API Summer 2021

Adventure Park Insider TRENDING # email_marketing # zip_line_safety # harnessing # builder_profiles # new_products # and_much_more Reading the Trees Learn to recognize the biotic and environmental signs and symptoms of disease and stress. Facilitate the Adventure Whether for fun or education, guide your guests to the experience of a lifetime. SUMMER 2021

U N I V E R S A L D E S I G N

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Our Universe is Expanding In the early months of the pandemic, Adventure Park Insider hosted a couple of Huddles with our colleagues across the Atlantic. Vertex Training in the UK helped us bring together a variety of voices from all over the UK and Europe to share experiences, knowledge, and resources. The feedback for this multi-continental collaboration was positive, so with continuing assistance from Vertex, we will expand it. In this issue, you can find two overseas stories, “Adventurous By Nature” and “ Safe and Sound,” beginning on page 57. Another pandemic silver lining? A surge in interest among people to participate in outdoor recreation. Data from the Outdoor Foundation’s (OF) survey of 600 new outdoor participants found that these newcomers were more likely to be female, younger, living in an urban area, and slightly more ethnically diverse than existing participants. This got us thinking about universal design (UD), a concept that encourages the creation of opportunities for anyone who wishes to participate, at any level they desire. Histor- ically, UD has been aimed at creating equitable access for people with disabilities; it has come to encompass creating access for all people, regardless of age and physical, emo- tional, or other limitations. UD has heightened relevance, given those new participants in OF’s survey. These folks were most engaged by activities that had low barriers to entry—walking, running, biking, and hiking. Our industry can capture these recreators via aerial adventures that serve people of a wide range of experiences, abilities, and comfort levels. UD, in short. We share a primer on UD (“Access for All”) and look at three new UD installations (“Building with Accessibility in Mind”) starting on page 42. L ETTER FROM THE EDITORS

Our staff is expanding, too. Founding editor Rick Kahl is semi-retiring, but he will retain an active role in the magazine. Dave Meeker is stepping up as editor, and Katie Brinton is joining us as senior editor. Katie has been contributing to API and our sister magazine, SAM, over the past three years. A ski instructor and trainer at Okemo, Vt., and SNOW

Senior editor Katie Brinton.

Operating, she received the Rising Star award from the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) in 2020 and is about to complete her master’s degree in English from Middlebury College. —The Editors

VOL. 7 | NO. 3 |

SUMMER 2021

CONTENTS

T he Redwood Sky Walk at the Sequoia Park Zoo in Eureka, Calif., is ADA accessible, with optional open access (belay free) bridges, enabling access for a wide range of guests. It is one of the latest expressions of universal design, a concept that could shape adventure park and challenge course design in the years ahead. Photo courtesy of the Sequoia Park Zoo Inset photos, left to right: Visitors on the VINS Canopy Walk, Vt. (Photo: Tom McNeil Photography); A participant utilizes a specialized harness at Irvine Ranch, Calif. (Photo: Melanie Wills, ESI); Kids explore the VINS Canopy Walk (Photo: David Meeker). ON THE COVER

Access for All Universal design makes sense for adventure parks and experiential programs alike. By Carla Hacker and Melanie Wills 42 Trends in insurance claims and costs. By Cameron Annas 34 Zipping into Risky Territory Zip line collisions are a common source of lawsuits; learn how to reduce or prevent them. By Charles R. (Reb) Gregg 44 Building with Accessibility in Mind Three current and/or planned projects, universal in design. By Katie Brinton 47 Finding the Forest 30 Incident Data and Safety Growing interest in the outdoors can benefit adventure parks and experiential programs. By Rohan Shahani Operators and suppliers are developing gear and processes for ease in harnessing. By Peter Oliver 54 Easy Donning

Reading the Trees How to assess what you see in your trees. By Katie Hogan, Katherine Taylor, and Scott Baker 50

Cover design by Joerg Dressler

3 Our Universe is Expanding Universal design, global perspective, and a staff addition. 8 Park Briefs Reactions to Hubbell, Zip Away’s new season, ACCT’s in-person conference in Cleveland. A Staff Report The value of having a statewide organization, and how to establish one. By Korey Hampton 14 New Products Recent developments in gear and equipment. By Sarah Borodaeff 20 Take Advantage of Email Leading practices in digital marketing. By Gregg Blanchard 28 Park Spy “Can we park our camper van in your lot?” 10 Strength in Numbers

57 Adventurous by Nature

The Netherlands’ design and build firm Funcha! is exploring the boundaries of the aerial adventure world. By The Editors

60 Safe and Sound

Here’s what inspections look like in the UK. By Emma Bell and Steve Woods

62 Facilitate the Adventure

Provide the right guidance and support to guests, whether you offer fun or education. By Tom Leahy

WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

For the latest adventure park industry news, special online reports, digital magazine archives, and more, visit www.adventureparkinsider.com.

