– Key Contributors: Andrew Schumacher (Architect), Dan O’Neill (Landscape Architect), Eileen Hill (Landscape Architect), Jason Mills ( Designer), Jeff Havlik (Vice President), Josh Rodriguez (Architectural Designer), Teague Peak (Architectural Designer), Tiffany Rawson (Architect), Veronica Skok (Landscape Designer)
A recent PGAV study compared the operational capacity during the new coronavirus pandemic to overall attendance for a hypothetical destination. The analysis yielded some red flags, indicating that higher attendance levels with reduced attraction capacity may result in many guests standing around on pathways and plazas waiting to enter an attraction, dining, or retail queue. So what are visitors doing during that time? In past publications, we highlighted some ideas for pop-up queues and pathway/plaza activities. But what about just giving guests a chance to stop and take a breather? As more destinations are requiring face masks today, are additional “mask-free” zones needed to provide a momentary reprieve from the stifling heat?
Take a deep breath and decompress with us!
A Beautiful Breath
Landscaping has always played an important role in design. In addition to place-making/storytelling, it is used to frame views (and hide things we don’t want guests to see), add visual interest, and create comfortable spaces. Landscape and hardscape design can also influence behavior, encouraging people to either walk quickly, take more leisurely strolls, or even stop and gather in a group. But today, the need to spread out is critical, and the area to accommodate this can come at a premium. How can we redesign our interstitial spaces for flexibility to host a range of other functions?
Sometimes having the chance to just sit and gather your thoughts (or your family!) can be an important part of the overall experience. Is there an opportunity to redesign areas along pathways to create small decompression zones for guests to peel off, maybe take a break safely without a mask, and generally reset? These places of refuge could include site furniture, or they could become more experiential, featuring short nature walks sprinkled with moments of discovery. Could sensory elements, such as the sound of a waterfall or the smell of buttered popcorn, be included to differentiate spaces and experiences? What about adding a phone charging station nearby so guests can relax and recharge their phones after all those attraction queue reservations and mobile dining orders?
My Happy Place
Private cabanas are a perk at many waterpark destinations; for a nominal fee guests can reserve a shaded area to use as a home base during their stay. But is there a life for these havens beyond waterparks? Could private cabanas and other rentable pop-up structures (huts, greenhouses, large umbrellas) provide a safe resting zone for families and groups of guests at other types of destinations? Think about those unused office and meeting rooms and how those spaces can be subdivided into smaller rentable areas. Can these dividers be themed to support a story? What amenities can you add – like mini refrigerators with cold bottled water, mobile ordering/delivery, and phone charging stations – to increase revenue and create a premium experience?
Breaking Outside the Box
You might be saying “Good suggestions, but my destination is confined to a building with no leftover areas for rest zones. And the guest experience is linear so private rentable rooms may not be feasible.” Ok, we understand. What about breaking outside your box and rethinking how you use the spaces adjacent to you building exterior? Restaurants are rocking this by creating safe (and unique) dining opportunities on adjacent sidewalks, streets and parking lots. Is there a way to modify the design outside your front door to include graphics, pop-up exhibits, and other elements that extend your story for guests arriving or departing your facility? And as for rentable private rooms, is there a critical mass of other attractions outside of your facility to warrant a pop-up home base for people to use while visiting the local district?
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, resting places at destinations may have been viewed as underutilized areas ripe for future projects. Today these spaces may be critical in defining the perceived safety and appeal of your destination to audiences everywhere. How can you rethink “unused” areas at your destination to provide these quieter moments for guests to pause, look around, and have a chance to absorb and appreciate the beautifully themed environment you’ve created for them?