26 May 2022 Attractions Management Handbook

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Attractions Management Handbook - The Next Big Splash

Insights: Waterparks

The Next Big Splash

Alice Davis asked waterpark suppliers to look into the future and tell us the trends and themes they envision for the sector

Alice Davis

Lars Lenders VP business development Europe Proslide


Lars Lenders

In some ways, the waterparks in Europe have not evolved and innovated as much as their US counterparts over the past 20 years, but now new and existing waterparks are trying to differentiate themselves as the market becomes more densely populated. They’re looking for one-of-a-kind water rides that not only create capacity and the wow factor, but also are a marketing and communication tool for being the “first” in the region, country, or in Europe.

We just opened Alpamare Scarborough, an indoor waterpark in the UK – an example of a trend for more immersive environments. Center Parcs Woburn offers immersive, authentic surroundings, while Belgium’s Plopsaqua combines IP with a highly themed experience.

People also want to share experiences as a family or a group of friends, so our rides shaped like four-leaf clovers and double tubes, where everyone faces each other, are popular.

Now guests can get videos of their ride experience and post it on social media. That’s an interesting trend because the operator can use guest data to start building up a conversation. And, social media is instant marketing for parks.

"We’re seeing trends in Europe for the bigger, better, faster, higher and more exhilarating experiences"


ProSlide worked on the Alpamare Scarborough waterpark in the UK

Sohret Pakis Director of marketing Polin


Sohret Pakis

At Polin, we have created a new division specifically targeting the integration of technology and interactivity into our attractions.

That means our rides will incorporate more media-based elements such as lighting effects and full-sensory stimuli, synchronised VR and AR displays that change throughout the ride, 5D cinematic experiences, smart phone integration and interactive competitions.

Slide design will become more complex, as amping up the adrenaline demands more turns, drops and accelerations. When it comes to theming, facilities must compete on every level, increasingly offering experiences that enhance every aspect of a guest’s investment, even before they arrive.

Not only can slides be made to look like characters in the park’s story, theming can also extend to many other offerings. And while well-known IPs will often be critical to these experiences, we also expect to see home-grown brands jump into this area successfully.

"Key to meeting guests’ future expectations: gaming, slide technology and design, and theming"


Amaazia in Surat, India, is one of several new openings from Polin

Paul Chutter Chief business development officer Whitewater West


Paul Chutter

Historically, theme parks have developed more rapidly than waterparks and been the main driver of the industry. However, in sheer volume and relevance, waterparks are catching up. Many people who’ve been involved in theme parks now want to get into water. That’s the natural progression.

We’re seeing a real evolution of the client profile. There’s no question that our buyers are becoming more sophisticated than ever. Sometimes that’s because they’re industry veterans, or they could be financiers, private equity groups, or business people. It’s not surprising this has happened because the industry is doing well and there’s a real opportunity to generate revenue and a lot of profit, particularly on the operations side.

Clients have elevated expectations of innovation, products, service and delivery model. Tolerance for not meeting deadlines is nil – showing we’re becoming a mature global industry with incredibly sharp people doing really good work.

We’re going to see waterparks playing catch-up with theme parks in overall look, feel and theming. Buyers are more sophisticated, wanting to create meaningfully immersive experiences. Theming is going to get more over the top as we move away from standard slide towers.

Buyers are upping budgets for richer experiences. Theme parks went in that direction years ago. It’s taken waterparks longer but the catch-up has happened.

"Over the past few years we’ve seen a pretty explosive rate of growth, which the whole industry has experienced"

Glenn O'Connor Senior director, waterparks Forrec


Glenn O'Connor

Guests will pay for high-quality experiences and their expectations are growing exponentially.

Globally, we see a continuing evolution from standalone waterparks to ones integrated into year-round resorts, offered as a second gate to another major attraction such as a theme park, or as part of a larger entertainment district.

That means themed and branded experiences, such as the extension of an IP, are growing in popularity in some regions, but are still less common in smaller or emerging markets.

Wet/dry attractions are also on the increase and work well as part of a strategy to increase park attendance during the shoulder season, while also offering more variety.

