museum in their will!”.

He stated the key to these membership CRM systems is getting the financial and membership teams to communicate and most importantly join up technically so that no information is lost or duplicated.

A short roundtable session lead by Gateway’s Business Development Manager Andy Povey, then discussed challenges of CRM to museums, and the pros and cons of live chat features on attraction websites.

Top 10 Trends in Attractions

Charles Read speaking on Top Trends in the Attractions Industry at Gateway Ticketing in Oxford

Our own Charles Read then finished off the day by highlighting the top trends in the industry at present, including Virtual Reality to revitalise rides, augmented reality which will take over VR by 2025, huge advances in mobile technology to engage the customers further, customisation, IP at farm parks, interactors and play parks for seniors.

Afterwards, Gateway had kindly provided food and drinks at a local bar for the networking to continue. Overall an interesting day of conversation in a beautiful city!

 Images kind courtesy of Pitt Rivers Museum and 23Snaps.

Surf, Snow and CRM – #ThinkTank16

Attendees at #ThinkTank16 by Green4Solutions in LondonThis Thursday, industry leaders met in windy London to discuss the power of customer relationship management (CRM) systems and current trends in the industry at #ThinkTank16, a conference held by sport and leisure specialists Green4Solutions.

Held at the DECK at the National Theatre, speakers were a mix of operators from activity-based thrill attractions to theatres, from across the UK and even from the other side of the world in New Zealand.

Peter Oliver, Director of Green4Solutions, kicked things off with an introductory session on the rise in demand for CRMs.

Peter Oliver Director of Green4Solutions speaks at #ThinkTank16

“We have seen a big change in how the consumer uses technology- they expect to receive information and engage whilst on the move”.

Then followed a thought-provoking series of talks and case studies, that had three central themes.


Several operators we heard from were living proof of the power of CRM, and how it can turn around the attraction’s fate. One these speakers was Jamie Tabor, Head of Marketing for Leicester City Football Club. Jamie spoke on the effect CRM has had on the business, even opening up the Thai and US markets for merchandising, whilst battling the strict limitations that Football League imposes in terms of footage and marketing.

Leicester City Football Club Badge

“We were able to utilise CRM to get fans to renew their season pass. From one ecomm engagement, we went from 14,000 passes, to 23,000 passes in 3 days”.

Ian Brown, Managing Director of The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempsted, used CRM to change the product mix seasonally to maximise revenue.

Snow centre Hemel Hempsted “Obviously we are limited by space on the slope, so really we needed to increase the spend per head of customers. We used CRM to encourage customers to complete a higher ski -level with stepped discount, and personalised post-ski campaigns to get those repeat visits, especially in our quiet summer period”.

Ian also noted that no amount of email content will ever stop the certain percentage of people who still want to talk to a human being- especially to answer the customer’s common question: “Is the snow real?”


Lessons were learnt from the operators about the importance of getting the right CRM system in place before opening their attractions. Craig Hadfield-Richards, Project Manager of AirSpace spoke of previous experience with parent company GoApe, and how these CRM processes just didn’t translate to the new trampoline park project.

“We found after opening AirSpace, that the volume of transactions was extremely high and repeat visitors were high too, very different from GoApe a more premium product. Our CRM system just couldn’t initially cope with the volume”.

Air Space Freestyle jumping

Phil Nelson, Business Development Director of new man-made lagoon attraction Surf Snowdonia Adventure Parc was an engaging speaker and talked about the trials and tribulations of opening a world-first attraction using novel technology.

Surf Snowdonia Adventure Parc man made lagoon in wales

“The mechanism broke, the lining ripped and the wheels came off, causing us to have to drain the lake three times within our opening season. Each time, the lake would have to drain, dry, be fixed and refilled, stopping the attraction for weeks at a time. Our CRM system wasn’t powerful enough to handle the backlog of customers as we had a collection of several different systems”.

Now with an overall CRM system in place, Phil went on to talk about strength in numbers for attractions.

Phil Nelson Managing Director of Surf Snowdonia talking at ThinkTank16 by Green4Solutions

“We are part of a marketing group with 9 other attractions in the area to really help promote each other and North Wales as a region”.


