Water Park ‘TV Talk Show’ Shares Candid Insights

by James Careless

Monday at IAAPA Attractions Expo, the session “An Afternoon with Aquatic Industry Leaders” used a TV talk show format to extract candid insights from water park players. Filling in for Jimmy Fallon was WhiteWater Southeast Asia CEO (and session “host”) Chris Perry, ICAE.
With more than 39 years’ experience in the water park business, Ron Sutula, Schlitterbahn Galveston Island general manager, shared his business strategies with the audience. For Sutula, the keys to water park success include “providing a fun, safe, clean family environment,” treating guests “as family,” and taking care of staff because happy employees “are your lifeblood.”

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From left: Chris Perry, Ron Sutula, Scott Deisley, Melissa Teates

Scott Deisley, managing director of Safety Skills Training, said that having worked in water parks made him far more empathic toward his clients’ needs. Drawing on this experience, he advised park operators to offer “a mixed basket of rides,” and to provide enough seating and wide walkways for guests.
Research is a big part of what IAAPA does on behalf of its members, and the data collected is intriguing. For instance, “European water parks have the highest average per capita [sales],” said panelist Melissa Teates, CAE, IAAPA’s director of industry research and analysis. The reason? “European water parks are making more from food and beverage,” she told Perry. That’s a lesson that caught the audience’s attention.
Earlier in the afternoon, the session “Promoting Your Events on Social Media to Knock Them Out of the Water Park!” highlighted the importance of social media. 2.8 billion people had social media accounts by the end of 2016, up 15 percent from the year before. Add the fact that 71 percent of consumers who have a good social media experience with a business are likely to recommend it to others, and that 41 percent say businesses need to have strong social media presence, and the message is clear: “Social media is here to stay,” said Maggie Warner, public relations manager with Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Water Parks.    
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The good news: Social media offers many promotional options for water parks to promote their events and facilities. In the first instance, a park can produce TV commercial-style videos and post them to social media; achieving maximum reach at minimum cost (compared to TV advertising). In the second, social media can be used to interact with guests, said Hannah Paramore, founder of Paramore Digital; stressing the need to stay positive and open with guests as much as reasonably possible.
“The third option to think about is announcements, and fourth is promotions,” said Paramore. The fifth way to use social media is to promote large-scale campaigns, she noted. Social media can deliver results on season-pass sales, for example, at a far lower cost than traditional advertising and call centers.