Friday, October 30, 2009

More From FUNWORLD: The latest and greatest from Warner Village Theme Parks in Australia

In November's FUNWORLD, I wrote about trends in the Australian waterpark industry, among them RFID technology; attractions like swimming lagoons, aimed at all ages; and possible plans for indoor waterparks.

Now, in an extended interview with Bob White, general manager of Wet’n’Wild Water World in Gold Coast, Australia, In the Queue readers can catch up on marketing stretegies (think Krispy Kreme doughnuts!) and important issues (don’t forget sunscreen!) that keep the park relevant and successful.

Over the past two years, how has Warner Village Theme Parks been innovative and grown as a waterpark?
Warner Village Theme Parks has seen steady growth in attendance at Wet’n’Wild Water World, its flagship waterpark, in recent years. Wet’n’Wild saw over 1 million visitors through its gates in a 12-month period for the first time in 2007. This achievement was repeated in the following financial year, with strong attendance figures also projected for FY 09-10.

What new attractions or programs have you recently added—or plan to add—and what was the motivation behind each decision?
Over the past two years Wet’n’Wild has seen the introduction of a number of new attractions. In October 2008, Wet’n’Wild opened “Kamikaze”—a Sidewinder MK-1. “Kamikaze” was introduced to Wet’n’Wild as it appealed to both the teen and family markets and it was a first for the southern hemisphere. "Kamikaze" (right) also offered a high capacity through-put to assist with the park’s growing visitation. In addition to new attractions, Wet’n’Wild also has an intensive marketing strategy focused on driving attendance and keeping the brand relevant. Marketing activity, included giveaways of Krispy Kreme doughnuts before they were available for purchase on the Gold Coast, and cooperative promotional campaigns with corporate Partners like Coco-Cola. Wet’n’Wild will continue to seek innovative, high-capacity attractions to meet growing operational and consumer demands.

How do you cultivate new ideas—do you let staff brainstorm together, watch other parks throughout the world, or ask for guest feedback?

Warner Village Theme Parks uses a variety of techniques to generate ideas for new rides and attractions. These include market research such as focus groups and observation of other Water Parks. Wet’n’Wild is also fortunate to have a diverse range of staff members with a huge amount of experience on various levels. This makes brainstorming new ideas very effective. Whilst the park is somewhat isolated due to location, staffers have an excellent networking system with operators and industry bodies throughout the world. Additionally, a good communication plan for gathering guest feedback from frontline staff is essential for future planning. These staff are the eyes and ears of our business and their input is invaluable. The theme park team utilizes the strategic depth of the marketing team based at Village Roadshow’s head office to further develop new ideas.

Are there any longrunning priorities or initiatives Wet’n’Wild followed that continually contribute to its success?
Wet’n’Wild has a number of initiatives that help contribute to its continued success. Of note, Wet’n’Wild’s advertising campaigns steer clear of "formula." They are contemporary, vibrant, and cutting edge—assisting to keep the brand "cool" and appeal to the teen market. Advertising schedules also aim to dominate share of voice. In conjunction with advertising, the marketing team utilizes numerous national publicity opportunities to raise brand awareness and deliver key messages to the target market. These opportunities can range from a full outside broadcast with a national breakfast television show to segment-hostings with a national music video show—this all helps to keep the brand relevant to the target market.

Management also works closely with other major aquatic institutions to promote safety to guests. Management implemented a joint initiative with the Royal Lifesaving Society called the Keep Watch program, designed to educate parents and guardians about their responsibilities within the park and around the water. And Wet’n’Wild has an in-house radio station which plays a variety of appropriate songs throughout the day. This medium is used to advise guests of any in-park promotions, upcoming events, or offers available to them—the radio station has proven very successful.

Are there any trends you see throughout the world or specifically in Australia you feel are strongly affecting the waterpark industry?
Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world and consumers are increasingly seeking more shade. Subsequently, the Wet’n’Wild team continually reviews shade plans to increase the available shade in the park. We are also finding guests want greater challenges and thrills, increasing the demand for slides that meet this criteria. They want the oohs and ahhs of slides and the ability to share the experience with a group of family and friends.

Are there any potential challenges you must continually prepare for and consider?
Another potential challenge is the recruitment of aquatic staff given the seasonal nature of Wet’n’Wild. Every 12 months a large percentage of the work force is new employees, hence there is an enormous focus on recruitment processes as well as training requirements for new staff. All of these need to be completed prior to the influx of guests in the first holidays of spring. Queensland’s subtropical climate offers perfect waterpark weather, however it can be challenging for staff. Management works hard to ensure staffers are equipped to beat the challenges of sunburn, dehydration, and other heat related illnesses.

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