The final theme looked at the future for CRM systems in the industry. Phil Johnson, CEO/Founder of independent technology consultants CommArc, who had traveled all the way from New Zealand and was understandably jet-lagged, shared some pearls of wisdom from his experience in the Kiwi tourism industry.

“Before, I would consider change within a business maybe every three years. Now you must change every three months to remain competitive.”

After watching an extremely swanky video of all the amazing culture The Wales Millenium Centre offers, David Pearce, Strategic Director spoke of how they were utilising their CRM systems.

“Its not about the tools, it’s how you use them”.

David’s new task is to capture the “Ghost” visitor: visitors that have no ‘footprint’ on a CRM as they might be the second person on a ticket, or a visitor walking in off the street.

And finally our very own Charles Read, Managing Director of Blooloop went through the top trends in the attractions industry from pop up museums, to augmented reality. Even how play/fec designed playground attractions have become the latest pick up spot for seniors!

Blooloop Managing Director Charles Read speaking at ThinkTank16 by Green4Solutions

With great networking and a stunning location, the day was a huge success for Green4Solutions and we look forward to next years ThinkTank17!


Arctic Inspirations Seminar 2016 #FreezingtoDeath

Lappset Ice Hotel wolves backlit

Fabulous Finnish hospitality amid arctic scenery with a little magic sprinkled over and interesting company was the recipe for a second classy conference from Lappset held January 19th to 21st in Rovaniemi.

Lappset Arctic Inspirations Ice Hotel Dinner 1 by Reima Mukkala

An “ice breaking” dinner at the Ice Hotel with sub zero activities was a fantastic way to kick off the event. At -32°C, pretty cold even for Finns, some brave souls sampled the sauna and open air jacuzzi and even slept in the ice hotel itself.

The next day Johanna Ikäheimo, Chairman of the board, Lappset Group and Esko Lotvonen, Mayor, City of Rovaniemi provided a warm welcome to a cold, cold city!

Lappset Arctic Inspirations

Keynote: Memories: The Ultimate Reward for a Positive Experience – Ray Hole, MD Ray Hole Architects

Ray Hole Architects Snowdon 3 800

Creating memories is a transformational process” says Ray. Attractions should utilise all the senses and hit emotional triggers to connect with their audience and create an authentic experience and a lasting memory. Citing examples from KidZania London, SnowdonVisitor Centre, ZSL Lion exhibit and Dreamland Margate, with the moon landings on the way Hole sketched out how this authentic memory creation can lead to strong brand loyalty and a successful business.

Engaging all the senses is key says Ray: “I still lick buildings now. I can tell where a brick comes from just by licking it.” (An interesting claim that is just begging to be put to the test but maybe not during the arctic winter!)

Ray Hole and Nadin Ibrahim at the Ice Hotel Lappset Arctic Inspirations

Ray Hole and Nadin Ibrahim pose at the Ice Hotel

Destination, attraction and visitor experience development process in Prague – Tony Sefton CEO Vision XS 

Survival Park is an attraction concept that captures the Zeitgeist for outdoor adventure and family play.  If all goes to plan, the first park is slated to open June 2017 in Prague with another to follow in Portugal. (“Touch wood,“ said Tony, “If Ray hasn’t licked it!”)

Tony talked briefly about his other new project – Vision Leisure Fund – which will lead investment in the UK wildlife and heritage sector – a growing business currently $3bn under-invested.

Bringing children’s tv animation to life via activity Attractions Peter Rabbit & Octonauts – Ron Allen, SVP Commercial Silvergate Media and Thomas Merrington, VP Brand and Creative, Silvergate Media

With Beatrix Potter’s 150th birthday soon upon us, Silvergate Media are making a timely hop into the attractions sector. Coupling with Lappset their first Peter Rabbit themed adventure playground will open at Willows Activity Farm this Spring.

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground Willows Activity Farm Lappset

Thomas described the challenges in translating the book to the popular animated TV series and then into a farm park activity centre. The real life play has created an opportunity for some creative fun – Mr McGregor’s garden is a maze and his shed a super-sized soft play area to give children the impression of being a little rabbit clambering over the shelves.

