Monday, June 29, 2009

More Member Benefits for You, or: What is Partnership Plus, Anyway?

During the past six months, you may have noticed a new logo hanging out on the IAAPA home page. It links to a page that details IAAPA's "Partnership Plus" program—an intiative dedicated to providing members with even more products and services above and beyond what you've traditionally received with your membership.

Here are a few highlights from the program:
  • Webinars: My colleague, Linda Gerson, spearheads our monthly webinar program. These expert-led sessions provide members with much-needed information on topical issues. Members can participate in these sessions for FREE and can review the slides and audio for most sessions by logging in to the members-only section of the IAAPA web site.
  • Hot Off the Press: Colleen Mangone, IAAPA's new media relations manager, worked with our communications team to pitch two stories that have received postive national press for the attractions industry. You can read resulting coverage in The Washington Post, USA Today, and others!
  • FUNWORLD Collections: Members can now easily reference previous FUNWORLD articles with this series focused on a specific attractions market or discipline. The Waterpark Collection and Museum Collection are available now, with more to come!

And that's not all. You can review all the programs and discounts included with Partnership Plus and check in for weekly highlights our home page.

What do you think about this program? As always, I welcome your feedback and look forward to hearing from you:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Webinar Tuesday: Waterpark Fundamentals

During the next IAAPA webinar on Tuesday, June 30, at 2 p.m. EST, waterpark managers will be treated to a fast-paced session from three industry leaders on key operational topics.

Jason Arthur, director of aquatics for Great Wolf Resorts Inc., Bryan Nadeau, director of park operations at Aquatica by SeaWorld, and Scott Carothers, general manager of Wild Island Family Adventure Park will share insights and tips on training, operations, and revenue generation, because right now all facilities are faced with the challenge of operating leaner while still providing excellent guest service and family fun. In the Queue caught up with Carothers, who shared a sneak peek into Tuesday’s session.

What key issues will you and the panelists focus on during the webinar?
We’re going to do revenue generation, operational issues, and staff motivation. In working with IAAPA on this program, we wanted to offer something that operators could implement right away.

How can refining operations help parks during a tough economic year?
We’re all trying to run more efficiently while trying to generate more revenue and looking for new ideas to refocus our facilities. You can change your operation right now and overcome some of the things that are challenging us right now.

Who should log in to this webinar and why?
We’re covering three different tiers of content, so any level of operator or manager will walk away with something to take back to their waterparks. For example, any manager can use the training session to implement changes immediately without any costs.
Anytime you have an opportunity to have your staff gain knowledge, especially with a webinar, which doesn’t take a huge amount of time, it’s so important. You need to continue to learn and expand, and it’ll help the operation as a whole.

What tools and ideas can attendees expect to take away?
When we put this content together we concentrated on topics for managers. We’re assuming people are already in the game. Capital decisions have been made, and now we’re trying to focus on how you operate—how you relate to staff. We’re going to concentrate on what people can do right now to generate revenue, get through staff burnout, and deal with an operational or maintenance change.

To register for this webinar and to find out more about future sessions, click here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Teen Workers in the Attractions Industry: Know the Rules

School's out for summer, which means you're undoubtedly starting to see more kids visiting your facilities and probably more teens applying to work at them. Do you know the current labor laws in your state? What about federal labor laws?

To help you be sure, IAAPA once again has partnered with the United States Department of Labor to promote YouthRules!, an online clearinghouse of information concerning youth labor.

Since laws have the potential to change every time a legislature meets, and sometimes effective dates occur in the middle of the season, I encourage you to visit too brush up on state and federal laws concerning the hours teens can work and the kinds of jobs they can perform. There are also tips for avoiding workplace injuries and help for teens on how many hours they can work.

New this year is an online assessment so employers can verify they are in compliance with federal and state laws.

