Arun K Chittilappilly, Managing Director, Wonderla Holidays

Mr. Arun K. Chittilappilly, Managing Director of the Company, is armed with Masters in Industrial Engineering from Industrial Research Institute of Swinburne University (IRIS), Melbourne, Australia. He has been a key architect of Wonderla Holidays and has been actively involved in strategizing and conceptualizing the Wonderla Parks and Resort.

 

The Coronavirus has forced the world into a so-called new normal, driving businesses and consumer-oriented industries great financial as well as human resource losses. This pandemic will affect the future of many businesses including the entertainment industry, leading the economists and business experts to question how the future of the entertainment industry will look post-pandemic, while asking the question: will out-of-home recreation be considered an option at all?

The country, and the world has been on a roller-coaster ride since the first case of the pandemic was discovered. Instability in the economy, social isolation, and a fixation on over-the-top entertainment, as well as significant shifts in the educational landscape, are all manifestations of the pandemic. According to Statista, India saw a 45 percent rise in internet usage this year, within the first quarter alone, due to the imposition of lockdown restrictions, forcing people to hole up inside their homes with no physical contact with the outside world. 

Theme parks are built to attract large crowds, which is also the crux of the issue faced in a situation where crowds are the main issue to be dealt with in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The amusement industry thrives on large crowds and shared experiences. Most of the attractions and facilities have been built to accommodate more people, similar to a mall or airport or any facility that handles a large volume of people. To entice people to congregate and stay in the park later in the day, parades and fireworks shows were created, and dining areas were designed to seat as many people as possible. While ‘social distancing’, the new motto for this pandemic season is the need of the hour, it is also time for the amusement parks to rethink their strategies in order to be able to adapt to these changing times.  

Consumer preferences and needs: 

Consumer behavior is not a straight line and their preferences include a significant shift in how industries view them. Their stickiness will be determined by how satisfied they are with the new experiences. The new behavior will affect every aspect of our lives, from how we work to how we shop to how we relax. The lockdowns have confined the entertainment world to mostly digital means of entertainment, including OTT platforms, making people isolated. Over the last two years, in the wake of a long covid, people are now increasingly desperate for direct interactions with family and friends. Weekend get-togethers with friends, catching up with relatives, and maintaining family ties are all much rarer now, and over a prolonged period, has created a need, a longing to physically step out and experience the world like before. Many studies have shown that soon after the lockdown/pandemic, out-of-home entertainment will likely increase, necessitating a re-evaluation of the entertainment industry’s vision and mission. 

Vital safety measures:

Because amusement parks are the center of the entertainment world, there will be a steady rise in advanced safety and security measures following the pandemic. People have been unable to leave their homes for far too long and are constantly looking for safer ways to visit amusement parks in order to refresh and rejuvenate their spirits and break the monotony of everyday life. Advancements in technology and AI-based mechanisms have taken safety measures to new heights. As the country moves forward with its vaccination initiatives, parents must encourage children over the age of 18 to get their vaccinations, shielding them to a great extent from having a direct impact if the predicted third wave occurs. Safety measures must take priority in articulating the entertainment industry post-pandemic, with a renewed rigor in placing the need for consumer satisfaction.

To better protect guests and employees, a committee must be established along with a company-wide training programme for all park employees to practice sanitizing and other health protocols. It establishes standards that far exceed most of the minimum requirements.

Paving the way for nature activities:

Environmentally friendly activities have become increasingly popular in the recent past. In order to fulfill these needs, amusement parks must provide space and ambiance to entice more stakeholders. They can also make a comeback by combining nature activities with fun-filled games. This entails a greater focus on health and hygiene, natural resource protection and safeguarding, and increased consumer satisfaction involvement.

Reengineer the Business Model:

Amusement parks are generally seasonal businesses that typically thrive for six months out of the year; however, year-round revenues should be focused upon. Furthermore, traditional “season pass” strategies or lower prices during peak times that eat into revenue but don’t attract repeat customers should be abandoned. Many businesses have learned in the last year to charge admission prices that provide guests with a valuable experience. This includes providing excellent customer service and devising strategies to encourage them to spend more time at the park, resulting in increased spending on food, rides, and games.

Amusement Parks must also broaden their target audiences, thinking beyond teenagers and reaching out to young adults and local businesses looking for fun group activities. Even after the pandemic, many businesses will reconsider their plans for far-flung corporate retreats in order to see what they can do in their own backyards. Companies can use them to host retreats and team-building activities because they are close, affordable, and highly engaging.

A renewed start:

With time, the demand for amusement parks will change. Despite the fact that a rapid shift may appear miraculous, people’s interest in the next normal will continue to grow. The entertainment industry, particularly amusement parks, must pay attention to consumer behavior and take proactive measures to ensure customer satisfaction. This will eventually include safety precautions and regular health screenings for stakeholders and employees, as well as advanced methods for maintaining post-pandemic behaviour. We have tried to assure guests of a very high safety and hygiene systems which are prerequisite for outdoor entertainment during a pandemic. It is the first to arrive in the country, demonstrating that all pandemic precautions and guidelines are necessary.

Industries must rethink how and where they can connect with stakeholders; a constant encounter with structural changes and upheaval across multiple dimensions are the need of the hour. Amusement parks will reinvent themselves to see a refreshed beginning post-pandemic. 

It is in fact a human need to have physical, active leisure and recreation apart from the normal activities of one’s life. Amusement parks are naturally a good choice to break away from the usual routines, ease pressure of career and life, and get back with renewed enthusiasm. The post-pandemic come-back will be an important phase in the entertainment industry. As long as people feel the need to connect with others the case for outdoor recreation avenues such as amusement parks will continue to grow strongly, whether there is a pandemic or not. We are already seeing 

Conclusion:

It’s easy for organizations to fall back on old habits in times of crisis, but those are often the times when new approaches are most valuable. Companies cannot afford to be constrained by traditional information sources, business models, or capital allocation behaviors as they prepare for the new normal. Instead, they must identify anomalies and challenge mental models, revamp their business models, and dynamically invest their capital to not only survive but thrive in the post-crisis world.

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