Octonauts at Lappset Arctic Inspirations Seminar

Ron then took the floor to share the success of another pre school favourite – The Octonauts. Already in a successful partnership with SEA LIFE and Alton Towers, the Octonauts has potential to travel into China with 1.8bn YouTube hits clocked up for the mandarin version of the show.

Parents love the educational content says Ron: “Thanks to the Octonauts you may be surprised how many pre-schoolers know what Symbiosis is.” 

Benefits of globally known, multi branded activity attractions. Visitors and investors point of view – Georgina Povey, Live Events and Attractions Mattel

Georgina Povey Mattel at SantaPark

With the “novelty of giving and receiving items wearing off” Georgina (an expert at Christmas biscuit decoration) outlined how for millennials, “experiences bring people happiness more than possessions.”

Mattel Play! Liverpool (Heritage GB will be operators with branded play equipment from Lappset Creative) will be the first HIT multi-branded FEC in Europe.  Set to open in Albert Dock, Liverpool in Spring 2016 the play centre will feature Thomas the Tank Engine, Fireman Sam and Bob the Builder.

Mattel Play Liverpool Lappset Heritage GB Thomas and friends

Do we really need technology? Paul Kent Senior Consultant Electrosonic

“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is stuff that works,” Douglas Adams.

Cave Paintings Lascaut

Paul urged us to set our technology goals carefully: “Do you really need the tech? Tech for techs sake is not a reason to proceed.”

He also pointed out that cave paintings are meant to be viewed by firelight – the flickering of real flames animate the hunting scenes.  At the other end of the spectrum is the Integrated Environmental Media System (IEMS) at LAX with seven digital media features.


The message: to identify the appropriate technology for your experience (even if it’s not the newest flashiest stuff) and do it really well.

KWP and elfVirtual Reality VR – Kevin Williams, Director KWP Ltd

Kevin took a whistlestop look at VR in attractions from the arcade to the state-of-the-art VR Ride at EuropaPark by Mack Rides.

These are certainly interesting times for tech.

Creating Extraordinary Experiences – Katja Ikäheimo-Länkinen, Experience Director and Co-owner SantaPark

Katja CZJ

Always a star turn, Catherine Zeta-Jones lookalike Katja entertained with tales of SantaPark. Interesting to note that the luxury end of the business is flourishing – a range of new cabins being built and individual Santa experiences in great demand.

The key is authenticity – perhaps an odd concept given the subject – but Katja’s elves NEVER break character (despite the best efforts of Messrs Hole and Sefton). “It’s authentic,” says Katja, “if the customer feels that it’s real.” Often people will say, “This is Santa is the one I imagined when I was little.”

Arctic tree hotel santa park

Over 1000 would-be elves apply to Santa Park every year and basic requirements aside from a good elf voice include foreign language skills and a cast iron commitment to
character. “Why would so many people want to work for you?” asked a cheeky newcomer of Katja.  A withering stare said it all – this is the the World’s Best Christmas Experience. Apart from the lengthy qualification route – it takes 99 years to complete elf training – who wouldn’t want to be part of the magic?

Happy Elves at SantaPark

Taavi HeikkiläHow to create real snow and ice activity attractions and indoor winter climate systems – Taavi Heikkilaä – Frozen Innovations and Hannu Personen Snow Tek

The cold winter weather has provided Taavi with an easier than usual timetable for the SnowCastle of Kemi this year. Looking positively relaxed, despite what seemed to me to be an enormous amount of work to be done to finish the castle, Taavi and Hannu were relaxed about creating a working hotel out of frozen water in a matter of weeks. Taavi did say that we was thinking of taking a day off so that he wouldn’t miss out on the excitement of the usual last minute panic!

The pair can also create sub-zero experiences anywhere in the world – ice hotels, ice sauna and even ice fishing. “Snow is king in the indoor winter theme park,” says Hannu – you’ve got to “choose the right kind.”

