It’s usually the ride technology at theme parks that gets everyone buzzing, such as Disney’s Flight of Passage which uses simulated 3D technology to transport you to the world of Avatar. However, anyone working in operations knows that there are dozens of elements to the theme park experience, beyond the rides, that are equally important to satisfying guest expectation.

The common guest pain points are all too familiar to anyone who has been to a theme park: long lines, broken rides, high ticket costs, anxieties about losing the kids, weather-related closures, and mechanical over-scripted staff. Why shouldn’t the periods in-between rides be just as immersive and satisfying as the rides? Here are the technologies with the most potential to transform the overall experience:

Wearable technology

A number of years ago, Disney noticed that the park experience needed shaking up. ‘Intent to return’ numbers were declining along with other key guest metrics. After a thorough evaluation of the entire guest experience, they famously developed the MagicBand – an RFID bracelet that lets guests pay for food and merchandise, be identified, open hotel room doors, and even help Cast Members locate the parents of lost children. It was a true game changer, yet one that required a billion dollar investment.

Time and location management

Most guests are aware that they will need some sort of a strategy in order to make sure they are using their time effectively. Reducing the time spent waiting in lines and finding the quickest ways to get between rides are both key strategies to getting the most value out of your day. Apps such as WalkeeWait for Disneyland lets you know what the wait times are at each ride while FASTPASS essentially lets you make a reservation at a ride.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) offers a way for theme parks to have ‘conversations’ with guests when people aren’t around. By using vast amounts of data, machines can make intelligent recommendations and offer useful information based on a guest’s query. A number of theme parks are using AI in conjunction with Virtual Reality (immersing the user in a digital world) and Augmented Reality (superimposing a computer-generated image into the real world) to create more immersive rides.

Real time guest engagement on social media

There was a point in time where even the existence of social media seemed to be threatening the future of theme parks – the current generation simply has more entertainment available to them all the time through technology. Theme parks, however, have come to realize that there is an opportunity to make the experience richer by incorporating the same technologies that people use at home and while at the park.

A study by Thinkwell Group shows that 80% of people visiting theme parks have a device on them and are therefore primed to become promoters on social media, providing the experience lives up to expectation. Through location-based social monitoring, theme parks can have an ear to the mentions and conversations that are taking place, and respond in real-time to guests through social media, or in person if the situation calls for it.

We have to remember that the point of this technology is not to reduce the human element of theme parks – if anything we should be magnifying it. Technology isn’t something just for the convenience of a corporate office, it’s for everyone on the ground who’s making a real difference to your guest experience. This is true for every industry, and theme parks in particular have a great opportunity to put it into practice.