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Is It The “End Of The Line” For Amusement Parks?

Standing in long snaking lines, surrounded by hundreds of other irritated people, is a waste of time and the visitor’s admission money.

You’ve taken your family to your favorite amusement park. Like most visitors, you’ll spend an hour or more sweating in one line after another. By the end of the day, you’ve become an expert on keeping kids entertained as you shuffle slowly toward the turnstile – and you’ll swear to do something else next year.

Lines are growing

Amusement park lines get longer every year, according to Los Angeles-based consulting firm AECOM in 2014. In fact, 135 million visited North America’s top 10 theme parks in 2013 — a 5.4 percent increase over the prior year.

Like any other business, amusement parks need to keep customers happy. A customer who remembers more about the backs of people in front of them than laughing with their family isn’t thinking about coming back. And every minute a visitor spends in line is a minute they aren’t spending money on games, souvenirs and food.

What if visitors could spend more time enjoying themselves, and spent more money while doing it?

Disney theme parks are using paging systems to do just that. At Disney World, parents and kids used to wait in line for the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride. Now, they’re given a special pager instead. They spend their wait time playing in a giant circus tent filled with slides, a climbing tower and a toy fire engine. When the pager buzzes, they enter a short line for a matter of moments until they climb aboard Dumbo.

“These kids in this tent, playing, they don’t have the perception that they’re waiting in line, but that’s what they’re doing,” said Kathy Mangum, creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering. “And their parents are having a ball because they’re escaping the heat for a while,” she said.

On the other coast, Disneyland’s California Adventure is using pagers for an attraction based on last year’s animated hit “Frozen.” Operators issue a pager to guests that want to meet Olaf the Snowman. While they wait, they can play in the snow area or at other nearby attractions. Some guests report receiving pages from as far away as the Tower of Terror ride, almost 1000 feet (or 0.2 miles) across the park.

The end of the waiting line – not the bottom line

By eliminating waiting in long, winding lines, guests can spend more time enjoying everything the park can offer, including gift shops, restaurants and other paid venues. They’ll get a little more bang for their buck, spend a little more – and just might come back. That’s not bad for the bottom line.



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