CONTRIBUTORS

EDITORIAL OFFICE P.O. Box 644 • Woodbury, CT 06798 Tel. 203.263.0888 / Fax 203.266.0452 Website: www.adventureparkinsider.com Publisher Olivia Rowan—olivia@adventureparkinsider.com Editor Rick Kahl—rick@adventureparkinsider.com Senior Editor Dave Meeker—dave@adventureparkinsider.com Associate Editor Sarah Borodaeff—sarah@adventureparkinsider.com Digital Editor Sarah Borodaeff—sarah@adventureparkinsider.com Design Director Sarah Wojcik—sarahw@adventureparkinsider.com Graphic Design Consultant Joerg Dressler—joerg@dressler-design.com Production Manager Donna Jacobs—donna@adventureparkinsider.com

ADVERTISING/MARKETING OFFICE 70 Pond Street • Natick, MA 01760 Tel. 508.655.6408 / Fax 508.655.6409 Advertising Director Sharon Walsh—sharon@adventureparkinsider.com Marketing Manager Sarah Wojcik—sarah@adventureparkinsider.com Sales Associate Cole Lelli—cole@adventureparkinsider.com ADVENTURE PARK INSIDER — Vol. 7, No. 3, Summer 2021, is published quarterly: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, by Beardsley Publishing Corp., 70 Pond Street, Natick, MA 01760-4438. Periodicals Postage pending at Fram- ingham, MA 01701-9998. POSTMASTER: send address changes to Beardsley Publishing, P.O. Box 644, Woodbury, CT 06798 . Copyright 2021 Beardsley Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

Cameron Annas Scott D. Baker Emma Bell Katie Brinton Bob Curley

Skip King Moira McCarthy Peter Oliver Paul Thallner Gina DeCaprio Vercesi

SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR Paul Cummings

CIRCULATION / SUBSCRIPTIONS 70 Pond Street • Natick, MA 01760 Tel. 508.655.6409 / Fax 508.655.6409 subscriptions@adventureparkinsider.com Circulation Manager Cole Lelli —cole@adventureparkinsider.com To subscribe to Adventure Park Insider magazine, visit our website: www.adventureparkinsider.com/subscribe

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PARK BRIEFS NEWS FROM AROUND THE AERIAL ADVENTURE INDUSTRY ACCT Aiming for Industry Players Respond to Hubbell Advisory

In-Person Conference Like so many organizations, the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) pivoted to digital for its annual conference in 2021. With restrictions on large group gatherings being lifted, the organization expects the 2022 event to be live and in-person. If all goes according to plan, the ACCT International Conference and Expo will be in Cleveland, Ohio, Feb. 11-13, 2022. ACCT will utilize its Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) to ensure appropriate safety protocols are in place, and the organization has a contingency plan to go vir- tual if necessary. Learn more at acctconference.com. • Zipping Onto Your Screen “Zip Away,” the reality TV show from Steve Gustafson chronicling the installation and inspection work of his Experience Based Learning (EBL) crew, has probably exceeded the expectations of many. EBL has released the first episodes of its fourth season, with several more to come, and begun production on the fifth season. The show offers an unvarnished look at building, maintaining, and sometimes demolishing aerial attrac- tions, sans most of the artificial drama of typical reality TV, and only occasionally tipping into promotional territory. Certain technical aspects of the program, including relatable scenarios in the field, speak to the industry insider. The tone and content largely remain accessible to the general public, which points to the show’s most promising opportunity. It’s not an entirely unheard-of concept, of course. Channels like Discovery, the Travel Channel, and even Red Bull TV produce approachable content that unpacks niche fields. Just look at “Treehouse Masters”—the show about treehouse master builder Peter Nelson and his crew ran for 11 seasons and is still in syndication. Aerial adventure construction, with its scenic locations, unique design and build considerations, and exciting finished products, has similar innate drama. “Zip Away” has moments that capture this essence. “Zip Away” is available to stream on Roku and Amazon Firestick. Older episodes are on YouTube and Vimeo. Find out more at zipawaytv.com. •

