What will 2018 bring for the attractions industry? Here are our thoughts on key trends to watch out for this year...

 

VR goes mainstream

 

Virtual reality is becoming less of a novelty and more a necessity. And when you look at the bottom line, it’s easy to see why. From theme parks to museums, zoos to FECs, leisure operators in all sectors face broadly the same challenges; attracting visitors, ensuring they have an amazing experience, and maximising ROI.

 

As VR technology matures, a greater focus on content is improving the visitor experience. VR headsets are coming down in cost. Operators are realising that replacing content can revitalise an existing ride, at a fraction of the price of building one from scratch.

 

So is VR now an established mainstay of the attractions industry? It's certainly heading that way. Of the 1,114 companies showcasing new products at the IAAPA Attractions Expo last year, over 60 of them were promoting VR as part of their range. With new projects being announced every week, VR-based attractions are here to stay. 

 

Adventure, everywhere

 

60% of Brits say they wish they were more adventurous, and 55% say they have never been on an adventure. That’s according to research carried out by Merlin Entertainments, who are set to open the £20m Bear Grylls Adventure later this year. The mammoth 8,000 square meter attraction is currently under construction at the NEC in Birmingham and is the latest to capitalise on the trend for bringing adventurous experiences to urban environments.

 

Not all venues have the space or budget to pull off such a large-scale project. But thanks to VR-based attractions like ParadropVR, smaller operators can offer adventurous experiences in a broad range of venues. 

 

All about IP

 

From The VOID's Star Wars experience at London Westfield to Paddington at Europa-Park, 2017 saw the launch of a number of exciting VR-enabled IP collaborations. 2018 will see yet more VR partnerships providing fans with new and exciting ways to interact with their favourite brands.

 

Last week’s announcement of a new partnership with Marvel will see Merlin Entertainments invest a further £1 million in a brand new immersive attraction at Madame Tussaud’s Blackpool featuring Thor, Spider Man and Hulk.

 

Which will be the next project to get fans talking (and ticket sales soaring?) Answers on a postcard, please.

 

Personalised experiences

 

Until recently, going on a ride meant sitting passively and being taken around a track. The latest VR-based attractions let users control their experience, deciding how and where to interact with the content.

 

Not any more. VR-based attractions make it possible to offer something truly unique and personalised, with no two participants having the same experience. As well having huge benefits in terms of repeat rates, the potential for education and inspiration is massive. Why serve-up the same experience for everyone, when they could be engaging with the content they find most interesting?

 

Expect to see more VR developments maximising the potential of open world content this year, especially museums and destination-based attractions.

 

Matt Wells is Co-founder and Chief Executive of Frontgrid. Our world-first, totally immersive attraction ParadropVR will be launching at Universe Science Park next month – get in touch to find out more.

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