15 Sep 2019 Attractions Management Handbook

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Attractions Management Handbook - Attractions Foresight™


Attractions Foresight™

What’s coming down the track for attractions? Attractions Management examines the trends, technologies and strategies which will shape the future

Liz Terry, Leisure Media

1. Remote tasting
2. Attractions in space
3. Brain scanning
4. Reactive environments
5. Mindmeld
6. High speed travel
7. The end of orca
8. Cage free zoos
9. Robots workers
11. Crowdfunding
12. Drones
13. Online reviews
14. 3D modeling
15. Rideenhancements
16. Wearables
17. Facial recognition
18. Hospitality
19. VirtualReality
20. Scenting



Attractions designers are on a quest
to perfect the fully-immersive digital experience, with the aim of extending the attraction beyond its four walls to get more engagement with guests.

In working towards this aim they have all five senses to play with – sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.

Stimulating sight and hearing have been the mainstays of most tech interac- tions to date – especially those which are screen-based, so this tech has been well developed. The quest is on to find ways of digitally sharing touch, smell and taste.

In this year’s predictions (numbers 4 and 20) we look at ways in which smell and touch will be transmitted digitally, but we believe that, in addition, technology will be developed which enables people to share taste digitally from anywhere in the world. We expect this tech to utilise readers and 3D printers: a substance will be scanned, analysed, encoded, transmitted and reconstituted remotely by 3D printer.

Want to share a taste from the other side of the world? This will be possible once technologies like these are combined.

Remote tasting will give attractions designers another great tool to play with.


Sharing tastes from around the world


With commercial space flight just a few years away, and plans for hotels in space already on the drawing board, we’re wondering who will be the first operator to announce an attraction in space? Disney? Universal? Merlin? Or an up-and-coming and ambitious Asian or Middle Eastern player?

The creative possibilities of zero gravity are mind boggling when it comes to designing ride concepts, while the journey there, the views and opportunity to space walk would be part of the experience.

We imagine a resort and attraction in space which combines the best of theme park and science centre with an overnight stay.


Blasting off: who will be the first attractions operator to plan a space theme park?


Combining technology, entertainment and experiences, South African Breweries used technology to create an imaginative, interactive game for customers. The ‘Extra Cold Mind Reader’ challenged drinkers to keep thinking cool thoughts, even when presented with images of extreme heat and a range of other distractions.

The more they concentrated on thinking cool thoughts, the more ice cold beer they were rewarded with.

The brain-powered technology was created for Castle Lite – a low-carb, ice-cold beer, and the novel unique sensory experience used interactive lighting, cold air, immersive visuals and sound to complete the experience.

The system was designed by Hellocomputer and built by Thingking, using an EEG headset to measure spontaneous brain activity over a short period of time along the scalp. The device also picked up on conscious thought, emotion and facial expressions, all of which it used to control the experience. This tech has huge potential for attractions.


The system used brain scanning headsets


Traditionally attractions were static, with all input coming from the visitor. Then the industry moved to interactive environments, where visitors could learn by doing, but the experiences were still pre-programmed, with limited outcomes available from a set menu of options.

However, the next generation of attractions will be built with reactive environments, where multiple outcomes are possible depending on the actions of the visitor.
All sensory elements of the experience will be reactive, so each visitor will have a journey through the attraction which is initiated by them and customised for them based on how they react to the elements.

We see this as the next level of engagement and part of the trend towards customisation. Attractions will be able to delight each guest by creating an experience which resonates with them personally and engages all their senses.

We’ll see haptic surfaces which react and change; lighting and sound which respond to the actions of visitors; walls, floors and ceilings which move, and built-in tech, such as screens which have sensors that enable them to react to visitors.

Attractions will be able to combine these environments with live (or robot) actors, making it possible for each member of a group to have a different experience based around a shared core.
This principle is being used by operators such as Punchdrunk, with its award winning Sleep No More production in New York.

Find out more: punchdrunk.com


Haptic screens and reactive tech will enable visitors to be more fully immersed in experiences


Scientists have just announced the first ever brain-to-brain communcation and we believe this will have exciting potential applications for attractions.