Waterpark operations are increasingly sophisticated and require experienced trained personnel to manage and safely operate newer technologies.

Technology is appearing with integrated applications for competitive games. For some markets, such as teens and adults, operators need to set a higher bar to really wow guests.

Thrill rides combined with emerging technology/gaming are growing in popularity. Newer rides are always interesting and parks require renewal on a regular cycle, as with any other entertainment experience.

Cashless payment is increasingly expected by guests. Digital photography connected to social media is also growing in popularity. Guests will always expect clean, well-maintained facilities.

"Guest experience remains the most important consideration in the planning and design of any waterpark"


FORREC designed Costa Caribe as a second gate for PortAventura in Spain

David Keim VP business development Aquatic Development Group


David Keim

We’ve got used to thinking that adding a slide or play structure is the only option available, but this isn’t true, and new, non-traditional water rides are now entering the waterpark market.

With advances in wave technology, waterpark staples such as the lazy river and the wave pool are also being transformed, with new configurations, higher throughput and skill-based excitement, creating new experiences.

Boogie-boarding and surf pools give a new twist to the wave pool, as do double-entry, dual-beach wave pools.

Adventure rivers with wave entry zones remove the dry queue and immediately engage guests with the ride, while experiences that lend themselves to a destination setting – with the ability to blend surrounding deck space, cabanas and room for food and beverage – are growing in popularity as waterparks look for ways to keep their guests engaged and on the property for longer.

In addition to new rides, waterparks are also becoming more focused on enhancing the overall guest experience.

"Some of the hottest trends right now are redefining what a water ride means"


New trend: boogie-boarding at Water World in Denver, Colorado, USA

Mark Albertine President Openaire


Mark Albertine

Many waterpark operators recognise that outdoor parks still offer advantages over the static, artificially-lit atmosphere of indoor parks. This is why retractable roofs and enclosures are set to be the designs of choice for the waterpark of the future.

Such designs offer the best of outdoor and indoor environments as these dynamic structures can open at the touch of a button to let in fresh air and natural light on warm, sunny days, as well as shelter and warmth in inclement weather.

Their retractable glazed panels offer operators approximately 20 to 30 per cent savings on lighting and HVAC costs, while also naturally ventilating, thus helping to eliminate the odours of pool chemicals for guests. The use of corrosion-proof aluminium structures also gives these retractable-roofed venues excellent durability and low maintenance costs.

With dozens of leading waterparks around the world already choosing to build retractable roof enclosures or skylights and the constant improvements in operable structure technology, there’s little doubt that retractable structures are set to become one of the hottest trends in waterpark design.

"A growing number of waterparks operate as year-round, indoor destinations with many advanced rides and amenities"


Retractable structures are set to become one of the hottest trends in waterpark design

Simon Van Dijk Commercial director Van Egdom


Simon Van Dijk

We are designing more inclusive rides to allow young children to enjoy them with adults and teenagers.

Demand for large tube rides accommodating groups of people is also growing. This allows families and friends to experience the ride while having fun together.

Multi-slides that create competition, where people want to beat a time or improve their skill and rides that integrate interactive play features will become more common.

Technologies such as iSlide’s AquaXperience, interactive special effects and digital lighting for water attractions, are driving the demand for waterplay entertainment. New and better integrated themed sound and light, visual systems and social media integration will become the norm on rides, slides and waterplay structures. They can change a new or existing ride by adding an exciting experiential dimension.

"Big changes are coming for the industry in the Middle East, Far East and especially in Europe"

Shanley Hutchinson Creative manager Waterplay Solutions


Shanley Hutchinson

As the world becomes more connected and digital technology a more integral part of our lives, we’ve seen play habits and expectations change dramatically among consumers of all ages.

Where before manufacturers were focused on designing something fun, today’s consumers want and expect more. They want to be delighted, thrilled and surprised by truly immersive experiences that are engaging and unforgettable. As innovators, it’s an exciting time to be experimenting with waterplay.

"The success of waterparks depend on attention to key visitor demographics and their unique play needs"



Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2017 edition

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