January 20, 2024
Adding bespoke adventure play for attractions to an existing or second gate destination has financial benefits and will also improve your organisation's reputation. We appreciate that it's a bold claim and of course, we would say that, because that's exactly what we create for attractions, but let's look at the thinking behind the claim.
There's a distinct growth in the demand for indoor attractions, outdoor adventure play and combinations, where part of the play is indoor and there are planned access openings to the outdoor area of additional adventure play.
Attractions that are 100% outdoor generally do very well on the 120 or so days of school holiday time and on warmer weekends throughout the year. Those with a significant indoor element on the other hand are more likely to attract a younger audience during weekdays and also an after-school peak, when families - often with season passes - come to play and stay to feed the kids too.
This indoor element helps reduce the impact of seasonal fluctuations, but also gives you a ready-made weatherproof destination for the biggest seasonal events of Halloween and Christmas that can be at the mercy of the weather.
In our experience, adventure play within attractions draws a wider family audience. It allows families with both older and younger children to be able to entertain all of them together, without the older ones being bored and the younger ones not being able to participate. What this means is that the overall target audience is wider and this should lead to increased visitor numbers, more season or annual pass sales and a rise in overall revenue.
We have case studies from attractions of all shapes and sizes reporting significant rises in income, a fast Return on Investment (ROI) and happy, returning customers.
Adding additional adventure play to an attraction will increase dwell time. There is more for families to do, so they stay longer. As a direct consequence, secondary spend increases too. When people stay longer, they tend to stay over the key time periods for snacking, drinks and food. If you attract more people too, and keep the average spend per head consistent there is an additional rise in income here as well. It's a win-win.
You do however need to ensure you are geared up for more intensive lunchtime sessions and potential queues for the snack outlets mid-morning and mid-afternoon. We have found that The window for serving lunch is strictly between 12.30 to 14.00 in the UK. If you run out of stock, or simply can't serve enough people in that time, these potential sales are NOT deferred until later, they are simply lost. We have a secret weapon to counter this. If you'd like to know what it is, drop us a line and we'll let you into our secret.
A really well thought out bespoke adventure play area creates a compelling reason for visitors to return. In our experience, we have seen families revisiting regularly, to enable children (and maybe adults) to overcome an element of the play that defeated them on a previous visit. This leads to repeat business and a more consistent revenue stream, as well as a greater take up of memberships or annual passes.
Our aim with any design we create is to ensure there is a challenge that many children may struggle to overcome on their first visit. That way, there's pester pressure to revisit to complete their own personal challenge. This is how children learn to assess their own appetite for risk and develop as individuals through play.
If you already have visitors coming to your property whether it's for house, gardens, parking and walking, or even picnicking, there may be an opportunity to add adventure play as a 'second gate' attraction. This can diversify the attraction's income stream, but also can often encourage more memberships and a whole new visitor demographic that it's possible to build an event programme as well as a food, beverage and retail offer around.
The financial benefits of additional or new adventure play create strong reasons to consider investing. These however are just half of the story and we also see improvements to an organisation's reputation, feedback and social media channels when good bespoke adventure play is added.
We split these into five main areas.
When families come to the attraction and enjoy their visit, they leave positive reviews on TripAdvisor, Google and the Meta platforms such as Facebook. There are also many more word-of-mouth recommendations which will strengthen the attraction's reputation. At the same time, it supports the marketing efforts to grow visitor numbers.
Inevitably there will be some negative feedback and this can be personally hard to take if it feels unjustified, but this often has some real insights into how you can make the attraction better for guests. In the early days of BeWILDerwood we had feedback that told us we needed more toilets, more supervision in certain areas and that our coffee was too expensive. We listened, added new toilets at the end of the first season, improved rotas to make supervision easier and changed to 12oz cups from 8oz for the coffee. Our reviews were transformed and we have been firm believers in listening to feedback and responding by making things better for visitors ever since.
By creating an adventure play offer for families with children of all ages, an attraction can improve their family-friendly image. At the same time, they create the start of a (hopefully) long relationship with the family, who will become regular visitors or even members. When kids become bored at home, there is nothing better than allowing them to get out to a great adventure play area and let off steam by playing together. This works almost like a reset button and the journey home will normally take on a completely different character, with happy faces and excited chatter rather than sullen kids staring blankly at their phones.
The 'money shot' as we call it, is the image that captures the attraction's spirit in a single shot. It could be a whole family picture in context with one of the rides, towers or slides, or it could be just a child, lost in the moment of great imaginative play. This image (or series of images) work amazingly well for feeding the marketing, social media and PR work that drives traffic to the park.
By creating a single great image that sums up the spirit of the play, you allow the family to visualise themselves there, playing and enjoying their time together. They see how their own family can fit in at the attraction and what type of experience they can expect. This one shot can do a lot of the heavy lifting of the marketing efforts all in one go.
A concerted social media campaign takes a lot of images. Up to 60 shots per month to feed two posts per week and a strong presence on Instagram as well as other channels. Adventure play is ideal for this as there are always families on site enjoying the play together.
We have found that people are generally happy to have their images used on social media, but you do need to display signs around the park saying you are taking pictures for social media and the website. Some people will NOT want to be photographed and you have to be respectful of that. Also, bear in mind that permission to use images on social media does not automatically mean you can use them in print and it can become very expensive to change if they object to their use in print.
When we design adventure play, we always aim to make it as inclusive as possible to allow people of all abilities to play together. This signals a genuine commitment to creating play for diverse visitor groups. This inclusive approach leads to more favourable media coverage and contributes to positive public relations for the whole attraction. For us, designing inclusivity in from the outset makes play more fun for all and creates a fabulous play experience for everyone, whatever their ability.
Adventure play for attractions when done well, will make a real and positive difference to an attraction. It can grow your visitor base, add additional income with a strong ROI and ensure those who do visit have a better time when they get there.
The classic lesson in marketing is that to create a strong brand, you need to create a difference, or Unique Selling Proposition (USP), that people desire and are willing to pay a premium for. This differentiation or 'Onlyness' can only be created with bespoke play that has been designed with the story of your site or attraction weaved throughout it.