Alvaro Pascual-Leone, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, a team from Starlab Barcelona, Spain, led by Giulio Ruffini and Carles Grau, and Axilum Robotics’ CEO Michel Berg and his team in Strasbourg, France, collaborated to transmit words in what they called a “computer-­mediated, brain-to-brain transmission” between people in India and France.

They used two technologies to conduct the experiment – internet-linked EEG and robot-assisted, image-guided transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

Four people took part – one sent words via a brain-computer interface and the other three received and had to understand them. Using EEG, the team translated the words ‘hola’ and ‘ciao’ into binary code and emailed the results from India to France. Once there, a computer-brain interface transmitted the words to the receivers through non-invasive brain stimulation.

The subjects experienced the words as flashes of light in their peripheral vision in a numerical sequence. They decoded and accurately reported the greetings.

This is the first time people have been able to communicate across thousands of miles without the need to speak or write and the researchers say it’s the first step in “bypassing traditional language-based or motor-based communication.”

We believe this ground-breaking idea will find applications in attractions once it’s been refined. It may even eventually enable communication between species.


One day technology may enable us to communicate brain-to-brain with animals


Inventors are working on technology which will enable super high-speed travel and make long-haul day trips a reality.

Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, for example, will use reduced-pressure vacuum tubes, linear motors and air compressors to move people by capsule at top speeds of 1,220 km/h, and although this kind of thing is unlikely to be operational for 20 years, in industry terms this is soon, because international-level visitor attractions are a long-term play.

Being aware of where future customers might come from will inform the way attractions are designed, to allow for cultural differences. It will also mean competition becomes more global.



The appetite for keeping orca in captivity is diminishing and industry insiders say the days of “fish shows” using large mammals are numbered.

We believe the trend is that animals in captivity should be limited to those whose natural behaviours can be expressed in the habitats we have the space, funding and ability to build.


Photo: © shutterstock/lars christensen

The days of orca in captivity are numbered


Architectural practice BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) has been commissioned to create a new format for Givskud Zoo in Denmark.

Called Zootopia, the design effectively cages the people while giving the animals freedom to roam. Visitor and nature will become entwined in the attraction, which will be divided into three ‘continents’, each with its own mode of transport. Visitors will ‘fly’ over the Americas (in a cable car), cycle or hike through Africa and sail across Asia in pods which get them close to the animals.

Animal attractions are popular but, in spite of improvements, still raise ethical concerns and we expect to see a radical rethink in the way animals are cared for.


BIG’s design for Zootopia has a pod transportation system


The ability to perceive the minds of others is emerging in robots and this, coupled with advances in sensor design will take us to a point where robots will become viable as workers, going from being attractions exhibits to being front of house and delivering guest services.

Robots are being prototyped for use in a number of leisure sectors – Starwood, for example, has announced it’s trialling room service by robot in its hotels, with robot butlers delivering trays and trolleys to keep costs under control, while retaining services.

The hotel industry is struggling to keep room service viable – Hilton New York announced it was abandoning it last year – and operators are looking for ways to adjust the business model to salvage the situation. It seems robots may be the answer.

Staffing costs in attractions are a significant and fixed proportion of overheads, so there’s a financial incentive to deliver services without increasing costs and robots meet this need.

In addition to representing a reduction in costs, money spent on robots will also count as infrastructure investment, so they’ll be treated as balance sheet assets, making them a more attractive option than incurring higher overheads due to increased salary and employee costs.

The attractions industry will have a great fit with a robot workforce, especially in science centres and theme parks, where they can become part of the story. Robots are already being successfully used in education and we think they’ll become a valid and valuable part of the attractions workforce as technology improves.

Corporate America had its best year last year at a time when unemployment was at its highest, so as a trend, there’s a move towards making more money from less people. We see the move to robot workers as an inevitable part of this wider trend.


Photo: © shutterstock/ Kiselev Andrey Valerevich

Robots will replace people in some functions


Bring Your Own Device and Bring Your Own Wearables are the future, as operators shift the cost of acquiring hardware to the consumer and concentrate instead on providing them with the apps needed to create experiences.

Smartphones are opening up opportunities for increased profits by passing costs back to users: we’ve seen this in systems such as Sonos, which couples wireless speakers with an app, enabling listeners to use mobile devices as controllers to play music files.

