Nowadays, companies eye to offer more to their staff than just the blue-collar lifestyle restricted in a meeting room to provide, memorable experiences and perks, all while encouraging an amiable atmosphere that is conducive to productivity and innovation. Can a rollercoaster ride close a deal or ignite a spark of creativity among colleagues? A new trend for hosting business events at theme parks seems to suggest so
By Sayanti Halder
Hurtling through the air at accelerating speeds, eating clouds of sugar, plummeting down synthetic mountains and racing tiny plastic jockeys in the hope of winning a stuffed caricature, nothing is quite like the childhood joy of spending a day in a theme park. Such happy memories fill most of the people with a fond nostalgia for roller coasters that carries on right through to adulthood. Given the partiality that we all have for theme parks, it is perhaps unsurprising that a new trend has emerged in the business world, which is broadening the scope of these fun-filled spaces. In the search for unique business destinations for meetings, conferences and team building days, a growing number of companies have begun venturing into these thrilling playgrounds for organising their company conferences or team-meets.
Consequently, several large theme parks are now marketing their sites as the ideal places to foster better working relationships or host an unforgettable event, which has opened up a whole new realm of business for this particular segment of the entertainment industry. Being able to offer both unique experiences and versatility is the holy grail of the Meetings, Incentives, Conference and Exhibition (MICE) industry. As a result, when a new opportunity arises that can provide something different and functional in addition to being exciting, event managers go flocking. There is a research suggesting that adrenaline is highly beneficial for meetings and events, for example, the high altitude and extreme speed of a rollercoaster releases heaps of endorphins. And there is no argument against the fact that a happy employee is a successful and productive employee.
The growing tendency to use theme parks for business trips ties into the rising trends of promoting happiness and well-being for employees and doing away with the stuffy corporate image. Naturally, this kind of treatment does not stop within an organisation but needs to go far beyond it as well in order to garner successful partnerships, gain invaluable long-term custom and earn an industry-wide reputation. What is more, in a world where colleagues of all levels are encouraged to socialise with one another and more CEOs are doing away with their stiff suits, theme parks provide the perfect playground for business events. In fact, a day at a theme park can do so much more than just an average day out, so it is a wonder the corporate world only recently started taking advantage of these unique spaces with the mission to impress and inspire.
According to the recent Colliers International Report, Disney in Orlando attracted over 68 million visitors last year of which, approximately seven per cent of visitors constituted of MICE guests. The figure exceeded 15 per cent in Singapore’s Sentosa, given its exclusive conferencing facilities and proximity to the city. Theme park experiences, blended with MICE activities, should focus on the taste of guests from the largest source markets in the respective cities. For instance, in the UAE, growing demand has been witnessed from the Middle East, India and China. Hence, the importance of aligning design, facilities and themes to the tastes and preferences of these visitors would potentially augment visitation. As per the report, almost every globally-reputed park is attracting over 10 to 12 per cent of international MICE crowd per year.
Theme parks provide infrastructure and support services to host business and social events. The opportunity to have such unique and memorable backdrops set these locations apart from other venues. Thus, providing tailor-made packages for events or conferences tend to boost attendance at parks and align itself with the concept of providing exclusive experiences. However, in order to compete with the stiff competition from the rest of the MICE world, theme parks cannot rely solely on their pre-existing attractions. Instead, they must continue to add that little something extra. In response to their growing popularity as a MICE destination, several amusement parks are expanding their corporate facilities and range, as well as increasing privileged access for business visitors.
For example, Chessington World of Adventures, a UK theme park that receives more than two million visitors a year, has introduced team-building packages where clients can gain VIP access to the park’s biggest attractions. According to a report, offering flexibility and a wide range of activities is crucial to business acquisition for theme parks. In fact, offering large spaces is a key factor in attracting event organisers, Disneyland Paris offers themed evenings for 15,000 guests, with a heavy focus on providing bespoke experiences for potential corporate customers, while the Europa Park in Rust, Germany boasts facilities for an incredible 100,000 business delegates. We further speak to some of the leading names in the theme-park world to evaluate the innovative offerings that this segment of emerging tourism has to propose for the MICE travellers.
Chow Keng Hai, Senior Vice President-Resort Resorts World Sentosa
Welcoming over 20 million visitors a year, Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) is a highly popular lifestyle destination with both locals and tourists from across Asia-Pacific with its five award-winning attractions comprising the Universal Studios Singapore, S.E.A. Aquarium, Adventure Cove Waterpark, The Maritime Experiential Museum and Dolphin Island, as well as luxury hotels, celebrity chef restaurants and a world-class convention centre all in one location. Our flagship theme park, Universal Studios Singapore, was awarded ‘No. One’ Amusement Park in Asia by TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice 2018 for five consecutive years, while our water-themed attraction, Adventure Cove Waterpark was consistently ranked Top 10 Water Parks in Asia for four consecutive years.