The attractions industry relies heavily on teens, both as employees and guests. Visit YouthRules and make sure you're up to speed with regulations regarding this important demographic.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More From FUNWORLD: Great Wolf's Training Philosophy and Program

After researching waterparks with a plethora of amenities for June’s One-Stop Shop story, I wanted to know more about the people behind the services—the employees who can say that while they work at a waterpark, they also lead facility tours, tell bedtime stories, and act as a tech jockey at tween hangouts. So I talked to Great Wolf Resorts Vice President of Brand Melissa Wheeler (right). She’s been with the company all of its 12 years, and after participating in the opening of the Lodge in Wisconsin Dells, has worked closely with the operations team during 11 more resort expansions. In this interview, she gives me some insight on the secret to a successful staff and how to achieve uniqueness in each location. It makes sense why in 2003, Great Lakes Co. (which evolved into Great Wolf Resorts) won the IAAPA Spirit of Excellence Award for Best Employee Retention.

FUNWORLD: Tell us a little about how the staff’s training program is set up.
Melissa Wheeler: Our training program is called Wiley University—Wiley is Great Wolf’s mascot—and new hires go through about a day-long orientation program that teaches them our “family traditions” (standard operating procedures). This includes the history of Great Wolf, our values, culture, benefits to the job, and more. We call our employees pack members, and when they come on board, we want them to feel really comfortable in their environment.
After the initial orientation program, pack members break off into their respective departmental training sessions, which can last three to five days. Each department incorporates Great Wolf’s service standards—safety, quality, consistency, and fun—and then teaches the specifics of the job: perhaps a recipe for cleaning a room, or the nitty-gritty details of working behind the front desk.
If a new resort is opening, we’ll send in our S.W.A.T. team, which stands for Support With All Traditions. Those are members who have been with the company for many years at other properties. They’ll come to train the new hires and get them up to speed.

FW: How do you find your strongest employees and what are some of the recruiting methods you use?
MW: When we open a new resort, that’s when the energy comes in. Every resort hosts a three-day job fair before opening, and we fly in 25 pack members from our other locations who help existing directors. At our latest opening in Concord, North Carolina, 8,000 people showed up! We use a “right-fit” philosophy when hiring our talent that says they must be the right fit for the lodge and the job must be the right fit for the pack member. We want to make sure more than anything they have those bubbles—that passion and energy that radiates. That’s a hard thing you can’t really teach; but the skills are teachable. So we look for the individuals who have a motivation and passion for GWL. And because of that, some pack members have been with us since we opened.
You have to make sure you put your pack members first—your guest service will follow, and from that will come profit. By taking care of those individual employees comes top guest service.

FW: You’ve referred to the Great Wolf team as a “big family”—how do you build community and loyalty among this group of people? Do you let them add their own personal touches to their jobs?
MW: Each of our resorts forms their own employee-led committees. We have one called the Pride Committee where the leaders bring all the pack members together in a fun way for get-togethers, incentives throughout the year, bingo down at Bear Paw Sweets & Eats.
Through employee-based committees, they gain ownership through their goals. By letting go a little and allowing them to excel, it gives them more passion for the job and pride in what they’re doing.
Also, this summer we aligned with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America and each department is going to work with the local chapter. We’ll allow for complimentary overnight stays for bigs and littles, once they’ve been together for a year. But if they haven’t reached a year, they get to use the other amenities at the resort. And we encourage our pack members to become bigs. We’re opening MagiQuest here in Wisconsin Dells, and that will be a really fun activity for them.

FW: How do you achieve the personal touch and the strong customer service that you want to be known for?
MW: The backbone to our philosophy is that of servant leadership and mentoring. We always want to ask employees, “How can we help you and make sure you have the tools to do your job to succeed?” Their supervisors should be asking “What can we do to help you provide your services?” And that extends to the corporate office, where people should ask each of the properties the same question: “How can we help you?” That philosophy runs all through the company, which is a hard mindset to accomplish.
We also did a workshop on signature service, where we stressed creating “Wolf moments.” Other companies might call these “touch points,” but it asks how they can put their own signatures or marks on the service they’re delivering. This allows pack members to come up with neat ideas.
For instance, one of the ideas that came from our Mason, Ohio, team was that when the wave pool goes off and there’s a howling sound coming out of the attraction, the lifeguards will do their own howls as well. I asked a pack member what he thought of the idea and he said, “Secretly I had always wanted to do that and now I just let it rip!” It’s fun to teach some of the job fair participants how to howl and to see the pack members go through the interview process. Random howling is definitely encouraged at our resorts!

