✩ Surprise: Surviving High-Tech


  • Just about everyone likes technology. Theme parks certainly do. So do their visitors using many of the official theme park apps.

    For those of you out there who have not used the telephone recently to buy tickets or make reservations at Disney or other places, you can still do it. The reason I know is that I tried. And did it easily.

    The responding person on the other end of the Disney line seemed surprised when I asked whether it was still possible to call the attraction itself for tickets and buy over the telephone.

    Sure, of course.

    Actually, as a test, I called three times. And at no time did I ever wait for more than 20 seconds to hear a real and (obviously interested and enthused person) ask if they could help me.

    As my experience shows, you don’t need an i-Phone or i-Pad to navigate Disney or other theme parks. But are you missing things by not taking advantage of technology there? Let’s take a closer look.

    Buying tickets is only the first step in visiting a park, however. And while many experts generally say it may be fine for buying tickets or making a reservation, it is often not the least expensive way. Other options are generally cheaper.

    But perhaps the biggest advantage of why you will almost certainly want to use tech at a theme park is the issue of lines. Most parks now (and you probably already know it) offer automatic queuing systems, allowing ride-goers to reserve a spot without languishing in an impossibly long, slowly moving line. Modern devices use radio waves to detect the availability and schedules of park programmed rides, acting as a diary of stress-free fun.

    Theme Parks and Apps

    Like salt and pepper, and bacon and eggs, theme parks and technology have long been linked together. It was not so long ago, perhaps a decade or two, when people went to any theme parks (big or small) to experience the latest in entertainment and technology. But nowadays, attractions need to come up with something better than an amazing quality of entertainment. After all, you can get that on your computer, or TV or phone. So the word here becomes “interactive.” The challenge is to lure visitors away from an Xbox by merging traditional roller coaster rides with home style video games. A buzzword is “immersion.” An example: thrill-seekers want to go fast and watch a 3D movie and shoot zombies all at the same time. Interactive elements are becoming increasingly common and more sophisticated at theme parks. Visitors can use wands to light up hats and chandeliers, play high-tech games, and have conversations with animatronic creatures.People these days spend a lot of time engaging with their computers and smartphones. So "the expectations are much higher," said Thierry Coup, senior vice president of Universal Creative.

    My Disney Experience 

    When it comes to convenience, apps are the king. You almost certainly don’t need to be told what you can do with various apps, but let’s take a minute to remind you of their variety. For example, some things they can do related to theme parks or at times specifically for that purpose:

    • It all may start with finding you a place to park.
    • Giving you wait times for various rides.
    • Providing you with maps so you know where you are and where you can go next.
    • Making dinner reservations at one of the hundreds of WDW or other theme park restaurants, including a look at full menus.
    • Finding the restaurant closest to where you are and want to eat next (it’s after noon, and after a hard day of long lines, you want a restaurant NOW).
    • Find park hours or when it closes, so if the gates are going to be shut in 15 minutes, you might get in that one last ride.
    • Seeing photos of what rides look like (may help determine whether they are scary enough for you or too scary for the kids or whatever).
    • Finding when or the times that characters might be nearby. Your kids or you want autographs or photos with them.
    • Some apps will set alerts to notify you when wait times fall below a certain level. You can then plan on making your way there, of course.

    Perhaps the best part of what Apps do at theme parks is that they help you wait.

    You can play games while standing in line.

    • Or watch TV.
    • Or catch a new movie.
    • Listen to music on the radio.
    • Read a book.
    • Take pictures.
    • Do internet research.
    • Or you can make plans to connect with others.

    Tech and Theme Parks, Part Two

    Just about everyone also agrees on this: technology plays an important part in connecting theme parks with their visitors/consumers. The later feel parks can always do more, however. Some recent statistics: Well over two-thirds or 76% of theme park visitors think theme parks should use technology to manage wait times, according to one survey. Furthermore – one in five (22%) theme park goers claim to have visited Disney Parks’ website, Facebook page or Twitter account before coming; 15% report the same for Six Flags, while 14% report visiting the social media sites for both Sea World and Universal Studios prior to their arrival. Meanwhile, 12% report doing so for Busch Gardens, and 19% who visited Cedar Point. “Theme parks are using social media in some of the most diverse and active ways as seen across all categories analyzed by Mintel. Social media has proven to be a key medium for brands looking to reach potential visitors and as a way to keep fans engaged long after they’ve left the park,” says Gabi Lieberman, social media analyst at Mintel. 

    Theme parks continue to refine and add apps and other amenities to make visiting even easier than it is today. One refinement underway is a bracelet that ala Dick Tracy comic book watches can broadcast a distant radio signal that will cover everything you need to get into a park, including tickets, and pay for all rides and even memorabilia or food or funnel cakes.

    Technology. It’s here. It’s not going away. So you, perhaps unlike me, should simply get used to it. ###