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Wave of Fortune - June 2016

Water parks in Asia have experienced tremendous success; here’s how they do it

by James Careless

The Asian water park sector continues to impress with its solid performance and growing international presence. As of 2014, eight of the world’s most attended water parks were located in Asia, according to the Themed Entertainment Association’s 2014 Theme Index.

The number-one spot went to Chimelong Waterpark in Guangzhou, China. Its 2014 attendance rate was 2,259,000, up 4 percent from 2013. Now, water park operators in Asia share their secrets for success.

Promote, Promote, Promote
Asia’s water parks promote themselves as much as they can, in order to maximize awareness among potential guests. To make this happen, “we try to use many different avenues to promote the park and choose favorable promotion terms,” says Michael Fijas, general manager of Vana Nava Hua Hin Water Jungle in Hua Hin, Thailand.

Beyond the usual mix of multimedia advertising, “we have arranged with some television channels to produce live events and games for their programs in our water park,” says Eddy Prastiyo, manager at Atlantis Water Adventure in Jakarta, Indonesia. Such co-promotions “really help us to increase customer awareness,” says Prastiyo. “We also have done joint promotions with some customer goods’ brands and banks.”

Always Treat Customers Well
Asian water parks know ongoing financial success is tied to customer satisfaction. “Our customers are our most valuable asset/commodity,” says Fijas. As a result, “we treat them with polite appreciation and kindness.”

Treating customers well requires more than good manners. It comes down to water parks delivering on their promotional promises. “If customers show up at our gate, it simply means they expect to experience what was proposed to them,” says Mikael Ding, general manager of Waterbom Jakarta in Jakarta, Indonesia. “We have to deliver that.” And when things go wrong, water park managers need to “talk to customers,” he advises. “They are eager to share alternatives to solve inconvenience.”

A simple rule of thumb is for park staff at all levels to treat customers as family, says Prastiyo. “It makes you try your [hardest] to give all the best things that you have.”

Respect Cultural Norms
Asia is a crossroads for many cultures and faiths. To serve all of them effectively and respectfully, water park operators need to pay close attention to regional cultural norms, and sincerely conform their offerings to them.

A case in point: “Water parks in Indonesia operate all year long since only two seasons [impact operations]: a dry and a rainy season,” says Ding. “It isn’t rainy season that defines low season, but the culture and religion of the market. Indonesia has the largest Muslim community in the world. Hence, the low season mainly falls within the fasting period 40 days prior to Eid-al Fitr Day.This particular year, the fasting period will collide with long summer school break.” To balance cultural respect with the need to make a living, “Waterbom Jakarta shall maximize promotion toward the non-fasting community,” Ding adds.

Provide a Safe, Secure Park Environment
Asian water park customers are the same as customers worldwide. They come to water parks for fun, hassle-free enjoyment. “We want our park to be a safe, clean, and friendly escape for our guests; one where they and their friends/family can come and just enjoy themselves,” says Fijas. “We try to accomplish this by focusing our efforts on being safe, clean, and friendly at all times.”

“Safety is our priority,” agrees Prastiyo. “So to keep our customers feeling safe, we have an effective number of lifeguards and security personnel who watch the visitors during their activity in the water park.”

Cleanliness Counts
In Asia, as in the rest of the world, a clean water park is a popular—and profitable—water park. “To maintain park cleanliness at our high levels, we make it a core value and the responsibility of all staff,” says Fijas.

“We have an effective number of cleaning crews and supervisors,” says Prastiyo. “But we say to all of our staff that cleanliness is not only the responsibility of the cleaning crews but for all of us. This is why we have to remind each other to keep our water park clean.”

As well, cleanliness is a virtue customers need to embrace to minimize the amount of work needed to keep water parks pristine. “This is why we are persistently educating guests that a clean park is a beautiful park,” says Ding.

Manage Crowds Effectively
A crowd is a sign of success at any water park. But crowds need to be properly managed to minimize guest frustration and optimize mood. “Crowds can be managed well with proactive planning, good communication, and the proper tools such as stanchions, megaphones, signage, and information,” says Vana Nava Hua Hin Water Jungle’s Fijas.

Inform Customers of the Rules—Politely
Supervision, blended with courtesy and respect, can result in cheerful compliance. This lesson has not been lost on Asian water park operators in their efforts to keep customers well behaved and happy.

“We try to manage [guests] by communicating rules, regulations, and directions effectively so we do not need to bother them or get in the way of their enjoying their day too much,” says Fijas. “We want to be there for them if and when they need us, but also to be passive observers of their enjoyment when we can.”

Train Staff
A water park is only as good as its staff. Well-trained, well-disciplined staff members are a key to success, so Asian water park operators do their best to manage their staff effectively.

“[Building] a disciplined and motivated staff is always a challenge but it’s a process that must be adhered to,” says Fijas. “It starts with good hiring practices and training. It’s then about consistent reinforcement and hands-on management. You also have to value your staff and treat them well so they will in turn treat your guests well.”

Maximize In-Park Sales
No matter what cultural differences may exist between Asian water parks and operations in the rest of the world, all are in the business to make money. As a result, Asian water parks do their very best to directly and indirectly boost in-park sales of food, souvenirs, and services.

On the direct side of the equation, “we utilize a variety of products, multiple outlets, effective pricing, and signage to help us maximize our in-park sales,” says Fijas. On the indirect side, “increasing the number of annual pass holders has increased our in-park revenue,” Atlantis Water’s Prastiyo says. “We also always improve the physical appearance and quality of our products and services.”

True Commitment to Success
Asian water park operators understand attaining and maintaining prosperity requires true devotion to achieving success in everything they do, and at all levels of the company.

“Our vision is to be the best water park in Indonesia, with the highest number of visitors, sales, and customer satisfaction,” Prastiyo says. “To achieve this vision we will always innovate in products and services following the trend in the water park industry.”