As operators prepared to open this spring, the Hubbell product advisory added an unexpected wrinkle. The aerial adventure industry has used Hubbell deadends, suspension clamps, and pole bands “in applications for which they were not designed,” Hubbell said, which could create a “potential safety issue.” Hubbell warned that “existing usage should be immediately discontinued,” setting off a scramble to devise plans for addressing the advisory. (For more on the advisory, see “Hubbell Warns Against Use of Its Deadends, Clamps, and Bands” at adventureparkinsider.com.) While there has been a great deal of variation in response—from regulators, inspectors, vendors, and operators—industry players have been nearly unani- mous about working to keep aerial adventure operations open. No one wants to force operations to shut down. Deadend reliability. Most industry members agree that there is no immediate safety issue. Since an incident in Australia in 2008, in which a deadend failed (a backup system prevented a collapse of the line), there have been no published reports of deadend failures. The general consensus is that the deadends, pole bands, and suspension clamps are service-proven, which makes immediate replacement unnecessary. But the advisory could lead to increased liability, which makes eventual replacement a smart risk-management step. Insurers in the industry noted they have not seen losses related to the Hubbell products, so their use is not a concern. One insurer said it would rather see clients spend money on training than replacing these products, as human error is the biggest liability in aerial operations. Testing could demonstrate the suitability of the Hubbell deadends in aerial operations. Mike Barker of Adventure MAS, who is also on the safety committee of the Pro- fessional Ropes Course Association, said the committee planned to conduct pull tests in late May or early June. One vendor has already tested its use of the dead- ends—twice. In 2007, Hubbell pull-tested the vendor’s design for use of the deadends and received certification signed by a Hubbell engineer. The vendor repeated those tests this year with a third-party engineer, and achieved the same result—95 percent of the wire rope’s rated breaking strength, and the engineer’s approval of the product’s use as deployed. With that information in hand and no evidence of issues, the vendor told API it won’t shut down any of its courses, but will replace the products over two to three years.

Replacement plans. The most typical plan of action from vendors and inspectors is to replace the Hubbell products over a six- to 12-month period, so long as the vendor has supplied the operator with sufficient doc - umentation concerning the engineering of the course. Most regulators appear to be approving this approach. However, some inspectors are insisting on immediate replacement, at least on life-safety lines. Signature Research is recommending that each oper- ation create a plan to replace the Hubbell products. In an email to clients, Signature said, “The specific timeline should be based upon your operational requirements and in consultation with your legal advisers, insurance providers, and your vendor/manufacturer. “Given most, but not all applications using these products do have a full strength backup system, we are comfort- able making recommendations for replacement that do not require a complete shutdown of your course.” One inspector who is taking a harder line is Barker. “If it’s a life safety line, the Hubbell deadend has to be replaced immediately. If it’s used on element cables, the operator can change it out over six months,” he said. Among the camps he’s inspected, most operators want to replace the components ASAP. Whenever possible, he offers to replace the products during his visit. Suspension clamps. Much of the initial attention focused on the use of deadends, but the suspension clamp is in many ways the biggest issue, said one vendor. The clamps are commonly used as part of the redirect system on zipSTOP brakes. “There are alternatives to deadends, but not so many for the suspension clamps,” the vendor said. That’s changing quickly: Kong is already marketing a replacement clamp, and other suppliers told API they have plans to make suitable clamps as well. Looking to the future. “At end of the day, it’s not about the products, but how we design these courses,” said one vendor. “I pick cable and bolts and telephone poles that aren’t designed for the purpose, but we design and en- gineer them to work for the designed purpose. We have to ensure it’s done properly.” Added another, “In the future, people will construct courses with products that are designed for use in aerial adventure applications.” Testing of course design could also become more widespread. “If you build a course or use a product, you really should test it with an independent lab or engineer,” said Barker. “The cowboy days are gone. We should be more responsible.”

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STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

By Korey Hampton, Owner, French Broad Adventures, President, North Carolina Aerial Adventure Association

Forming a state-level trade organization can be beneficial in many ways.

