At long last, I’m heading home after spending a couple of weeks in Orlando. The trip was a bit longer than I had planned; sometimes weather and airlines just don’t agree with our best laid plans.
However, I made the best of my extended stay. And I am now sitting here on an airplane with a MagicBand on my wrist, and a collection of wonderful memories in my mental luggage.
A few years ago, I read a psychological study on happiness. How happiness is more or less defined by being in the now. When you’re not dwelling in the past, or worrying about the future, but instead just being present.
In many ways, we are in the industry of the present. There are few places better suited to experience being in the now, than at an attraction. Whether riding a roller coaster, discovering art at a museum or learning about animals exploring an interactive habitat at a zoo, each of these experiences become emotional postcards we carry with us for the rest of our lives.
The reality is, with the job I have, it is rare I can fully be in the present when I’m visiting a facility or park. I don’t get to feel or experience my childhood enthusiasm and excitement from a park visit in the same way I once did. Instead, I often find myself thinking, studying, analysing and looking ahead. I’m usually in a “looking-at-maintenance-checking-toilet-cleaning-assessing-service-judging-operational-effeciency”-state of mind.
On this recent trip, I truly just enjoyed myself. I was present. I was in the now.
Orlando always reminds me how dynamic and diverse our industry is. Theme parks, resorts, cruise lines, midway attractions, zoos and aquariums, brand experiences, the list goes on and on.
What is equally interesting to me is how the lines across different types of attractions and lines of business continue to blur. We are all becoming hybrids. We all borrow from each other and we offer varied experiences to our guests, all in the name of remaining relevant to our guests. Museums use theming and storytelling with interactive animatronics. Theme parks add large scale aquariums or safari experiences. Zoos add family rides such as trains and carousels to broaden the appeal and lengthen the stay of the visit.
The retail business is evolving in ways we could not have predicted or expected. Many say retail as we know it has died. I look at it differently. I see it too as going through its own form of hybridization, where experience becomes a much more important part of shopping, than the transactional element.
To me, this demonstrates the universal – and long-lasting – nature of what we do. Even with our individual personality, profession diversity and the evolving blurred lines, we all offer the same thing to our customers and our guests.
Expectations. Experiences. Memories. A few hours of happiness. Being present. In the now.