Everyone is talking about disruption.
Or rather, disruptive innovation, as defined by Clayton M. Christensen from the mid 90’ies and forward. He defined disruptive innovation as,
“A situation, where a new product or service displaces and existing market, industry or technology and offers something new, more efficient or worthwhile. It is at the same time both destructive and creative.”
I think many of us in our industry are on the outlook for disruptive forces. We must wonder if digitalization, new entertainment options and changed consumer behaviour will negatively affect the attractions industry as we know it. While I personally do not think this will be so, the answer is not exactly black or white. How we operate continues to become more and more complex, and change is happening faster and faster.
In future studies and in the history of technology, accelerating change, or exponential change, is the increase in the rate of technological change, which 1) may suggest faster and more profound change in the future, and 2) which is accompanied by equally profound social and cultural change.
Great examples of such exponential change include the internet and its worldwide use and mobile phones. Both are examples of major technological advances that have had significant impact on how human beings interact, connect and communicate. These two examples have also helped change the social fabric of our culture.
Some studies estimate that the change mankind will experience in the 21st century is equal to the change mankind experienced in total over the last 8000 years.
From a business standpoint, to quote Jack Welsh, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” I don’t think any of us would like to see our companies end up like The Eastman Kodak Company or Blockbuster or Blackberry.
However, how do we look for and at potential disruptive forces? What could they be for our industry? The truth is, we really don’t know, so our personal and professional perspective is very important.
If we focus on technological change as a disruptive force – and for the most part, digitalization – you can say the new digital world has the characteristics of being fast, transparent, agile, complex, customer driven, collaborative and – unfortunately – unpredictable.
Just look to Uber and Air B&N as examples from the tourism and hospitality industry.
And it is this unpredictability which can sometimes make us freak out. Because the fact is all of our business models can – and will be – challenged in this new digital age. It affects us all.
I do, however, think that the attractions industry in this context is quite resilient. Because the core of our product is something very fundamental: it’s a social experience. And this is hard to replace by technology.
I, myself, never realized how important this social aspect is, until I had a very peculiar experience, a good 15 years ago.
I was, in connection with a travel to Japan, going to visit Expoland in Osaka. The park has really good coasters. I planned my visit well, checked opening hours, took a train, a bus, a monorail, and another train. After 3 hours of travel, I arrived. Unfortunately, upon my arrival I discovered the park was closed. In my frustration I saw a lady sitting in a ticket booth, and I went over to ask her why the park was closed. She replied, “No, no, we’re open. You can buy a wristband.” I did just that and I was the only guest in the park for three straight hours. Amongst world-class roller coasters and carousels and a fully functional park, I was the lone guest. It was one of most bizarre, and eye-opening experiences in my life. It is not fun to visit a park alone, whether you are supposed to be there with family, friends or complete strangers.
A visit to an attraction is a social experience. It is in the very core, in the DNA of our product. And I don’t think that will change, even as technology and technological uses do.
However, this being said, we have to be attentive. We have to adapt and be nimble and we need to have a very clear idea of the DNA of our product. And we have to be brave and think long term as develop our products.
This is some challenge. But a fun one.