We expect operators to find creative ways to take advantage of the trend, so they engage with customers, extend the experience beyond the confines of the facility, drive down costs and offer more customisable, customised experiences.



Crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter – which launched in the US in 2009, Europe in 2012 and Canada and Australia in 2013 – are transforming the funding of attractions, arts and culture projects. In the US, for example, Kickstarter channels more funding into the arts than the government.

Crowdfunding websites are proliferating rapidly worldwide and being used to raise finance for a wide range of attractions-related investment, from new museums to tech innovations.

See Kickstarter in Leisure Management issue 1 2012: http://bit.ly/1jPnstR



Drone tech is advancing fast and early adopters are looking at applications.

Three drone patents filed by Disney suggest larger-than-life puppets could be drone powered, bringing characters to life with greater control than previous airborne characters which have simply been filled with hot air or various gasses.

The application also indicates that drones could replace Disney’s fireworks with an aerial display system based on the floating pixel, or “flixel” which would fill the sky with giant screens.

In addition, it appears Disney plans to use drones “where it’s desirable to provide an aerial display,” for large-scale shows in both indoor and outdoor settings.

Drone-mounted cameras have potential applications in attractions for a wide range of uses from education – where they can take camera feeds to show aerial views – to guest photography and for use for safety and security, especially on larger sites.


An image in Disney’s patent application features a marionette version of Jack Skellington


Online reviews are having a huge impact on service businesses and although few operators embraced them to the degree seen in the hotel and restaurant sectors, the opportunity is there to increase business by encouraging and managing reviews across all areas of leisure, including attractions.

A study by economists at the University of California, Berkeley found a variance of just half a star rating can determine whether a service business grows and thrives or goes bust.
Researchers focused on restaurant reviews on Yelp.com and found that the difference between 3 and 3.5 stars increased the chance of a business reaching capacity at peak times from 13 per cent to as much as 34 per cent.

Further reinforcement of the impact comes from a TripAdvisor study which found that properties with 11 reviews or more on the website see a 28 per cent rise in user engagement when compared to those with 10 or fewer.

Dealing well with complaints relating to online reviews is also important, according to a PhoCusWright report which found that 84 per cent of TripAdvisor users said an appropriate management response to a bad review improves their impression of a hotel or restaurant.

In the attractions industry, monitoring reviews can act as a feedback loop for complaints, while managing them helps to neutralise the impact of bad reviews which have been shared by consumers.

As more attractions build hotels, spas and restaurants, managing these reviews also becomes an important part of the reputation management of the operation.


Photo: © shutterstock/sunny studio

Good customer reviews can build your reputation. Bad ones need to be carefully managed


The Science Centre Singapore (SCS) has signed an agreement with French software company Dassault Systemes to develop modelling to support education – Dassault creates software that allows people to explore places through interactive virtual 3D models.

The two are developing Visual SG, which will utilise virtual-reality technology to enable people to explore unusual sites and gain scientific knowledge. Included in the development are 3D models of medieval Paris and the Giza plateau, which will be available free.

For the SCS, this type of experiential learning environment helps children to retain and understand information.



Rollercoaster manufacturers are eyeing the possibilities of combining rides with immersive technologies such as the Oculus Rift VR headset (see Trend 19) to create new experiences.

Thomas Wagner, professor of Virtual Design at the University of Applied Sciences Kaiserslautern, Germany, created a programme on Oculus rift, which are synchronised to rollercoasters at Europa Park built by Mack Rides for research and testing.

Wagner discovered the technology was more exciting without rails (in the VR world). The track can even be virtually adjusted if desired and virtual canon added to effectively turn the rollercoaster into a full game.



We’re moving from an era when we interface with technology using keyboard and mouse, to a time where touch and voice are the norm. Wearable technology will find both business- and consumer-facing applications in the attractions industry, with things like Google Glass presenting a number of immediate opportunities.

A long time coming, Google Glass is still mainly in the hands of early adopters, but the underlying idea is an exciting one and we expect this type of wearable tech to be used creatively by the attractions sector in a myriad of ways from ride enhancement (see Trend 15) to educational applications.

We could see customers being given Google Glass pre-loaded with content to create augmented reality experiences, while a research team is investigating how Google Glass can be used to display instant information on artworks as visitors walk round museums and galleries.

