Friday, February 26, 2010

FUNWORLD Follow-Up: Thorpe Park, PR, and … Urine?

Today's IAAPA News Flash included this story about Thorpe Park's request for guests to provide urine samples—for the smell.

The park wants to incorporate a urine stench as part of its new "Saw Alive" horror maze attraction opening next month. So it asked guests to provide samples and the nastiest-smelling urine would be replicated in the attraction.

This is yet another example of Thorpe's edgy public relations strategy, which we profiled in this month's issue of FUNWORLD. You can read that story here. This kind of idea is exactly why I wanted to highlight the park's PR operation in the first place—hopefully you find the piece as informative and fascinating read as I did.

I followed up with park spokesman Gareth Arculus to ask what is, to me, the most critical question in this whole endeavor: Who on earth has to smell all those samples?

"The responsibility—and some say very lucky judge—for the final decision of the Stench of 'Saw Alive' lies with Thorpe Park Entertainment Manager Laura Sinclair. As we look to create the world’s most extreme live action horror maze, we are looking to build a total experience that will attack all the senses, whilst also using live actors, special effects with a shocking twist, and immersing guests into the world of 'Saw.'

"Laura is working closely with a company to develop the aroma that will be used to really bring to life the iconic Washroom scene from the films, and we’re sure that it’s not the only lasting impression that people will leave 'Saw Alive' with."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

March FUNWORLD Online Now: FECs, Waterpark Weddings, and More

The March issue of FUNWORLD is hopefully hitting your mailboxes right about now, but in case you haven't seen it yet, you can check out my cover story on new FEC Committee Chair Dorothy Lewis and the rest of the new magazine by clicking here.

Lewis and I talked about the IAAPA/IALEI combination and the future for the newly named FEC Council as she and the committee go through this important and exciting year for family entertainment centers in the association. Lewis also talks about her history in the business and why she has such a passion for educational seminars.

Other stories of note in this issue:

• News Editor Keith Miller looks at the live animation trend occurring in the industry right now.
• Departments Editor Marion Hixon highlights how waterparks are turning into hot spots for weddings.
• Contributing Editor Mike Bederka examines the current state of the arcade business and what entrepreneurs are doing to keep it fresh and competitive.
• Mike also researched dos and don'ts for FEC owners looking to sell, and John Morell provides tips for attractions responding to the H1N1 virus.

And there's much more! Keep in mind as you're reading the digital edition, any web address you see is "live"—click on it, and you'll be taken directly to that site.

You can send any feedback on this issue to me—I'd love to hear what you think.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The White House's Health Care Proposal

As some of you may have seen, President Obama released his health care reform proposal yesterday. The 11-page document is an executive summary of ideas, some from existing legislation, and some entirely new ones that will fuel Thursday’s much-publicized (and public) “Bipartisan Meeting.”

It’s important to note that the President’s proposal is not in “legislative language,” which means while there are broad ideas for what the bill should do, there’s no explanation of how it will be accomplished. There are no details in the summary, including how part-time and seasonal workers will be treated under the president’s plan, which is the part of the legislation that will most impact the attractions industry. When the legislative language is released, we will know more and can take action on the proposal.

As for the process, the Senate no longer has its filibuster-proof supermajority of 60 votes, so there has been talk in Washington of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid using the budget reconciliation process to pass the final incarnation of the health care bill. Special rules in the Senate allow for “reconciliation” bills to be passed with only 51 votes—a much easier hurdle for Senator Reid to clear. House bills only need a simple majority to pass and if Speaker Pelosi can hold her caucus together (which may not be easy), she can attain this number.

Curious IAAPA members should read through the president’s proposal—since it’s a summary, it’s a quick but interesting read—and if they can, tune in for the meeting on Thursday (it will also be shown live on C-SPAN 3 beginning at 10 a.m. EST). After we’ve gotten more details about the treatment of part-time and seasonal workers, we’ll contact our U.S. members about action they can take.

Friday, February 19, 2010

February Webinar: Drive Party Sales

Need to boost your birthday party business or group sales program? During this month’s IAAPA webinar, Sheryl Bindelglass, president and founder of marketing firm SherylGolf, will share tips you can put to use right away to increase revenue.

“Extreme Birthday Party Makeover: The Party Examples Continue,” takes place Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 2 p.m. EST. As part of the discussion, she asks participants to send examples of their party marketing materials, which she will review during the webinar. In the Queue caught up with Bindelglass this week to find out more about this session.

Birthday parties are a core part of the FEC business. Why is it important to keep things fresh?
When you’re dealing with repeat customers you may get people who come back to your facility year after year and have the same child have two or three birthday parties with you. They’re looking to see what you’ve changed, to see what’s new and what’s different—whether you’ve added a new attraction or you’ve added a new value to the package.

