Owen Jones

Owen Jones

It should come as no surprise that large players like Disney have been on the digitalised data collection train for a while now, but during the pandemic the need for data digitalisation got a whole lot bigger. 

“In the past several months, our tech teams have accelerated our move to digital in a big way,” Disneyland California spokesperson Liz Jaeger said. Digital boomed everywhere during the pandemic – online shopping, contactless payments and social spending on apps, games and digital experiences all accelerated at such a rate, that it would have taken 2 to 3 years to reach the same levels under normal circumstances. 

For theme parks and operators, where big losses have resulted from numerous lockdowns, the pandemic has crystallised the need to turn to digital in order to be reactive to the guest experience and to help recoup losses that have hit the industry hard. 

Fundamentally, the pandemic has changed the nature of a trip to the theme park. It’s no longer just about fun; it’s about health and wellbeing too. And good quality, real-time data is at the heart of any park’s ability to manage all of this. 

Suddenly you’re being asked to consider customer safety in spaces that were previously low risk. How much risk are they in when they’re queuing? Are there too many people in your restaurant spaces? Is social distancing impacting your ride capacity? And what impact is this shift having on your profitability? 

It’s no longer enough to analyse retrospective data and make changes in a few days’ time. These changes to operations often need to be made instantly, reacting to what is happening in the park at any given moment but without compromising guest experience or park capacity. 

Digitalising your theme park’s data

For larger operators, the transition to digitalisation has come a little more naturally. Disney World in Florida has been using data from wristbands and IoT sensors and cameras for a while, using personalised promotions to move people away from congested areas towards other attractions.

But for many theme parks, a lot of these processes are still governed by paperwork. Training logs, ride operations and sign-in, queue times and kiosk capacity – the immediacy of digital data brings with it many benefits in a pandemic world where your customer experience has become enmeshed with health and capacity challenges.

Using their complex data analytics system, Disney World has been able to increase capacity by as much as 30%. Increases in capacity like this have become a lifeline to theme parks during the last year, with many operators running at a reduced guest capacity in order to manage crowds and contact levels. 

LEGOLAND Windsor Resort has seen ride capacity increases during the pandemic with the adoption of digital data collection and analysis of their operations processes, enabling their customers to get one more ride in per visit. 

Of course, an increase in capacity is just one benefit of a digitalised data collection system. UK-based theme park, Paultons Park, has recently implemented a system to digitalise their operations processes.

“The pandemic has definitely forced us to consider how people are moving around the park,” says James Mancey, Operations Director at Paultons Park. “Not only that, but it highlighted how much of our Operations Managers time was spent filling out and filing paperwork rather than reacting to what was happening on a day-to-day basis. The time it was taking for our data collation was holding us back.”

Lawrence Mancey, Business Systems & Marketing Manager at Paultons Park, estimates that implementing digital data capture for training and ride operations has given back a month’s worth of time to park Operations Managers. 

“The time that’s being saved translates into a better experience for our customers,” he says. “Our Operations Managers are now out in the park, problem solving and reacting to what the data is saying about our rides rather than filing paperwork and analysing problems in the past.”

These sorts of time savings may seem inconsequential on the surface, but the ability of your real-time data to inform you of congested areas, problems with rides and staffing levels has become essential to theme parks’ survival this year.

Using digitalised data to keep your customers safer

While Disney takes a more direct approach to relocating customers when things are busy, Paultons Park feels that the information the technology provides to customers alone, without any additional nudges, is enough to make them feel empowered about their experience.

With the park’s new digital operations data collection, queue times are accurate down to a couple of minutes. Whether they’re looking at one of the park’s digital displays or viewing the information on the park’s App, it provides customers with the information they need to make informed decisions. 

“The accuracy of our queue times means that customers can choose where they spend their time. Opting to avoid large queues and busy sections of the park if they wish to, helps them to have a better experience,” says Lawrence. 

As James points out, “We’re conscious that we want to provide escapism for our customers as well as reassurance that we’re looking after their safety.” 

Another key area where Paultons Park has been able to use its data to ensure the safety of customers, is the digital storage of all allergen information for its pre-packaged foods. With the introduction in the UK of Natasha’s Law, it’s a requirement for food businesses to provide full ingredients and allergen labelling for pre-packaged food made on-site.

Data used in this way works twofold. It enables behind the scenes processes to be quicker and eliminates the risk of human error, while giving the customer an experience that brings safety and satisfaction. 

Putting theme park data in the hands of those who need it

The digitalisation of your theme park data adds up to lots of small wins. And those small wins combined can be the difference between thriving and simply surviving.

By digitalising your data, you’re creating a blend of both real-time and retrospective data that’s accessible to those who need it, when they need it. Operations managers and staff have access to information at their fingertips that can change and improve the guest experience on a micro-level. While finance teams and analysts are able to take a broader view of the data gathered to plan and strategize for future changes to the park.

Both of these data sets enable functionality, customer experience and safety and provide a holistic view of park operations when synced with existing CRM and data management software. 

As James Mancey puts it, “balance is key” when it comes to collecting and utilising your data collection. Too much granular detail can make it hard to make larger, strategic decisions but not enough can lead to unhappy customers who can’t get the most out of their visit to your theme park. 

Ready to join the operations data revolution? Start digitalising your theme park data.