FW: How do Great Wolf staffers come up with such creative ideas for amenities—for instance, your gr_8 space area is a tech haven for teenagers, with everything from laptop portals for Facebook viewing to karaoke and dances.
MW: Yeah, gr_8 space takes a different spin than the woods-theme and is geared moreso to engage the tween market. There’s a tech jockey that runs everything in that space, so kids can safely hang out and watch movies or share photos from their trip. [Editor's Note: Great Wolf's Grand Mound, Washington, location even has its own gr8_space MySpace page where kids can sign on, see pictures from recent events, and post comments.]
Luckily, we have a lot of people at our corporate office who are very creative. And along with brainstorming ideas, we monitor the trends from guests' feedback; our newer amenities are a result of the valuable feedback we’ve received over the years. We ask others, “What would make this amenity really cool?” And personal touches make all the difference. Like at our Scoops kids’ spa, you get an ice cream sundae with your manicure and pedicure. And they crown girls “Miss Great Wolf” and she gets to parade around the resort in a tiara. These places focus on strong educational elements for children, too. When kids are getting facials, they’re a little different from the adult treatment. Instead, they learn more about skincare and hygiene.
Our Cub Club is for little guests between the ages of 4 and 12 years old. We partnered with National Geographic Kids, so we have a lot of great education for them. Sometimes they get in before the waterpark even opens and learn about lifeguarding and what it takes to work at Great Wolf Lodge. We also have programs like “Bugs on a Rug” and “Backyard Birdies,” where they identify animals. The activities usually incorporate games, crafts, and food. And we actually just rebranded our Cub Club room last year, so now there’s an “educational story tree” where you can pull out a portion of the tree and learn about the rings on it. The folks running Cub Clubs are called Ambassadors of Fun and they’re passionate about the experience, bubbly, and excited about making something special for the kids.

FW: What valuable lessons have you learned from working at Great Wolf through the years and seeing how management works at so many resorts?
MW: I’ve learned we are a company of very talented people and when you trust in those people and utilize communication and organization, that’s the key to ensuring the entire team is moving in the right direction. When you’re all on the same page, you know you’re going to accomplish something great.
It’s a movement, and it’s very cool to see that happen. The secret ingredient to success at Great Wolf is the passion our pack members hold. It’s difficult to find and it’s what sets us apart. The evidence of our passion is found most at our openings—at our job fairs and our pep rallies. That really gears the members up and you see all the departments to skits featuring their signature howls. We know we have a lot of work to do but we might as well have fun while we’re doing it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

New Service from FUNWORLD

The FUNWORLD team has rolled out a new service for you that we think you’ll like: FUNWORLD Collections.

We have gone through the past two years of the magazine and collected articles based on a constituency group or discipline topic and compiled them in a very easy-to-use interactive PDF. Currently, we have ones for museums and waterparks already compiled and ready for download.

To check out this new service, click here, and select your community (presently museums and waterparks are available), where you’ll see a link to the Collection. Once you download the PDF, click over to the Table of Contents, and use hand tool to quickly jump to the articles of your choice. New Collections will debut every month, so stay tuned to this space or the community pages for updates.

You can also e-mail us at with questions or suggestions.

Monday, June 8, 2009

More from Asian Attractions Expo: Waterpark Trends

IAAPA’s Asian Attractions Expo 2009 officially begins Wednesday at the COEX Convention & Exhibition Centre in Seoul, South Korea. As is the case with any IAAPA trade show, education plays a prominent role, and we’re highlighting a couple of this year’s speakers.

On Friday I posted an interview concerning waterpark safety. Today we’re featuring Young Ki Hong, formerly the chief operating officer of Ocean World in South Korea, who will speak Friday on waterpark trends in Korea.

In the Queue: What are some major trends in the Korean attractions industry right now? Young Ki Hong: There are three major trends right now:
1. Waterparks are the biggest trend right now; most new developments either are waterparks or include a waterpark.
2. More high-thrill attractions and world-class roller coasters are being added at major parks.
3. Live shows and parades are becoming more of a focal point at many parks. Lotteworld and Everland have particularly focused on this with spectacular fireworks, shows, and parades.

