This morning in the Orlando Sentinel Jason Garcia compiled an informative look at the most recent trend to hit the Orlando area theme parks – interactivity. Let’s leave the debate as to whether guests actually desire this over passive entertainment while on their vacation aside for now. The idea is already here and the parks are building a lot more of it in the next few years.
For years theme park design has meant to immerse the customer in the show, but the main focus has been to view them as guests who just happens to drop by. So the focus was on presenting a high quality experience they would remember forever and, even better, share with their friends and family when they got home. The new focus is to view the guest as more of a participant in the experience.
“Kids whose concept of entertainment is defined by video games are looking for something very different in a theme park than previous generations whose concept of entertainment was defined by television or movies or radio,” said Robert Niles, publisher of the Web site themeparkinsider.com.
Walt Disney often spoke of how Disneyland was the culmination of all the skills and talent learned at his television, movie, and animation divisions. There is also a direct line from the Cast Member training program invented in the early days of Disneyland by Van Arsdale France and Dick Nunis to the modern definition of Guest Service Excellence that is taught at the Disney Institute and practiced at nearly every customer oriented company. The idea that the customer is your guest and not just X percentage of profit margin really changes how a company interacts and works to earn the future business of each consumer.
If theme parks take seriously the idea that the guest is part of the show, this will lead to a wholesale shift in the way cast members are trained and how customers are treated at theme parks. It already has shifted somewhat at attractions like American Idol Experience and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit Coaster. Eventually those lessons will make their way to the rest of the business world as well. I’m definitely excited to track how that happens.