In these budget-conscious days, what are some examples of small affordable changes that can boost revenue?
The first thing I’d recommend is to go back and look at your packages and see how you can repackage or rebrand them. Can you put a package together that used to be $9.99 a child and add value to it—whether it’s an extra ride or a couple dollars in the video arcade area? What can you do to have a greater perceived value and make that $9.99 package a $12.99 so you’re getting a greater per cap per person? You always want to create upsells. If you attend the webinar, you will learn some key tricks on how to be successful with upsells.

Who do you recommend participate in this webinar?
Anyone and everyone who would like to host a birthday party or celebration at their facility, whether it’s an amusement park, a family fun center, a farm, a museum, or an aquarium. Even if you’re in the party business, you will still learn new and improved ways to make more money with party packages.
We’ve heard from family fun centers, a children’s museum, a haunted attraction, a farm, a waterpark, a very diverse group of locations, ranging from small facilities to large operations. The same core principles apply whether it’s a small change of looking at your flier and noticing you don’t even have your web site on it, or looking on your web site and finding you’re missing key information that could help you sell more packages. You should learn at least one or two golden nuggets you can implement within an hour after the webinar. Quick, easy, inexpensive, even free things you will be able to do immediately after the session. You will not have to wait months to make some of these quick-fix recommendations.

Though FECs do a lot of birthday party business, are there general group sales concepts other facilities can learn from this session?
Do you know what your sales numbers are? What your goals are? Does your whole company understand how important it is to reach your goals? I’ll talk about obtainable goals and what can you do to motivate your staff to sell.

You’ve welcomed attendees to submit samples for this webinar. What types of materials are you looking for, and what can participants expect to learn from your evaluations?
We’re looking for your flier, web site, or anything that ties into your birthday party. We’re going to pick several examples and show you how little changes can have a big impact.

To register or learn more on IAAPA’s e-learning programs, click here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

State Legislation Preview

Apologies for the lack of posts lately; in case you haven’t heard by now, the Washington, DC, area was covered in a record-breaking amount of snow last week. We’re (mostly) dug-out now, so we're back at the blogging game once more.

I’ve been updating the State Bill Tracker on IAAPA’s Capwiz site and I came across a few bills of interest to the attractions industry:

Maryland Waterpark Legislation
Waterpark members may remember similar legislation introduced last session in Maryland. Called “Connor’s Law” in honor of a child who drowned in a country club pool, HB 273 calls for a 1:25 lifeguard-to-swimmer ratio in all Maryland pools. The bill was referred to the Health and Government Operations Committee for a hearing.

Florida Parental Waiver Legislation
Two years ago, a Florida court held that a pre-injury release executed by a parent on behalf of a minor child is unenforceable against the minor or the minor's estate in a tort action arising from injuries resulting from participation in a commercial activity. In plain English: a parent can't sign a liability waiver for his or her child.

This decision had a substantial impact on go-kart and other attractions operations in the state of Florida. This legislation (HB285/SB1578) seeks to restore the right of a parent to sign a liability waiver for his or her child. Similar legislation was introduced last session but did not make it to final passage. This session the legislation has been introduced earlier in the session, giving it better chances for passage. The legislation was referred to the Judiciary Committee in the Senate and the Criminal & Civil Justice Policy Council in the House.

School Start Date Legislation
There are several legislative proposals this year addressing the school calendar. IAAPA tracks these proposals for members, since obviously the school calendar has a big impact on the industry:

Indiana - SB 150

Tennessee - SB 3088

Virginia - HB 1111

IAAPA tracks legislation in every state and notifies members when action is needed, but we usually don’t lobby directly at the state level. Many states have state or regional associations that work closely with IAAPA and lobby on legislation that has the potential to affect the industry, but if your state doesn't, or if you’re looking for some additional guidance, please feel free to contact us.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

IAAPA Attractions Expo Played Role in Merlin/Cypress Gardens Deal

Merlin Entertainments Group CEO Nick Varney speaks at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008
(photo by Digital Imaging Direct)

So turns out IAAPA Attractions Expo helped get the Merlin/Cypress Gardens deal rolling, which in 2011 will see a Legoland built in Central Florida.

According to this story in The Ledger of Winter Haven, Florida (the local paper for Cypress Gardens), Merlin first made inquiries about the property in summer 2008, and officials on both sides of the deal agreed to meet in November of that year during IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008 in Orlando.

Merlin CEO Nick Varney was in town because he was a keynote speaker for the annual General Managers and Owners' Breakfast. So he took time out to visit the park during Expo week and, according to the Ledger, it was "love at first sight." A little more than a year later, the deal was done, and now an East Coast Legoland is on deck for next year.

It's pretty cool to know such a big project got started at our trade show. The Expo returns to Orlando in November, so it's also pretty cool to imagine what kinds of deals could be started this time around.