Hands on, Brains on – Sampsa Piira, Designer, Heureka the Finnish Science Center

Based in Vantaa, near Helsinki, Heureka is one of the top 10 science centres in the world. 65% of Finnish adults have visited and most Finnish kids. With a popular outreach programme and a new extension under way in which “to do something different”, Heureka is obviously doing something right.

Sampsa delighted the audience with deadpan Finnish humour and examples of exhibits the highlights were basketball playing rats and “Sex and Space”.

Heureka Finiish Science Center Sex and Space

Sex and Space at Heureka

Apparently the rats are so popular they’re now a permanent feature and retired rats get to stay on and watch the games – I have visions of pensioned off rats in wicker chairs with blankets over their knees – will have to visit Heureka!

Olympic Park- Sports for all case in Prague – Petr Kolar, Authorized architect, ADR

The Czech Expo space at London 2012 was such a success that a further expo and an Olympic park were commissioned in Prague for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The park offered the chance to participate in winter sports and attracted 5 times the expected attendance – 400,000 people. 20,000 kids registered for winter sports clubs after visiting.
For the 2016 Olympics in Brazil there are even more ambitious plans. A centre in Rio will complement 50 sporting activities in 20 villages in Lipno.

Stefano Saporetti – Director Brand – Head of Brand Operations, Ferrari

A real treat for every Ferrari enthusiast was an unscheduled presentation from Stefano. In charge of all things non-vehicular at Ferrari, Stefano gave the conference a valuable insight into the two theme parks (Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Ferrari Land PortAventura) – 3 more (max) on the cards – and other plans for the Ferrari brand.

Selling just 7,000 cars a year to ultra high net worth individuals Ferrari do no traditional marketing and maintain supply well below demand to maintain their luxury brand equity: “We reach them with F1 but it’s an expensive marketing tool!”

However with the aim of the licencing arm to “democratise and extend the brand” there are challenges to maintain brand equity. “We go with the top players in every category,” says Stefano.

You’re the engine – philosophy in themed activity attractions – Johan Granholm, Director Lappset Creative

As host of the conference Johan ended with a summary of Lappset’s latest attractions and plans to get us all playing. With DJ/dance adapted structures for teens including a smart phone enabled mixing table through to outdoor gyms with training programmes to your phone and senior play parks in Spain.

urban survival from lappset creative

Johan finished with a bombshell: “We have a new baby – Survival – and the father is Tony Sefton!” A soap opera style cliff hanger that will ensure we tune in next year!

Dinner at SantaPark with elf basic training, biscuit decorating and an audience with the Big Man himself (Santa not Johan), as well as a briefest glimpse of the aurora rounded off a stimulating and enjoyable day.

Elf School at SantaPark

Thanks to Johan, Asko and the rest of the Lappset team for an interesting programme and a fun event. This has to be one of the most enjoyable conferences (aside from blooloopLIVE of course) that we attend. Kiitos!

Images: Lappset, Blooloop and special thanks to Reima Mukkala.

Disney’s Citizenship Performance Summary – Strengthen Communities

Disney Citizenship Performance Summary - Strengthen CommunitiesI’ve been looking at Disney’s Citizenship 2014 Performance Summary, concentrating on its commitment to “Inspire Others” through four key initiatives: Live healthier, Think creatively, Conserve Nature and Strengthen Communities.

“Citizenship isn’t just a responsibility we have as a corporation,” says the report. “It is an opportunity to connect with and inspire others.”  In this, my final blog in the series, I’ll be continuing to look at Disney’s vision, targets and performance to find out what they are promising and what they have already achieved. They certainly have the clout and the resources to make an impact. And, where Disney leads, others will surely follow.

Last time, I examined their “Conserve Nature” initiative which aims to ‘Connect kids with nature to build lifelong conservation values.’

This time, I’m examining Disney’s commitment to “Strengthen Communities”.  Their promise: We are committed to strengthening communities by providing hope, happiness, and comfort to kids and families who need it most.

Before we examine how they propose to do this, it might be useful to consider what a modern community actually is.  The word itself has powerful associations – a sense of belonging, a support network, the desire to act together for the good of all. It also engenders nostalgia for times past when everyone knew their neighbours, the pace of life was slower and we seemingly had more time for each other.