ITQ: What are Korean guests looking for specifically when they visit a waterpark? Hong: Guests are looking for a complete experience with things that will interest every member of a large or extended family. To achieve this, many companies are combining popular elements from Korea—such as a spa—with big slides, wave pools, and other elements that have been successful in other countries.

ITQ: You were with Ocean World during a huge period of growth—what about the facility excites you?
It is the first waterpark in Korea to feature such a heavy blend of international influence. It includes “extreme” rides typical of the USA, aesthetics and spa features of a traditional Korean-style waterpark, and some elements of Japanese spas, too. As part of the focus of more extreme attractions, it features eight-foot waves at the outdoor wave pool. The marketing campaign to accompany new attractions is also very exciting – it has generated a lot of national buzz, and attendance has increased dramatically.

ITQ: What key lessons will attendees learn at your session Friday at Asian Attractions Expo? Hong:
• Learn more about the different types of waterparks and particularly about what specific characteristics have been successful in Korean parks.
• Learn and understand why the Korean market is booming.
• Learn about trends in the waterpark industry throughout Asia. The rapid growth and success of waterparks in Korea have been remarkable and there are lessons from its development that could benefit other emerging waterpark markets around the world.

For more information on education at Asian Attractions Expo 2009, click here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Asian Attractions Expo 2009: Waterpark Safety and Lifeguard Training

IAAPA’s Asian Attractions Expo 2009 kicks off Wednesday in Seoul, South Korea, but a special pre-conference IAAPA Safety Institute is set for Tuesday. Yongpom Ho (his friends and colleagues call him “Yohan”) of international aquatic safety consultants Jeff Ellis & Associates will be one of the featured speakers during the daylong seminar.

In the Queue asked Yohan a few questions about waterpark safety as a primer for his presentation next week:

In the Queue: Can you give an example of a waterpark safety topic you will address in your Expo session and explain why it is an important topic in Asia?
Yohan: A key for operators is understanding a lifeguard’s job and what it can and should include, as well as the importance of specific, detailed training. The issue is quality—not quantity—of lifeguards.
Part of what Jeff Ellis & Associates focuses on is how to properly scan the water so lifeguards will see the guest who is in trouble. If the guard does not see the person, then they cannot rescue him.

ITQ: What is the best way for new park developments to ensure a safe environment for the future? Yohan: Safety experts should be involved from the design and blueprint stage to develop a park that can balance aesthetics with safety. For example, lifeguard stations are then placed in the ideal locations, and the safest non-slip materials are chosen for walkways right from the start. If parks don’t do this at the beginning of the design stage, then they may need to spend a lot more money further down the development line to address these fundamental issues.

ITQ: What can guests do to create a safer experience? Yohan: The majority of drownings occur in children ages 3-6. At those ages, the parents often stop watching their children quite as closely, so those kids are most likely to walk away from their parents and become lost in the crowds. Parents might also let siblings watch them, and those brothers or sisters may not be reliable or old enough for that responsibility. That is where lifeguards are most important, and where is it most important to watch the water properly. However, parents still play a huge role; they must teach their children about water safety and monitor their youngsters at all times.

The Asian Attractions Expo IAAPA Safety Institute is included with general conference registration, but space for the special pre-conference program is running out. Please go here if you’d like to attend. You can also register on-site at the COEX Convention & Exhibition Centre Tuesday.

Monday, June 1, 2009

June's FUNWORLD: OCT and More …

The June issue of FUNWORLD is out, and we're excited to feature OCT Group's Ren Kelei on the cover. The cover story gives a broad look at China's theme park empire—past, present, and future—and examines what makes the company so successful.

Also in this issue:
• I have a piece on how attraction merchandisers incorporate current fashion trends into their own lines to make their merch more appealing to the hip set.
• Departments Editor Marion Hixon offers up a series of profiles on waterparks that offer guests a more complete, resort-type experience.
• Contributor Lisa Anderson Mann examines how attractions can fine tune their water systems to save as much water as possible. (As far as I know, this is the first FUNWORLD article to investigate methods for saving water on urinal flushes.)

Thanks for reading. If you have comments, suggestions, or questions about anything FUNWORLD-related, always feel free to e-mail me.