There will be many applications once it becomes a mass market product.

There will also be challenges, as we’ll need protocols to deal with the downside – will we allow customers to use wearables to record and share experiences, for example?

The growth in image-based tech such as Snapchat and Instagram are turning photography and video into mediums that replace words – a valuable resource in an increasingly global economy.


Google Glass and other wearable tech will have a myriad of applications for attractions


Understanding consumers’ true feelings and motivations has been the concern of neuromarketers for years: what we say we want and what we really want are often two completely different – and sometimes contradictory – things.

Knowing what people are really thinking gives valuable insights for operators and now facial gesture recognition and profiling software is coming to market, which is enabling retailers to identify mood and respond accordingly to improve the customer experience.

For example, coffee brand Douwe Egberts conducted a PR stunt by installing a coffee vending machine at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport. The machine had facial recognition built in. Travellers were given a free cup of coffee when the software detected them yawning.

We expect theme parks, stadiums and other high-footfall facilities to deploy facial recognition software both to profile customers and to assess their mood before and after experiences.

This will enable better product development and give insights into operational variables when it comes to delivering evermore enjoyable experiences. It will also give operators valuable feedback about areas for improvement.


Photo: © shutterstock/franck boston

There are many new ways to find out what your customers really think


As attractions work to capture more consumer spend, they’re diversifying into accommodation to add additional days (and nights) to the experience.

This can take the form of hotel and self-catering accommodation, as well as a host of other creative options.

Where there are hotels involved, operators are ramping up the quality of the offer, with the addition of things like spas and resort services.

But it isn’t just at the luxury end where operators are making money from accommodation – even attractions which have no opportunity to sell conventional bed nights can welcome guests for the night with a little creative thinking and in this edition of the Attractions Management Handbook, we look at how museums, science centres, theme parks, historic attractions and zoos are all welcoming customers for sleepovers (see page 116).

From themed tents in castles to simply bunking down next to the dinosaurs in museums, attractions are finding ways to host visitors overnight.


Sleepovers are popular money makers


Facebook’s acquisition of virtual reality gaming company Oculus VR – the developer of VR gaming headsets – is bringing VR back to the top of the agenda for attractions.
Although the idea is nothing new for the industry, the purchase is opening up more opportunities and driving down research and integration costs.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said the move will create the critical mass necessary for more standard multifunctional hardware that could be used in many different situations, saying: “After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences – this is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.”

VR headsets will be used as enhancements in combination with other experiences and also as tools for augmented reality.

Read more in Attractions Management magazine here: http://lei.sr?a=I2C4Y


Photo: © shutterstock/frederic legrand

VR headsets will be used in combination with other experiences to heighten them

VR headsets will be used in combination with other experiences to heighten them


A powerful way of evoking emotion, scent is increasingly being used by attractions to enhance the customer experience.

Most sensory offerings relate to mass experiences, with scents puffed out to large groups of people. For example, Lotte World, South Korea, has a new sensory entrance, which was installed by theme designers The Goddard Group.

However, the development of chemically-mastered scents which are created and released using handheld devices is on the increase and this technology has the potential to make the experience a more personal one, with aromas delivered via mobile phones and tablets.

Professor Adrian Cheok, founder and director of Singapore’s Mixed Reality Lab, has been working on numerous products related to the human senses and his latest invention – Scentee – is making its way to the commercial market.

The Scentee attaches to a mobile device and emits scents through chemical cartridges kept inside a plug-on attachment. The cartridges take instructions from an app on the device, allowing users to send each other scents.

Scentee is being used at one of the world’s leading restaurants – Mugaritz in San Sebastian, Spain – which is using the device to give guests a sniff of what they can eat before they book.

Aside from its obvious potential to enhance theme park rides, the people behind Scentee are aiming to introduce the technology in museums, science centres and other attractions. This could open the door to a new world of experience for visitors.


Scentee delivers aromas via a plug-on attachment which works on mobile

Editor, Leisure Management

Liz Terry, MD of Leisure Media, is a business journalist who’s been writing about the global leisure industries since 1983. She’s editor of Attractions Management and the Attractions Management Handbook.
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @elizterry

Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2014 edition

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