In 2015, there was a fatal incident at a challenge course in North Carolina. In the aftermath of that tragedy, a local legislator held a press confer- ence where he declared his intention to bring law and order to an “un- regulated industry.” It wasn’t long before he proposed an onerous and ill-advised bill in an effort to regulate the aerial adventure operations in the state. As the owner and operator of a zip line canopy tour in the mountains of western North Carolina, I recognized that the bill would have had a tremen- dous impact on my business and all of the other businesses offering aerial adventure activities. There are three other outstanding com- mercial zip line tours within an hour’s drive of my operation, not to mention an abundance of camps and university programs. Prior to this time, I hadn’t spoken to any of the other tour owners. But in the moment, I didn’t hesitate to call them and ask if they’d heard the news. In retrospect, that was when things changed for all of us.

organization. Before that, we were competitors, now we are collaborators. Before that, we were strangers, now we are “strange bedfellows.” Following the advice of an operator among us with previous legislative experience (a former lawyer with some lobbyist friends), we hired a lobbyist to keep us informed of the bill’s progress and to connect us with those in state government that might be receptive to stakeholder input. As the process moved forward—from Department of Labor research about our industry and how (or if) they could effectively regulate it, to hearings in var- ious state legislative committees about the process and implications of regula- tion—we were able to insert ourselves into the conversation. This would have been impossible with- out the ability to represent ourselves as a collective voice for a much larger industry. The North Carolina Aerial Adventure Association (NCAAA), as it is now known, is a state-level organization of operators, ACCT Professional Vendor Members, and partner organizations, such as insurance companies, that are members of ACCT based in North Carolina. When asked recently about organiza- tions like NCAAA, ACCT policy director Scott Andrews said, “Local trade asso- ciations that have the ability to coordi- nate the efforts of operators in a region

are a significant help in developing new or improved regulation. In a jurisdiction where regulation is proposed or is be- ing changed, one of the first steps ACCT takes is to learn who will be affected by the regulation. This is time-consuming work, and local trade associations have already done this work. ACCT is always happy to work with local aerial adven- ture groups.”

COMMON PURPOSE

In the ensuing years, one of the most important lessons we have learned is that we share a common purpose. Being competitors can sometimes over- shadow that. However, we have banded together multiple times to defeat the same ill-advised zip line bill and have continuously advocated for smarter regulation. But perhaps more importantly, we have repeatedly gathered to share our col- lective wisdom, to create a strong local aerial adventure community, and to further our common goal of advancing the industry through advocacy, commu- nication, education, and cooperation. So, why do you need a state level organization? Because when you speak together with multiple operators and organizations in your state, your voice is stronger. Because when you form a 501(c)(6) you are legally allowed to hire a lobbyist, and a lobbyist will get you a seat at the “important tables” in your

CONVENING A COLLECTIVE VOICE

The legislative process moved pretty quickly, and we were compelled to react. Within a few frenzied phone calls, we had recruited other operators in the state, formed an impromptu organiza- tion, and registered as a 501(c)(6) trade

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would be detrimental to the industry in your state, explain what it is and how it could affect them. If there is a unifying public message, such as wanting to promote your indus- try to visitors, convey it, and emphasize its value. If there is a unifying theme, such as wanting to get together to “break bread” and share ideas, communicate it and welcome them to join.

various association costs like state reg- istration and insurance. All of our board members are volunteers, and they contribute greatly to the overall mission and administration of the NCAAA. As a group, we get together regularly to socialize, visit each other’s courses, and break bread (and sometimes drink adult beverages). While we network, we share war stories and success stories, and learn from one another. This costs very little and has had immeasurable value in our quest to do better and be better.

state government. Because you are an important link between the ACCT and the local state legislators that want to hear from constituents like you.

WHERE TO BEGIN

How do you form a state-level trade organization?

Start by researching the process in your state. For example: What paperwork do you need to file (bylaws, tax forms, registrations)? Then call other operators and stakeholders in your state. If we have learned anything in North Caroli- na, it is to start early, before there is an urgent matter to address. When reaching out to fellow operators, we have found that the best antidote to resistance is education and information. For example:

SMALL COST, BIG RETURN

The means for funding and maintaining a state-level trade organization come with time and will be specific to your state, the other industry professionals that are recruited to join, and the scope of what the organization wishes to accomplish. For the NCAAA, we charge a small yearly membership fee. Those dues go toward retaining a lobbyist, funding our web- site and outreach efforts, and paying

If you have questions about why, how, or if you should form a state-level trade asso- ciation, please feel free to visit our website (www.NCAAA.net) or reach out directly to me (Korey@FrenchBroadAdventures.com) or one of our other board members. We would be honored to support or assist you in any way we can.

If there is a unifying issue to rally around, such as a pending bill that

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T he ZAZA2 Block from Kong is a suspension clamp developed for use in adventure parks, and it is said to be suitable as a replacement for Hubbell suspension clamps. It can be used on both horizontal and angled cable. The aluminum plate works with an HR 3T bow shackle (HS 5/6”) to secure the attachment points for hanging aerial adventure elements. The ZAZA2 Block is certified to EN 15567-1 and EN 13411 standards. www.kongusa.com

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TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EMAIL

Email marketing is a powerful tool for connecting with customers and driving revenue.

