The design pros over at Thinkwell Group have been asking that question of theme park fans. Today, Thinkwell released its first "Guest Experience Trend Report," detailing the results.
More than three of four survey respondents said that they'd brought a smartphone or tablet on their last theme park visit. Most visitors used the phone off and on throughout the day, rather than "actively engaging" with it. Only one percent said they spent more time with the phone than enjoying the park.
People took photos with their phone more than doing anything else with them, with talking, texting and checking email the next-most popular uses for the phones. About a third of respondents said that they searched for information about the park while visiting it.
When Thinkwell asked respondents to rank eight enhancements they might like to have for their mobile devices when visiting a theme park, "front of line access" came out on top, followed by checking queue times, and using GPS to locate family and friends.
Of course, parks are working on that functionality already. One of the big features of Disney's MyMagic+ system is using your phone (or computer at home) to access Fastpass+ ride and restaurant reservations. And many theme parks' existing apps allow you to find current wait times for attractions throughout the park.
(And you want to use GPS to find friends and family, well, several apps already allow you to do that, too.)
The big challenge to theme parks and their designers is to develop those new applications for interactive wireless technology that allow people to make use of the theme park platform in creative, engaging ways that visitors don't yet know that they'll end up wanting and loving. It's hard to express a demand for something that's not yet been invented. But the Thinkwell report further establishes that people are engaging on mobile devices in theme parks, and that the demand for an enhanced experience using those devices exists. The question is: Will that "enhanced experience" lead visitors to use their phones and tablets in ways that turn their attention outside the park, or further within it?Tweet
I have used Shazam to try and place some music too or look up what year The Demon opened up.
The whole reason I go to theme parks is to escape a bit from reality.... To completely let go of my normal over-scheduled, over-planned OCD life and just enjoy the MOMENTS as they happen. That's the magic of a theme park... and something that I think is lacking with Disney's current (and future planned) FastPass system.
But the bottom line is that I want to enjoy myself, and the people I'm traveling with, without being tied to a phone. I've actually been sorta creeped out by the amount of smart phone activity I've seen in theme parks lately.... Whatever happened to TALKING to the other folks you're vacationing with??
Theme parks are supposed to be immersive environments, an escapism from every day life! Screw this idea of tying smartphones and tablets into the experience.
If anything people need to learn to put away their damn wireless devices. How many of you miss the days when you could watch fireworks, a concert, or some other entertainment show without hundreds of LCD screens glowing back in our faces!
Trust me, most of you have no business taking photos or videos and are just wasting your time trying, plus you're missing out on the experience that's right before your eyes. Just because you have a camera doesn't mean you know how to use it well.
If people can experience the same level of escapism with their smartphone then what's the point of even going to a park?
But when I was in Disneyland last week and the person in front of me on Pirates of the Caribbean spent the entire ride texting, that tells me that -- at least for that particular person -- the park just isn't interesting enough for their tastes.
I think the very last thing that any theme park should strive for is to have people continually checking their smart phone more than they are actually experiencing the environments around them (that would be silly, like playing clips from Finding Nemo for people riding the Submarine Voyage -- I can watch the movie at home; in the parks, give me something I can only see in the parks, not a movie clip or a phone app that requires my constant attention), but that doesn't mean that they should ignore the functional possibilities which smart phones provide.
The key is to draw the line to where any smart phone use augments the theme park experience without replacing it. Otherwise people may as well just stay home and play on their phone and save $90 or so.
When I do want to waste time like in the queue lines, my smartphone allows time to pass a little quicker.
A smartphone lets my kids pass time quicker because there is plenty of waiting in a theme park. It is much more mobile, which makes them easier for my kids to hold the phone.
A smartphone lets me plan the day while in the theme park. I know when the shows start and the nearby restaurants. I know the wait time for the rides. I highly recommend the Mousewait app for iPhone and Android.
It lets me plan the time after the theme park trip. I know the traffic patterns. I know where to eat afterwards to avoid the high prices restaurants in the park.
It is so lame to say "why bother to go to the theme park". Goodness, I can spend my money and time anyway I want.
Ultimately, convenience will override any "escape reality".
Reservations, fast passes, even buying tix in advance are all examples of folks doing things for convenience...and for many, having / using a smart phone in the park is an extension of that.
People use smartphones at movie theaters, restaurants, etc. & a theme park isn't going to be any different.
One could argue the merits & just as Anon said, many of the millions of people who use them in the parks, use them for sensible & practical reasons. And there are others who do not.....However who is to say what's important for any one individual.
For some, sending a theme park inspired tweet or texting that theme park photo IS a part of their vacation experience....
I do think Disney should offer free internet service. Co-opt the use of the phones. When you're on the ride, the internet service automatically stops. When this happens, do most users continue to use their phones? Maybe some will, but others like me might stop for a few minutes until the ride is over to conserve my data plan.
Disney should take full advantage of cell phone payments. That's what I do with my Starbucks account on my iPhone. One flash of my cell phone, I just bought a new mocha latte. Fast payment means faster service and bigger transactions.
It's a shame that people can't turn them off and put these devices away for a period of time. When people go on vacation now days they don't really go on vacation. They bring their laptop, smartphone, and other connected devices and continue to check their work. How many jobs expect us to be reachable when we're using our earned time off?
Those damn devices are on at social events, when going out to dinner, bars, sporting events and theme parks. Kids are frequently seen by me watching movies on iPads at restaurants instead of socializing with Mom and Dad.
The entire thing is a disaster! It's really a nightmare.
I don't even buy the convenience argument. Some of the fun of a theme park is the unknown. I don't think wait times should be available on our devices. If Disney and other operators want to make this information more accessible then information boards (electronic or whatever) can be posted around the park.
Someone mentioned earlier that they use them with their kids while waiting in line. That's bad. Your children should learn to be entertained without an electronic device while waiting.
My three nephews have exceptional imaginations, social skills, and patience compared with their friends and other children their age. I truly believe it's because the three of them (5-year old, twin 3-year-olds) to this day are NOT ALLOWED to watch television, movies, or use electronic devices on a regular basis. Only on very rare, special occasions is this permitted.
Plus, many families go to theme parks together to kind of reconnect or spend time with each other that they don't get to do always in their normal lives. It kind of takes you away from your group if your face is in a phone. It's just such a nice more rewarding feeling (and use of the time) sometimes to spend the time with the people you are there with and truly interact with them more than your phone..... it's fine to have the phone as a tool to enhance your trip.... just don't want the phone to dominate too much of my time with my family and friends.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.