A few years ago I was privileged to meet with Michael Jenkins, CEO of Leisure and Recreation Consultants of Dallas. Mr. Jenkins, and his large entertainment company, are/were major consultants to Disney, Six Flags, and Sea World. Plus, he had half a dozen theatre shows touring the country, and he was producing shows in Vegas. He and several of his people met with our state park staff to discuss strategies for our state park system. It was an interesting look at recreation for profit (big profit). Here are excerpts from my notes. You may see something familiar.
- People don’t see your buildings, but they read your signs. Your signs immediately show the quality of the place. If they see photocopied sheets put up with Scotch Tape they know to expect a cheap operation. Poor signage and publications tell your audience that you don’t care enough about them to do it right. Your signs must be fantastic; they predict the experience.
- Today’s audience is active/participatory. They want to do things, be hands-on, explore, and discover. When they leave they want to say: ‘That was really worth the effort, the time, and the money.’
- They have a desire for a real place – they want authenticity of place, authenticity of people, and authenticity of message.
- Education is key, but it takes fine-tuning and must be combined with entertainment. Once people perceive the entertainment, the enjoyment, the fun, they will stick with you through anything. Entertainment is secondary to your message or story, but it is essential or you lose everything.
Five trends to watch now:
- People are more sensitive to the environment than ever – It’s not just that you are ‘green,’ but are you visibly green? Do you let your visitor know you are green? Is greenness part of your story? Can the visitor easily participate with you in being green?
- People are looking for a personalized experience. They want an individual, memorable experience that fits their family or group – not a ‘one size fits all’ vacation.
- People want authenticity with natural or historical significance. They want to see and experience the real thing, and they want it to be meaningful. (This equates to Freeman Tilden’s, “Coming face to face with The Thing Itself.”)
- People want something that is worthwhile and lasting, and If they are with their kids they want the kids to do something remarkable and learn something important, and it all make a lasting memory.
- People want a thrill with a happy ending.