Disney Citizenship Performance Summary Strengthen CommunitiesWhile populations soar year on year, the number of people living alone is also increasing significantly. A report commissioned by the Office of National Statistics back in 2012 in the UK found a staggering 50 per cent increase since the mid 1990s in the number of people aged between 45 and 64 living alone. It seems the closer we live to one another, the further apart we become.

Last year, the charity Childline reported a surge in cases of children disclosing tendencies to self-harm and voicing suicidal thoughts. The charity’s founder, Esther Ranzen, said children were suffering from ‘an epidemic of loneliness’ blaming family breakdown and parents working longer hours.

It’s no wonder that this sense of isolation has led to a growing dependence on virtual communities. But paradoxically, there is a danger that if we invest more and more time in a virtual world, we become increasingly disconnected from the real one. And if we’re disconnected, how can we reach out to those around us who might need our support? How can we create effective communities that look outwards, not inwards?

The other issue is that many online communities are essentially clubs – they bring like-minded people together to discuss shared interests, play games the group enjoys, celebrate public figures it loves, slag off the ones it doesn’t etc. In effect, they are the opposite of a true community which is about understanding different points of view and celebrating diversity. Online, you can simply avoid issues or standpoints you don’t agree with. In a functioning real-life community you have to deal with those things head on and learn how to live together.

“Authentic community spirit is vital because it reflects the true sense of connection people have to one another,” says Richard C. Harwood, President and Founder of the Harwood Institute of Public Innovation. “It is the belief that there are issues, challenges, and opportunities that can only be met when we act together. It is a desire to know what exists beyond oneself – how others think, what they do, what they need – how we can live and act together.”

Disney Citizenship Performance Summary Strengthen CommunitiesOk, so Disney hopes to strengthen communities by improving the lot of individuals within it. But how?

Their plan of action is multi-pronged: via contributions, collaborating with non-profit organisations, in-kind gifts, and voluntary work by staff.

They claim that much of what they can do to make a difference simply can’t be done by anyone else. It’s hard to argue with some elements of this. Who else has such broad audience appeal? Stick a bunch of Disney characters in a children’s hospital and you know the kids will respond. Ironically, it is the potentially impersonal nature of Disney’s vast corporation that makes its characters personally relevant to so many. Is there a child anywhere in the world that doesn’t want a Disney wish?

Disney’s Citizenship Performance Summary - Strengthen CommunitiesDisney set itself a number of targets including three to be achieved by 2020:

  • Provide opportunities for kids and families to take 20 million actions that help people, communities, and the planet

The report provides some examples of how Disney is taking this forward:

Disney’s Friends For Change encourages young people in particular to become ‘stewards for change’ with the idea that by providing the tools and the encouragement, people can take actions that make a real difference to their own communities. With Disney’s global reach, the intention is that the initiative will quickly gather momentum around the world. According to the report, in 2014, 20,000 young people took actions for change across the United States, India, China, and Latin America.   While it’s easy to belittle this kind of initiative as a PR exercise, I don’t think putting the onus back on the public is a bad thing. Many of us want to do something but often don’t know what that something is.

Disney’s Citizenship Performance Summary - Strengthen CommunitiesResults that are perhaps easier to quantify can be seen from the online phenomenon, Club Penguin. Its “Coins For Change” programme encouraged members to work together to unlock charitable projects around the world. 2.5 million individuals took part. A great example of a healthy online community benefitting the wider world. In fact, thanks to a number of similar fund raisers, Club Penguin donated over $1.5m to a variety of projects including providing medical assistance, building safe spaces for education and play, and protecting the planet.

Their Performance Summary claims that by 2014, 12.5 million actions to Strengthen Communities had already been taken which puts them well on course to reach their target of 20 million by 2020.

  • Contribute more than 5 million hours of employee community service through the Disney VoluntEARS programme

It makes sense for a company as diverse as Disney to voluntarily dip into its vast treasure trove of skills for the benefit of the wider world.

An example of this is Disney Legal’s Pro Bono Team who volunteer their skills to help families and communities.