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allow you to customize text, imagery, and buttons based on the data you have stored about each recipient, and even emails that look the same on the surface are unique behind the scenes. Every recipient’s email is unique. Every link and image has a unique URL to give you a detailed, user-by-user view of email activity.

In the most recent Adventure Park Insider “State of the In- dustry Report,” about 70 percent of parks surveyed said they do some form of email marketing. An audit performed for this article of 30 adventure parks’ email marketing efforts both confirmed this number and showed there is a clear opportu- nity for these teams to do more with email marketing and get more value in the inbox (more on that later). But why should adventure parks give email more attention? What makes this marketing channel so unique at a time when there are so many other options to choose from? Email is one of the most reliable ways to get an effective message in front of both specific individuals and massive groups of people.

Right: Deal email campaigns, like this one from Adventures on the Gorge, are a common form of email marketing.

THE POWER OF EMAIL

One of the most striking ironies in marketing is the belief that social media killed email. Facebook is a perfect example. Yes, Facebook has reinvented one way in which people communi- cate (for better or worse), but do you know how it built that empire? Do you know how it brought back users again and again to develop those habits that are so hard to break?

Below: Glenwood Caverns links its blog to its email account to push new content out automatically.

Emails.

Trillions upon trillions of emails. Between notifications and updates and account details and password resets and more, companies like Facebook have sent more emails than just about any other organization on the planet.

And they do it for a reason. Email is effective, primarily thanks to four unique attributes.

1. An Owned Audience Your email list is yours. This ownership offers portability, which means, if you don’t like your current email marketing platform, you can take your email list and move to a new one. Try that with your Facebook page’s list of fans (hint: it’s not portable).

2. One-to-One Email is truly one-to-one. Modern email marketing systems

3. Tracking and Attribution That level of personalization can help your emails be more effective—and it also helps you measure that effectiveness. Instead of just knowing that 12.4 percent of people clicked the “Book Now” link, you know exactly which 12.4 percent clicked it. Moreover, this transparency and detail make it much easier to measure which of those link-clickers ended up booking something once they arrived on your website or booking engine. 4. Preferences It’s not just marketers who love email, though. Regular people do, too. Given the choice between a variety of marketing channels through which to receive offers, consumers con- sistently—and overwhelmingly—prefer email. Case in point: in a recent survey by Yes Lifecycle Marketing, 47 percent of consumers chose email as their preference. Social media was preferred by just 10 percent of those surveyed. The Result: Unrivaled Performance Add all of these things together and the ROI of email is off the charts. A recent analysis from AgencyAnalytics put average email ROI at a whopping 3,800 percent. Social media came in second at just 28 percent. Why? Algorithms can restrict the visibility of social posts after a few hours. But, with no algo- rithm between you and your audience, emails wait patiently in inboxes and continue to be opened and clicked for weeks after they’re sent. While you’re sending an email today, you could still be seeing revenue come in from an email you sent two weeks ago.

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Email marketing is more affordable than ever, and modern tools and platforms have also made it extremely easy to use. Establish an email marketing channel in three simple steps. Step 1: Choose an Email Service Provider (ESP) An email service provider (ESP) is software that lets you col- lect and store email addresses and easily send messages to all the people whose addresses you’ve collected. MailChimp is an ESP many adventure parks use. Constant Contact, iCon- tact, and AWeber are a few others that are popular among adventure parks.

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When shopping for an ESP, take a moment to evaluate two key features:

Email builder. A simple, drag-and-drop email builder with a collection of templates to start from will save you more hours than you can imagine. The HTML code used to build emails is unique and finicky, so being able to create good emails with- out touching the code is important for most adventure parks looking to get started with email. Ability to import and update. Evaluate how easily you can import email addresses into the ESP and, more importantly, keep that list up-to-date as you capture new transactions in your point-of-sale system. One of the reasons MailChimp is so popular among adventure parks is because systems like

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WHAT EMAILS YOU SHOULD SEND

Rezdy, Checkfront, Xola, and FareHarbor all have integrations with MailChimp that automatically sync new customers to their email marketing account. Step 2: Obtain Email Addresses Speaking of getting email addresses, where will all those con- tact details come from? There are two primary sources: • Transactions: people who book something at your adven- ture park and use their email address to do so. • Website: people who enter their email address on a form on your website in exchange for news, deals, or a chance to win something (sweepstakes). Buying email lists from third parties is not recommended. Legal implications aside, these lists perform very poorly and may contain emails known as spam traps. These are used by major inboxes to identify bad actors, i.e., spammers. If you send an email to a spam trap, you could get blacklisted by one or more inboxes like Gmail, Yahoo, etc. This can make it harder for your next message—even if it’s to properly-collect- ed emails—to reach the inbox instead of the spam folder. Step 3: Send Emails Once you have an ESP selected and email addresses loaded into the system, you’re ready to start sending emails.

