AttractionsThe coronavirus crisis has swiftly exposed the drawbacks of manual-driven operations and processes common among visitor attractions in Asia.

Covid-19: a catalyst to digital transformation for attractions?

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QR scanning now form a key part of the attraction experience post Covid as operators use technology to manage capacity while adhering to Covid-19 health protocols.
QR scanning now form a key part of the attraction experience post Covid as operators use technology to manage capacity while adhering to Covid-19 health protocols. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Crowds were typically a welcomed sight at visitor attractions and theme parks – until Covid-19 struck.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, operators of attractions big and small are trying to rewrite the visitor experience playbook as they reopen for business again.

In come the use of face masks, temperature taking and hand sanitisers, while prominently placed floor markers and signages serve as a visual reminder for visitors to maintain social distancing while enjoying the attractions.

[Covid-19] has forced the industry to rethink and review new ways to do business and has pushed the industry to the cusp of a technological revolution.– Leslie Ng, GlobalTix

Other familiar parts of the theme park experience has changed as well. At Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea parks in Japan, Mickey and Minnie Mouse will still be riding on floats in the parades, but the mascot characters will no longer physically mingle with fans or pose for photos.

Post-virus sanitisation measures also mean park equipment and rides are constantly cleaned. At Nerf Action Xperience, which reopened on July 12, enhanced cleaning is done throughout the day and blasters and goggles are thoroughly disinfected after each play session, shared Sarah Fang, brands manager at Kingsmen Ventures, the operator of the indoor playground at Marina Square in Singapore.

With greater understanding of how Covid-19 is transmitted, venue owners are starting to focus less on transmission by touch and more on airborne transmission through droplets and aerosols, according to Joh Peahl, who founded SanSee Systems in the wake of Covid-19 to assist attractions and tours through a science-based design and cleaning certification programme.

“In terms of specific advice for indoor attractions, the short-term answer is to mask and distance, but it's also time to look at air circulation and treatment. Some larger museums are adding HEPA and UV-C treatment to their air. In warmer climates, it's a more efficient option than increasing circulation rates,” he added.

Tech adoption comes into play

Clearly, attractions can no longer operate at their full capacity in the post-Covid norm. For Nerf Action Xperience, this means putting a limit to group sizes at five pax, while corporate bookings and parties are put on hold at the moment due to capacity restrictions, according to Fang. It also involves a shift to contactless payment methods while guests are advised to book their tickets online to due to limited play slots, she added.

The need for capacity management at all times, including introducing dated and timed tickets as well as QR codes scanning to regulate a constant flow of guests, may “seem straightforward but it is difficult to execute without the use of technology”, said Leslie Ng, chief commercial officer of GlobalTix, a technology provider in the tours & activities space.

Visitor attractions in Asia, used to receiving group traffic during pre-Covid times, are still “very manual” in their processes and have “backward” distribution methods, he added. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has spurred operators to rethink and digitalise their business and pushed the industry to the cusp of a technological revolution.

Ng noted: “The lockdown during Covid-19 has given attractions and tour operators the time to reflect and ponder on digitalising their products and enabling their engagement in the ecommerce space, while expanding their reach through distributors who are key players such as OTAs.”

While the current need for rapid adoption of technology poses the “biggest challenge” for many visitor attractions and venues, digitalising the booking and payment system will also offer the “biggest opportunity” moving ahead, said Zishan Amir, co-founder and managing director of ZRG Adventures & Consulting, which provides guidance to visitor attractions on safe and sustainable management.

“With digitalisation, attractions can open up a whole new revenue stream when tourism returns,” he stressed.

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