Disney’s Citizenship Performance Summary - Strengthen CommunitiesAccording to the report, Disney employees right across the company gave more than 506,700 hours of service through the Disney VoluntEARS programme, from helping  at non-profit organisations such as food banks to building playgrounds and mentoring children.

  • Positively impact the lives of 10 million children and families in need.

Disney reports that they are well above target, with 9.8 million already impacted to date.

‘Positively impact’ is the kind of bland, corporate phrase you hear so often it’s hard to believe it actually means anything. It clearly does to Disney, who highlight a number of ways in which they have reached out and made a difference to families in need.

In 2014, The Walt Disney Studios launched Disney Movie Moments which meant that more than 45 children’s hospitals around the United States were able to show first-run Disney to patients who might otherwise never have the chance to go to the cinema.

Disney Citizenship Performance Summary Strengthen Communities

Also that year, Disney created a special Marvel comic book in conjunction with the Child Life Council to inspire children who were facing difficulties. The books were distributed to more than 430 hospitals around the world as part of Disney’s annual Hospital Care Package programme.

Indirectly, they used their considerable clout via the Disney | ABC Television Group networks to raise awareness of campaigns such as Feeding America and Toys for Tots.

So, in summary, is Disney meeting its promise to strengthen communities? Let’s face it, if all they did was raise awareness of good causes each year via their networks and online presence such as Club Penguin, the resulting impact on families in need would still be worth celebrating.

I tend to be suspicious of the motives of large, highly profitable corporations when it comes to charitable initiatives. But, having read the report, I would argue that it is precisely Disney’s size that has enabled it to make a tangible difference in all the four areas – Live healthier, Think creatively, Conserve Nature and Strengthen Communities – both directly and indirectly.

The report, by its very nature, demands facts and figures as proof of this. And, some results are easier to measure than others.  But, in my book, if ‘Strengthening Communities’ is as much about making people happier as making a difference, it’s no less important for that.

One report leads to another …

Water Slides Wonderla Park Bangalore, India

Water Slides Wonderla Park Bangalore, India

I am always intrigued when I find a prospectus that deals with a company in our industry.  Not only do these reports offer a unique insight into a business, but they often lead me to another source as well.  This is exactly what happened when I found Wonderla Holiday Parks Prospectus for 2014.

Not only was this prospectus full of great information about Wonderla parks and the theme park industry in India, but this report introduced me to a new source: CARE (Credit Analysis and Research Limited)[1] — the source used for much of this document.

Per usual, I have taken the liberty of posting a few of the pages I personally find interesting and since I know my level of interest varies from many of our readers, a link to the full document can be found at the conclusion of this Blog.

Before I begin, a few tidbits worth noting include:

Financial Data

  • Wonderla’s Financial Year runs from April 1 through March 31 of the year reported.
  •  Exchange rates taken from the Reserve Bank of India, indicates the number of Rupees per U.S. Dollar are as follows:

FY 2009            50.95
FY 2010            45.14
FY 2011            44.65
FY 2012            51.16
FY 2013            54.39
DEC 31, 2013   61.89

  • a Lakh is a unit in the Indian numbering system that equals one hundred thousand rupees.

A summary of industry, starts on Page 6 of the document.  Here you will find a brief overview of the Indian Economy along with an overview of the Indian Amusement Park Industry Report (including, Key Players, Demand Drivers, Growth in Tourism, Barriers to Entry, Competition from Existing Players, Future Outlook and more).

Summary of Wonderla’s business begins on Page 50, as is shown here:

Summary for Wonderla Holiday Parks Prospectus for 2014 This section continues on with “Our Competitive Strengths, “Our Strategy” and financial statements.

The illustration of the funds needed to set up Wonderla Hyberdad are shown beginning on Page 79, and shown below:

Funds Needed to Set up Wonderla Hyberdad in Wonderla Financial Report 2014

Funds needed for Wonderla Hyberdad shown in Wonderla Financial Report 2014

The link to the full Prospectus can be found here:  Note:  The first page is missing.

[1] Research is based on “Report on Amusement Park Industry” issued by CARE (Credit Analysis and Research Limited, January, 2013.