It can be easy to overthink your email strategy when you watch what large consumer brands do with their campaigns, but email is something that is often most effective when it’s most simple. Let’s look at three email campaigns you can use to get started. Welcome Email First, create a welcome email for people who sign up on your website to receive emails. These people aren’t quite ready to book something, but are interested enough to exchange their email address for more information or deals. This is a perfect group to contact immediately to keep the conversation going. However, if the 30 adventure parks that were analyzed for this article are representative of the industry, there’s opportu- nity for improvement here. Of the 30 parks analyzed: • more than half (57 percent) had an email sign-up form on their website; • but, less than half (43 percent) of those with email sign- up forms send at least one email during the first week a subscriber is on their list. Make it enticing. To increase sign-ups, some adventure parks offer an exclusive discount to people who subscribe. Go Ape, for example, does a great job with this. Immediately after someone supplies an address, Go Ape sends an email with

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In respect to frequency, try to find a cadence that you can sustain with both your own bandwidth and your pipeline of email-worthy news. Ideally, don’t go more than a month without sending something that keeps the conversation going between you and the people on your email lists. Choosing content. Some mar- keters like to send a long, de- tailed newsletter each month. If that’s your jam, go for it. But a simpler email focused on a single, exciting piece of news, right when it happens, can be just as effective and take much less time to create. If you maintain a blog on your website, that content is likely a good match for an email Go Ape’s welcoming email engages its new audience with discount codes, social links, and much more.

a discount code. Plus, it includes details that make recipients more likely to want to use that code, including:

• • • •

links to its social media profile;

links to its top activities and products;

customer testimonials; and recent Instagram photos.

You can set up this type of message in your ESP using the automations feature (sometimes called recurring messages, autoresponders, or programs). These are email campaigns you create once that are then sent to people automatically based on when their email address was added to the system (i.e., 1 hour ago, 3 days ago, etc.). News Next, look for things that give your audience extra reasons to visit. These bits of news also keep your business’s name on their mind for the next time they’re looking for a family activi- ty or weekend adventure. Some examples include:

• • • • • •

when you open for the season; new or updated attractions;

milestones as a business;

high-profile or celebrity visitors;

a forecast calling for perfect weather; and

upcoming events.

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TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EMAIL

PARTING ADVICE

campaign. In fact, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Col- orado has its Wordpress blog linked to its Constant Contact account, so the moment an article full of news or helpful tips is published, an email that links back to that article is auto- matically sent to the park’s email list. Deals The third type of campaign is also one of the most common. While news-focused emails can absolutely draw folks to your website where they eventually book a ticket or package, emails with deals, promotions, or discounts will often gener- ate the most revenue. While you may want to occasionally create new discounts to help fill periods of low visitation, look for other ways to give your audience deals that don’t involve extra markdowns. For example, offer a free perk—lunch, a gift card, etc.—with a tick- et purchase. Perks keep ticket yield high because folks are still paying full price, and your customers don’t become trained to wait for bigger and bigger discounts. Another approach: simply highlight the deals you’re already running. West Virginia’s Adventures on the Gorge, for exam- ple, offers a 10 percent discount when folks book online, and promotes that perk in its emails to give recipients an extra reason to buy a ticket sooner than later.

It’s OK that some recipients unsubscribe. Keep in mind that virtually every email you send will result in at least a few peo- ple unsubscribing. Unless this rate spikes, don’t be afraid of this number. Typically, the more opens and clicks you get, the more unsubscribes you’ll get as well. And while it may hurt to see your database shrink a little bit, it’s better than sending messages over and over to all the people who don’t want to see your emails. Practice restraint. A single email can generate a lot of rev- enue, but that doesn’t mean you should send a lot more emails. That same survey by Yes Lifecycle Marketing, which noted more consumers prefer email marketing, also pointed out that nearly half of consumers ignore emails due to inbox overload. A spike in people opting out of your emails can be a signal that you’re sending more than your audience would like. Email marketing isn’t sexy, and it doesn’t get headlines. Yet, the vast majority of digital marketers will choose email over any other medium simply because it’s so effective at turn- ing one message into a lot of transactions. The strategy we outlined here is simple, but more than enough to get started. Give email marketing a little love and it will give your adven- ture park a lot of love in return.

