Long lines at popular attractions have been a boon to waterparks since the beginning. While guests weren’t thrilled about standing for extended wait times, people were willing to do it. But this mindset is starting to shift as people get more accustomed to the instant gratification brought about by modern technology. Many dry amusement parks have introduced ride reservation systems that allow guests to avoid lines. Waterparks have been slower to adapt, partly because they face additional challenges with line management and the need for waterproof tech.
There is one manufacture currently making a ride reservation product exclusively for waterparks. It’s called Qband and is made by Accesso.
Qband is a waterproof wristband with a countdown screen. Users can reserve a ride at a kiosk in the park, and the Qband will alert them when it’s their turn. This frees users to visit other attractions as they wait. Bands also can be integrated with other systems, allowing guests to use them for locker rentals or park purchases.
When implemented correctly, a ride reservation system can enhance the guest experience and even boost park revenue, says Mike Bengston, general manager of Splish Splash in Long Island, N.Y. His park charges to rent the bands, but Bengston believes the service pays off in other ways, too. Even though people must wait the same amount of time to go on the ride, the experience is more pleasant because they don’t have to physically stand in one place before their turn comes up. When guests aren't standing in line, they can visit the food and beverage area or gift shops. This can translate to additional revenue for the park.
Satisfied customers are also more likely to return. Bengston believes both new and longtime visitors are attending his park more as a result of Qband. “I think there are some guests that probably would have not come if they knew they had to wait in line,” he says. “There are a lot of people who have been coming for a number of years who are taking advantage of it, too.”
However, implementing the Qband system takes some time and careful planning. Here are three tips waterpark managers can use to make a virtual queuing launch successful.
In order for customers to have a good experience, they need to have the correct expectations. The ride reservation system is different from a fast pass – people with Qbands don’t automatically skip to the front. Qband allows users to reserve one ride at a time. It does not eliminate wait times, but does remove the need to stand in line.
“Our virtual queuing system waits in line for you, and since you can only stand in one line at a time, guests can only book one reservation at a time,” says Tara Morandi, vice president of marketing at Accesso.
When first introducing the system to customers, the team at Splish Splash used a combination of social media, general marketing, and an educational video explaining how the band works, The video was positioned to play outside the booth where people went to rent the bands.
Even with strategic marketing efforts, park managers shouldn’t be surprised if it takes customers a little while to adapt.
“It took about a year-and-a-half for people to understand what it was and the meaning of it,” Bengston says.
A well-trained staff is key to educating customers and mediating their experience. Make sure all employees know how the system works and can answer customer questions and concerns correctly.
In the beginning, it can also help to have a few staff members dedicated only to helping make sure the Qband experience runs smoothly. For instance, Splish Splash created “expediters” at Qband areas, Bengson says .
The logistics of using que systems are a bit more complicated with waterparks. Qband users should be able to merge into the ride line alongside those not using the device. This is not something that can be done while people are standing on the slide towers.
“The challenge with waterparks is that in order to arrange the queues properly so that the people using the ride reservation system can get to the slide when it’s their turn to ride, we need to move guests off the towers,” says Morandi.
Accesso says it offers assistance and advice to park operators with this process. However, the waterpark itself will need to have enough space at the bottom of the slide to act as a holding area when Qband guests arrive. According to TJ Christensen, executive vice president, sales and marketing, at Accesso, there is still about a 10 to 15-minute buffer wait when guests arrive at the ride after being alerted by the band.
For waterparks using Qband for the first time, Bengston advises starting with one or two of the most popular attractions and adding more from there.