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Regionalize Your Water Park - November 2016

Think local to stand out from the competition

by James Careless

In a world of themed water parks, where brand can take precedence over location, some operators are bucking the trend. They are emphasizing the unique regional attributes of their water parks to set themselves apart from the competition. In regionalizing their water parks, these operators are giving consumers additional reasons to visit their properties.

“Your biggest supporters are always going to be in your local communities,” says Laresa Thompson, public relations and communications manager at Carowinds’ amusement and water park, Carolina Harbor Waterpark, in Charlotte, North Carolina. “It only makes sense to emphasize regional culture, cuisine, and entertainment to draw them in.”

Carowinds Emphasizes Southern Charm

Actually located in both North and South Carolina—“we straddle the state line,” says Thompson —Carowinds is unabashedly proud of its southern heritage. “From the moment you enter, you’ll be surrounded by Carolina hospitality, authentic regional cuisine, and family-friendly fun,” says the Carowinds website.

This proud focus on Carolina hospitality is reflected in the architecture, decoration, and naming of this theme/water park’s various attractions. These include the “Blackbeard’s Revenge” six-story water slide—the real Blackbeard sailed off the Carolina coast, which is home to the wreck of his Queen Anne’s Revenge pirate ship, the Myrtle Turtle Beach toddler water pad, and the Kiddy Hawk Cove family fun zone. Also featured are regional culinary delights such as the Carolinas’  famed barbeque, funnel cakes, and banana pudding, plus lots of regional talent performing in Carowinds’ entertainment venues.

“Our objective has always been to localize the experiences we offer through the unique nature of our area,” says Thompson. “We are proud to bring Carolina culture and hospitality to our guests, and the ways in which we do it honors the states of both North and South Carolina. You’ll even see this emphasis in the local flowers and plants that decorate our grounds. When you’re at Carowinds, you know you’re in the Carolinas.”

Cartoon Network Amazone is Tightly Tied to the Local Market

On Thailand’s eastern seaboard in the city of Bang Saray lies Cartoon Network Amazone, the world’s first Cartoon Network-themed water park. Yet even though Cartoon Network Amazone is based on a popular North American brand, the park is very much attuned to the Thais who live in its region.

“Yes, Cartoon Network Amazone has a very broad brand overlay, but our objective has always been to localize the experience for our guests, most of whom are Thais,” says Liakat Dhanji, chairman and CEO of  Cartoon Network Amazone. At the same time, this water park has a lot of international visitors, so its strategy is to satisfy both groups through a two-pronged approach.

A good example of this is the range of food offerings at Cartoon Network Amazone. Park restaurants such as Johnny’s Diner and Johnny’s Burgers offer the usual fast food familiar to North American water park visitors at premium prices these customers accept without complaint. But Cartoon Network Amazone is also home to PPG’s Asian Delights, which offers local Thai dishes such as somtam salad, herbed grilled chicken, and curries. These dishes are not only made for local Thai palates, but value priced in line with similar dishes offered by standalone restaurants outside the park.

“We’re put a great deal of effort to keep our local food entrees competitively priced,” says Dhanji. “This is in keeping with the buying patterns of local consumers, who don’t expect to pay extra just because they are buying food inside a water park.”

The rides offered by Cartoon Network Amazone were also selected with Thai tastes in mind. “Our local guests are not as enthusiastic about high-speed thrill rides as guests are in the United States,” Dhanji says. “So our rides and attractions are more geared to what the domestic market tends to like.” This includes tall multi-lane water slides, multi-level water play towers, wave pools, and lazy rivers.

The entertainment offered at Cartoon Network Amazone is also locally focused as is the music that wafts through the park itself. “We have Thai music and Thai folk songs that we have adapted to work with our Cartoon Network theme,” says Dhanji. “Our guests appreciate that our music is personally relevant to them, and they have responded to our playing of it very well.”

Add the fact that most of Cartoon Network Amazone’s staff are from the area around the park, and this themed water park is very connected to its region. “We’ve gone to a great deal of effort to train local people to run our water park, and the effort has been well worth it,” Dhanji says. “Not only are we proud of our staff’s professionalism, but I think the communities around our park are very proud of Cartoon Network Amazone, and happy to be associated with it.” Such pride pays off at the gate, with local residents making up the majority of the park’s attendance.

Siam Park’s Environmental Commitment Means Choosing Local Produce

Siam Park is located in the southern part of Tenerife, one of Spain’s Canary Islands. Opened in 2008, Siam Park has won TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Award as the best water park in the world for three years running (2014, 2015, and 2016).

One reason for Siam Park’s success is the quality and freshness of its authentic Thai cuisine. This fare benefits from the water park’s “Zero CO2” commitment, a pledge that the CO2 emissions generated either directly or indirectly by Siam Park are entirely offset by measures the facility takes. This is why Siam Park is equipped with solar panels that generate a total of 2.75 megawatts of electricity, a desalination plant that converts seawater into freshwater, and an irrigation system that recycles the park’s greywater.

“Using local, high-quality ingredients is a primary part of our zero CO2 policy in our restaurant,” says a representative of  Siam Park. “Our main dishes are based on Thai gastronomy and we always focus on getting the best fruits, vegetables, and meats from Tenerife. For example, we collect the best green papayas for our somtum salad, and a provider harvests a special selection of sprouts and buds for us—such as mustard greens, pak choy, and amaranth, which give a special touch to our ‘green salad.’”

In addition, Siam Park locally sources sliced fresh corn that its chefs roast with lime, butter, and coriander. “We also fry Bangkok-style chicken wings and sauté pork with basil with everything coming from Tenerife, like the best tomatoes from Guía de Isora and the tastiest strawberries from Valle de Güímar to prepare our strawberry gazpacho,” the park says.

Siam Park’s decision to use local food allows the company to honor its “Zero CO2” pledge while satisfying guests. “Every day, people are caring more and more about what kind of places they visit during their spare time or holidays, so we ensure visitors who come to Siam Park are enjoying a more nature-friendly water park than others,” says Siam Park. At the same time, “visitors are pleasantly surprised—they do not expect to have such quality food options in such a big water park.”

The Bottom Line

Whether emphasizing local culture like Carowinds, being sensitive to local tastes like Cartoon Network Amazone, or embracing a zero CO2 policy by using only local produce like Siam Park, regionalizing a water park is an effective way to make it stand out from the crowd—and to boost attendance and profits over the long-term.