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THE QUESTION: My partner and I are planning to do some traveling in our van this summer. Would we be able to camp in your park- ing lot after going on the tour? PARK SPY

Van life is a growing movement. With RV sales through the roof, we expect more people will be out and about this summer looking for stuff to do and, of course, places to park for the night. So, we decided to test a few operations by calling to ask about van camping. Not all parks are equipped for—or allow—camping, which is OK. As always, some handled the question well, and others did not. Send us a question for the Spy to ask! Seriously, do it. We won’t tell anyone it came from you. Reach out to sarah@adventureparkinsider.com with your Spy-worthy question, and your adventure park will be immune for that issue if we use it.

PARK #1, CA First contact: Male. API: Stated question.

Staff: Sorry! API: No worries, thanks so much. Score: 8

API: We don’t have one yet. We’re still trying to figure out dates based on where we have places to stay. Staff: Sounds good! Score: 9 Comment: Don’t have the answer? Ask a co-worker! Nice work on this one, but minus a point because she missed an opportunity to encourage me to book online. This operation has an impressive online booking tool!

Comment: She said no. She said it po- litely and gave a very good reason why. Nice work!

Staff: You want to park here while you do the tour? I mean, yeah, it’s not like you can bring your car zipping! (laughs) API: (laughs) No, I mean, we’d want to camp overnight in the parking lot. We have a van that we are traveling and camping in. Staff: Oooooohhhh! Van life, very nice. Ummm, I’m not sure. API: OK. Is there someone I can ask? Staff: Oh, yeah! Let me grab a manager. API: Thanks! (on hold…) Second contact: Female. API: Re-stated question. Staff: Unfortunately, no. We close our parking lot at night since we can’t have people on-site with no staff members present. It’s a liability issue. API: Totally understand. Staff: There are some campgrounds locally if you prefer. API: Thanks! I’ll check it out.

PARK #2, OH First contact: Female. API: Stated question. Staff: Ummmm, I don’t know, let me check. (on hold for about two minutes) Staff: Sorry for the wait. I had to ask my man- ager. Unfortunately, we can’t have you park in the lot overnight, but there’s a few campgrounds nearby and I think Walmart will let you park overnight in their lots. (Lists campgrounds and nearby town with a Walmart.) API: Great, thanks so much. Staff: Did you want to make a reservation for a tour? Or did you already have one?

PARK #3, TX First contact: Male. API: Stated question.

Staff: Sure! I mean, you can definitely park in the lot and stay, but obviously we wouldn’t have any hookups for you. API: Not a problem. We’re pretty self-sufficient. Staff: Cool, do you know when you think you’d like to come? Have you made reservations for the

Score: 0.5 Comment: Three big “don’ts” here: 1) Don’t make it difficult for potential guests to get information when they call. 2) Don’t give what amounts to an opinion when asked a yes or no question. 3) Don’t let this guy answer the phone ever again. He should have either put me on hold and found someone who could answer the question OR taken my number and offered to find the informa - tion and call me back. Also, could this guy sound any less thrilled to be on the phone with me? Doubtful. PARK #6, WV First contact: Female. API: Stated question. Staff: That’s so cool! What an adventure! Are you planning to see a lot of the country? API: We’re going to start on the Eastern Seaboard and see how far we can get. Eventually we’d like to do the lower 48. Staff: That’s awesome! Well, we’d love it if you stopped to see us, and you and your van are welcome. API: Thanks! Would we be able to camp in the parking lot? Staff: We actually have a campground you can stay at! API: Excellent! Staff: Exactly. So, you can spend the whole day enjoying adventures with us, and then you can relax at the campground. Do you need hookups? We do offer 20- and 30-amp electric hookups, but we don’t have water hookups or a dumping station. API: That’s fine. We don’t have facilities in the van. Is there a public bathroom at the camp- ground? Staff: Yes, there is! Plus, each campsite has a picnic table, fire pit, ummm, a grill—so it’s the perfect spot to hang at the end of the day. Do you know when you’ll be coming through our area? API: We’re still figuring out the schedule. We were trying to figure out where we could park at each destination. Staff: Well, we’d love to have you, and if you book your campsite online, it’s 10 percent off. (Gives website address.) API: Great! I’ll check that out. Can I book activi- ties at the same time? Staff: Yes, you can book all your activities online

