Family Togetherness

How cell phones can bring families together when they visit

Last month, after enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with my family, we decided to spend the evening at one of our local theme parks. As we walked through the park I was amazed to see how many people had their cell phones out and were so absorbed in their own little cyber-world that they were not enjoying the park (or time with their family and friends). I couldn’t help but wonder why people would spend money on admission to the park, and then not even look up from their phones…and then, as we were waiting for a show, I realized that my kids were doing the same thing.

It is a fact that in todays’ day and age, many people find it difficult to disconnect from their phones, but what if we could get them to use their phones to engage with us and with their families during their visit? There are many ways to encourage your guests to use their phones to enhance their visit. Below are a few ideas:

Post Family Photos – Taking pictures is a great way for your guests to capture memories during their visit. You can encourage your guests to capture their memories by placing “Photo Spot” signs or Photo Frames in photo op locations throughout your facility. Encourages guests to interact with you by including hashtags that allow guests to share their photos to your Social Media accounts.

Keep Guests entertained while they are waiting – One of the most frequent complaints you hear from guests visiting parks is how long they had to wait in line. To help combat this type of complaint many places started heavily theming their queues, almost making them an extension of the ride itself. Not only was theming put in place, but there were frequently interactive features to entertain guests as they wound their way through the queue…I remember when the Indiana Jones ride first opened at Disneyland you were handed a “code card” as you entered the line to help you decode secret messages on the walls as you went through the caves, there were (are) also features that you could touch – pull on the bamboo pole and the ceiling falls down – these features helped to keep guests entertained while they waited. Today, many queues have taken interactivity to a new level by allowing guests to use their cell phones to interact with elements of the queue and encouraging them to work with their family/friends while winding their way through the queue.

Augmented Reality – A few years ago, while Universal Orlando was building their Harry Potter expansion, they tested out an Augmented Reality system that allowed guests to activate movie scenes/characters in the park using their cell phones. My kids loved watching the T-Rex from Jurassic Park break through the construction fence and seeing the DeLorean from Back to the Future swoop out of the sky. It was a fun way to dress up the construction walls and it showed new ways in which cell phone/camera technology can be used to enhance and elevate the guest experience.
Scavenger Hunt – This traditional activity can go high-tech when guests use their cell phones to get the clues and record their answers. The whole family can play together to solve the clues, or maybe Mom & Dad team up against the kids to earn points (or rewards) for completing the hunt. Taking this traditional activity to a mobile platform can enhance any family’s visit.

Encouraging families to engage and connect with each other when they visit should be an objective for all parks, attractions, museums, etc. If you don’t currently have an App for your facility, you should engage an App Designer to help bring you into the cell phone age to allow you to connect with your guests more effectively. You want to be sure that your App includes features (like games and activities) that encourage family fun and togetherness. After all, the more fun guests have, and the more enjoyable their visit, the more likely they are to return…and to share their experience with others.

Have a wonderful week!