As the region’s premier MICE destination, RWS is able to offer clients a full and diverse suite of both state-of-the-art and unconventional meeting facilities and venues. The integrated resort has successfully differentiated itself in being able to effectively blend business and leisure into a total experience in one single destination. The five attractions of RWS are extremely popular as fun, immersive and alternative MICE venues for clients looking for a different experience. After formal conferences and meetings at the Resorts World Convention Centre, clients can continue their evenings at unique venues such as a mesmerising banquet at the Open Ocean Gallery in the S.E.A. Aquarium after a leisurely stroll to view the over 100,000 spectacular marine animals. In April 2016, Universal Studios Singapore hosted an iconic Asia Red Carpet and Fan Premiere for box-office hit movie where the theme park welcomed Hollywood A-listers. Both Universal Studios Singapore and S.E.A. Aquarium also offer specially-customised scavenger hunt programmes for clients who would like to introduce team-building fun into their corporate outings.
Vivian Lee, Executive Director of Sales, Marketing & Public Affairs, Ocean Park
Ocean Park is just a few minutes away from the city centre of Hong Kong, making it a favourable location for international businesses that are looking for a suitable location for MICE activities. The VIP lounge located in front of the giant viewing panel of The Grand Aquarium and Applause Pavilion are some of the ideal places in the park for MICE activities. For those wanting to experience local culture, we also offer local-themed dinner at the Park’s Old Hong Kong where guests can admire streetscapes of Hong Kong during the ‘50s to ‘70s and savour a range of authentic local street food. Depending on the size of the MICE group, the Park offers hospitality privileges including express admission to the Park, priority access to designated rides and attractions with Ocean FasTrack for VIPs, Ocean Park-themed souvenirs, welcome drink coupons and other in-park discount coupons for the MICE groups visiting the Park.
Additionally, Ocean Park also offers award-winning Corporate Training Schemes for the business community. Incorporating the park’s natural setting, animals and rides, these training sessions work towards fostering individual potential, enhancing teamwork, contributing to society and caring for our planet. Right at the doorstep of Hong Kong Ocean Park are the new Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel, the first-ever city resort and MICE hotel at the park. The hotel comprises 471 guestrooms and suites which combine modern design with nature-inspired décor, along with versatile event space including an expansive pillar-free ballroom and flexible meeting spaces which can be configured to suit any agenda. For MICE travellers looking to host inspirational and creative events, the resort offers extensive outdoor facilities and special access to Ocean Park for exclusive meeting options.
Komal Seth, India Representative, IMG Worlds of Adventure
The rising trends of promoting happiness and well-being for employees and to diminish the stuffy corporate images, many companies are now exploring innovative locations for team-building activities. Theme parks are now be considered as the next MICE destination as companies are required to offer more to their staff than just the four walls of an office and the traditional nine-to-five work life. They need to provide stimulation that promotes productivity and innovation. As all levels of corporates are encouraged to socialise, theme parks provide the perfect playground for business events and team-building activities. The reminiscence of happy childhood memories, adventure games and roller-coaster rides can bring out the best of an individual.
There are a wide variety of activities for MICE groups to explore at IMG World of Adventure Park, Dubai’s first mega themed entertainment destination promising visitors from around the world. We have conference and banqueting facilities with purpose-built facility rooms for unique break-out sessions for groups of all sizes. There are themed private dining rooms and tailored menus to please any palate and a host of customised experiential packages. IMG Worlds of Adventure covers an area in excess of 1.5 million sq ft. with the capacity to welcome over 20,000 guests a day.
Chris Swartz, Waterpark Manager, Wild Wadi Waterpark
Theme parks and water parks have a great opportunity to work as MICE destinations and also compete with the existing ones. Partnerships with hotels in conjunction with the development of multipurpose spaces will allow meetings, conferences and events to take place in ‘non-traditional’ locations. Currently, our park hosts meetings for local businesses who desire to provide a unique experience for their colleagues. Meeting time is coupled with waterpark time and this blend offers a great balance of the business and the entertainment, which also acts as an incentive for the employees. As time is a precious commodity, the availability of meeting space coupled with an experience of the waterpark is of great value.
Our park has a distinct advantage in this area. Wild Wadi Waterpark is owned and operated by Jumeirah International. We benefit because of this, both in providing support to the hotels for their events and working with the business that better fits our capabilities. We are expanding these opportunities and seeing this as an augmenting segment of the business. Having the great facilities the hotel offers, coupled with the uniqueness of the waterpark experience, is desirable to our guests and sets us apart from the more traditional experiences. With the plethora of options available, being able to set ourselves apart and provide something unique is of great benefit.