zip line tour yet? API: Not yet. We’re still planning our route, and it’s kinda dependent on finding places to stay. Staff: Sounds good. When you’re ready to book, you can give us a call back. You do need a reservation, just FYI. API: Sounds great. Thanks! Score: 7 Comment: Short, sweet, and to the point. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. PARK #4, WI First contact: Female. API: Stated question. Staff: You wanna what? API: I want to see about van camping in your parking lot. Staff: I’m not sure we could let anyone but customers park. API: Well, I am planning on zip lining and par- ticipating in all the activities during the day. We just want to have a safe place to park and relax afterwards overnight. Staff: Well, ummmm, hang on. (Click! She hung up on me trying to put me on hold.) Score: 2 Comment: I am going to give her the benefit of the doubt that she meant to put me on hold and accidentally hung up on me. It’s good to check if you don’t know the answer, but please know how your phone works. PARK #5, NY First contact: Male. API: Stated question. Staff: (annoyed) What? API: Repeated question. Staff: I thought that’s what you said, but I wasn’t sure. Ummm, probably not. API: Oh, OK. Any particular reason why? Staff: Umm, I’m not sure. I just don’t think it would be allowed. API: OK, are there any campsites nearby where we could stay? Staff: I’m not sure. I don’t know the area very well. Could you call back later? API: Sure.

at the same time. Do you have any questions about the campground or any of the activities? API: Nope, you’ve been super helpful. Thank you. Staff: Great! Hope to see you soon. Score: 10 Comment: Absolutely delightful! This is how it’s done. She seemed genuinely excited to hear from me and about my interest in coming. Points for the web- site mention and discount, too. Identity revealed: Adventures on the Gorge DEBRIEF: When you’re hiring staff at the beginning of the season, do you hire for personality or do you hire for skill? For customer service positions, you can teach the skill, but it’s much harder (nearly impossible) to teach personality. There’s a lot to teach, too. Guest-facing staff need to know all about the park’s programs and ser- vices so staff can answer all the usual questions. When a staff member gets an odd question, putting someone on hold to find an answer is a completely legitimate way to assist a guest. And it’s a much better customer experience when that staffer sounds happy to go find that answer. It’s poor guest service for a staff member to sound like he or she just doesn’t care about a customer’s inquiry or, even worse, is annoyed by it. In staff training, talk through what to do when the answer to a question isn’t right at your fingertips. Do you put the guest on hold? Take a number down to call the guest back? Either way, make it easy for the guest. Remember, the customer experience doesn’t start when they arrive on property—the customer experience starts the instant they call, visit your website, or connect with your team in any way.

WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Park Spy is a great tool to help train your customer service staff for the season. Check out past Spys at www.adventureparkinsider.com.

INCIDENT DATA AND SAFETY

Insurance claim trends help demonstrate the value of guest safety programs, from staff training to guest communications.

By Cameron Annas, CEO, Granite Insurance

Data do not lie.

In the past, the aerial adventure industry has often based its perception of safety on gut feeling. That leads to comments like, “We haven’t seen any big stories in the news this sum- mer—it’s good to see the industry becoming safer.” Is that assumption accurate, though? Perhaps the stories just aren’t making the front page. Risk management advice and safety programs, recommenda- tions, and education are best based on data, not assumption or instinct. An understanding of current incident data, as reflected in incident claims history, arms the industry to run safer, better informed operations. SAFETY IN THE AIR Data published by Granite Insurance and other associations and research groups show that zip lines and aerial parks are safer, measured by insurance claims per 100,000 participants, than many of the more common sports that people, and especially kids, participate in. Next time a retailer refuses to resell your tickets, or a school group refuses to let their students come for a teambuilding event due to safety concerns, feel free to share this statistic: a person is 1,000+ times more likely to get injured in a soccer game than at an aerial adventure park (see Insurance Claim Rates chart on opposite page). UNDERSTANDING CLAIMS PER 100,000 Claims per 100,000 participants is the best indicator we have for answering the question, “is the industry becoming safer?” The current prediction is that 2019 incidents that result in an insurance claim will eventually hit 4.28 per 100,000, even though the claims rate is currently 1.72; more claims will be filed closer to the statutory time limit. For the period from 2016 to 2019 (see Liability Claims Per 100,000 Participants chart, at right), we see that liability claims were relatively low

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