Meeting the high capacity needs of waterparks in Asia
by Kevin Dazey
As InPark recently reported in our 2016 Asian Attractions Expo roundup [issue #63], the needs of the booming Asian themed entertainment markets are driving a trend toward mega-capacity in waterparks. We pursued this topic further and asked several vendors about what they and waterparks can do to accommodate a higher throughput: Empex Watertoys, ProSlide Technology, and WhiteWater West Industries.
Finding the sweet spot of serving visitors on peak and non-peak days is one of the challenges waterparks face. The vendors we spoke to pointed to the need for good park planning, adequate facilities and guest flow design as factors equally as crucial as selecting the right mix of attractions.
[quote]A great waterpark master plan will take into account locations with small and large footprints, capacity for volume and demographics, and more importantly the guest experience.”[/quote]
Making throughput a top priority – keeping the lines moving – is always a positive thing from the guest’s point of view at a waterpark. Waterparks have a unique mix of activities to entertain guests; those with near instant access (pools & structures) and those that serve fewer guests per hour (slides & water coasters).
Based on the 2015 TEA/AECOM Theme Index figures, the most highly attended waterpark resides in China: More than two million visitors attended Chimelong Water Park last year to enjoy its slides, pools, rivers and play areas. While not all waterparks in Asia experienced growth from 2014 to 2015, worldwide attendance saw an increase. [See 2015 global waterpark stats]
What are some significant differences or challenges in providing for Asia’s waterparks versus other parts of the world in terms of meeting capacity needs?
Wyeth Tracy, President, Empex Watertoys: Crowds are larger and therefore larger facilities with extensive water feature varieties are needed. It is useful to have a wide range of products to draw upon to create large water playgrounds with a variety of features that serve all age groups.
Dawn Tong, Vice President Business Development China, WhiteWater: The challenges in meeting high capacity are more related to park design as opposed to supplying the attractions. When designing the park we have to make sure facilities such as restaurants and change rooms can accommodate large numbers of visitors on peak days.
We also have to make sure the arrival plaza and the main passage ways are designed to avoid bottlenecks. Of course we have to match the rides program’s capacity with the attendance goals, but the attractions themselves are not different from what we provide customers from other parts of the world.
Joe Bevk, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing, ProSlide: This is where master planning is really important. A great waterpark master plan will take into account locations with small and large footprints, capacity for volume and demographics, and more importantly the guest experience.
A recent report in the South China Morning Post indicated that the Chinese population does not mind traveling for a destination, especially if it boasts unique selling points. The same report cited theme park destinations as accounting for more than half of the country’s travel.
Differentiation between facilities is of the utmost importance. These parks need reliable attractions with consistent throughput. As they learn the ropes we’re seeing more operators understand the value of the premium products.
Editor’s note: At the 2016 Asian Attractions Expo, ProSlide Marketing Programs Manager Chelsea Ogilvie shared that one solution the company has available is the use of six-person rafts on slides that previously used four-person rafts. Although not available for every attraction, most slides can accommodate the larger rafts without any engineering adjustments. Similarly, the company’s RocketBLAST™, which uses side mounted water jets to propel riders uphill, can handle two-, three-, or four-seat rafts with the same amount of water propulsion, making the ride flexible for different size parks.
Do factors such as population density, family size, or vacation patterns come into play?
Tong: Yes, and at WhiteWater we work with each client to provide them with the attractions mix to support their business objectives. Also considered are local influences including factors such as population, expected attendance, and seasonality.
Bevk: China has the potential to create some of the most remarkable amusement facilities. At ProSlide we are able to take what we learned over the years to guide clients into understanding and developing great waterparks. Parks at the regional level and destinations both benefit from having similar entertainment complexes which may differ in scale and size.
The best parks are built for what we call a ‘design day,’ which is about 70-80% of the park’s busiest day. This ensures optimal flow through attractions and a waterpark that includes the right mix of high-thrill, high-capacity attractions at all points in the year. Seasonality is also important; parks in north or central China may only be open 100 days a year while parks in the South could be open most of it. Understanding the park’s location and its seasonality are critical steps in making sure that the park is designed to be the right size.
Tracy: Definitely, the larger the population the more facilities required.
Is your R&D department addressing new products or modifications to existing attractions to handle large crowds?
Bevk: The beauty of custom-designed water rides is one of the things we credit for ProSlide’s success in this market. Customer needs are continually changing and we’re able to anticipate that curve.
Our deep understanding of water ride physics fuels our endless arsenal of shapes and sizes. The compound curve is the fundamental element in our ride technology. It combines arcs with different radiuses for a faster, tighter line, and stronger G-forces. These arcs allow us to mix and match features on a single path and easily transform any feature from a two-person tubing ride into a six-person raft ride in any footprint.
Much like our TORNADO® funnels – available in 18-, 24-, 45- and 60-foot diameters – the same flexibility can be applied to many of our ride categories. The year 2017 will see the introduction of many higher capacity features, combined with great ride performance.
Tracy: Empex Watertoys is constantly developing new watertoys and increasing interactivity for our Splash Parks. Larger play structures with more interactivity, play features, and slides are also required. New themes must be developed to offer a variety between projects as everyone wants to differentiate from the competition.
Tong: Where space is limited, WhiteWater’s No Boundaries ropes course attraction adds variety and creates vertical capacity to provide high throughput in a reasonable footprint.
Our AquaPlay Giant RainFortress GRF17 – Queue free “all-in-one” waterparks provide huge, instantaneous capacity and room for the whole family to play together. This is a large scale structure with interactive features, customizable with multiple waterslides.
Tell us more about your presence in China and other Asian markets.
Tracy: China is creating the largest water parks in the world and therefore water playgrounds in these parks are of substantial size to cater to the throughput. Empex Watertoys are currently in many of the waterpark projects in mainland China and also in the parks in planning. Hotels and municipal parks are also adding smaller water playgrounds throughout the country. Our company also has projects in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Philippines.
Tong: WhiteWater is proud to service our customers in their time zone and in their language with our local offices that provide business development, project management, and after sales & maintenance services. Our Shanghai office supports our client base of over 100 projects completed throughout Asia and more than 60 projects within China alone (numbers approximate from most recent project list update).
We work with the region’s largest developers such as Samsung Everland, Wanda Dalian Group, OCT Group, Chimelong Group, Waterbom, DaeMyung Leisure Industries, Ltd., Happy Magic Water Cube, Lotte World and more, helping them realize their dreams of success in the amusement and waterpark industry.
Bevk: ProSlide has been active in China for over two decades, but the past five years have seen exceptional growth. While there are many new waterparks on the boards and opening at a very quick rate, differentiation is of the upmost importance. This mirrors the US waterpark boom in the 1980s and ‘90s and reinforces the value of each waterpark investment dollar.
The Chinese market demand is directly tied to quality and a vision for premium water theme park experiences – they want to be world leaders. We guarantee our product quality by producing our fiberglass entirely in Canada, where we are able to oversee every stage of the manufacturing process. Our APAC Headquarters in Shanghai, China, which opened April 2015,has doubled in both real-estate and staff. Having this hub has allowed us to be more immersed in the success of the region.
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Kevin Dazey (email@example.com) has a mechanical engineering background and works in R&D at a manufacturing company in St. Louis, MO. His passion for amusement parks began early on while growing up in northeast Ohio near Sea World, Geauga Lake, Cedar Point, and Kennywood.