Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Updated: A Different Way to Wait for Attractions Without Standing in Line

Accelowait has a survey on their website to gauge interest from amusement park enthusiasts and operators about what guest feel about their product. Here is a direct link to their survey. This is your opportunity to give feedback directly to the source.

Every so often we stumble across something on the IAAPA floor that stands out from the crowd and represents fresh thinking. This is another interesting concept we found while roaming the first time vendors area. Since they live in Columbus area, they must have done a lot of their research in both Kings Island and Cedar Point. Here is their unedited press release:

Accelowait LLC has introduced an innovative mobile app for iPhone and Android users that allows amusement park guests to have virtual “Robo-Buddies” wait in lines for them at popular attractions. The Accelowait slogan, “Waiting goes faster when you’re not standing in line,” speaks to the most common frustration of amusement park guests. The app and its associated behind-the-scenes technology are designed to be free for all park guests, inexpensive for park operators, and easy to use for both.

Long lines at popular venues have long been a source of diminished guest satisfaction and reduced revenues for park operators. Previous attempts to address these problems have helped to some degree but also have introduced new difficulties for both guests and operators. The Accelowait app pioneers a novel virtual queuing approach that avoids these pitfalls.

The co-founders of Accelowait LLC, Dr. Bruce Weide, professor emeritus of Computer Science and Engineering at The Ohio State University, and his son,Alan, are long-time roller coaster enthusiasts. Their many visits to amusement parks have made abundantly clear to them the problems with long queues.

“Our personal experience with amusement parks has made us painfully aware of the frustration of standing in lines for hours on end,” explains Dr. Weide. “We’ve also seen the limitations of other attempts to mitigate those problems. Alan and I decided that there had to be a better way, not just for guests but for park operators, too. We conceived of a new way to do virtual queuing literally while standing in lines waiting for roller coasters. So, I guess this shows waiting isn’t necessarily all bad. But standing in line to wait certainly is!”

Successful deployments of Accelowait technology at Firstlook Festival 2015 and 2016, a popular video gaming and pop-culture event in the Netherlands, have proved how well it works. But amusement and theme parks are the primary target of Accelowait. To introduce itself to this market, the company hosted a booth at the IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando from November 15-18, 2016.

According to Alan Weide, a computer science graduate student and roller coaster fanatic in his mid twenties, “The original goal was for guests not to be stuck standing in long lines. But Accelowait has many other advantages, too. It’s inexpensive and easy for park operators to deploy and use, and it’s designed to be available free to all park guests. 

It also offers new potential revenue opportunities for park operators with its ‘extra Robo-Buddy’ model for guests who want additional virtual queuing benefits, and it eliminates resentment toward those who pay more for these perks.”

Amusement park operators have used two basic schemes to try to reduce the frustrations of guests standing in long lines. One is sometimes called “virtual queuing” but is actually a reservation system that gives guests a chance to reserve a specific time for a ride, often with a limited window of opportunity. People then try to organize the day around these “commitments,” which limits the fun that often comes with being more spontaneous.

Further eroding a reservation system's effectiveness is down time for rides because of mechanical or weather complications, which inevitably throws off the whole process. Some holders of reservations are no-shows that prevent other guests from reserving the times they would have preferred. Accelowait virtualqueuing adjusts to such dynamic effects with behavior that is easy for bothguests and park operators to understand. It eliminates these issues.

Another approach offered at some parks, often in conjunction with a reservation system, is t he chance to buy a premium pass at a substantially higher price. This gives some guests the privilege to “cut” into lines for the most popular attractions. But this approach is inherently limited to just a few guests because everyone can’t be at the front of the line. Worse yet, it engenders resentment among those who can only stand and watch as others jump ahead of them. Studies show it simply isn’t a formula for happy customers.

“All we had to do was listen to disgruntled people standing in lines to understand why premium passes weren’t the best answer,” says Alan Weide. “We also found research by design experts such as Don Norman that confirmed this. People naturally crave fairness in any solution that addresses the problem of waiting in lines. It makes sense that in our culture at least, everyone simply must have the same opportunities. Accelowait is designed to provide exactly that.”

He explained, “Park operators also understand that when people are trapped standing in line, they’re not spending money on food, beverages, souvenirs, and midway games, and this limits revenue for the park. Studies have found that people spend several dollars more per hour when they’re able to roam around.” As Dr. Weide puts it, “Free apps have become commonplace in today’s world of smart phones. Using this technology to make amusement park visits more enjoyable seemed to be a no-brainer. One big technical challenge was to
develop virtual queuing algorithms that could avoid subtle but annoying feature interactions with other important elements such as support for groups of family members and friends. And I’m thrilled to say we’ve met that challenge.”

The chance to offer extra Robo-Buddies for a fee means some guests can pay to wait in virtual queues for two attractions at the same time, adding a potential new revenue stream for the park operator. “What’s really important about this is that nobody knows who has purchased an upgrade, so the resentment of premium pass buyers is non-existent,” explains Alan Weide.

Once in a while, something comes along that changes things fundamentally and for the better. It seems Accelowait has all the makings of a technology with this kind of impact for the amusement park industry.

The concept of everyone having a virtual queue included in the price of admission means fewer guest satisfaction issues. But how to make this economical for the entertainment operators? By utilizing the ubiquitous smart phones that everyone seems to have these days, the park does not have nearly the hardware investment that other systems have required to date. The low investment is mainly in the software. They gave us a demonstration in this video:

What a creative way to solve several problems at the same time, while also giving an improved guest experience because everyone participates and no guests feel slighted. Well done Accelowait, we are looking forward to seeing this in operation at a park, hopefully in the near future.