Convious in conversation with... Andreas Sievering from Fort Fun
How are attractions benefiting from new technologies like data analysis? Can new technology allow you to be more flexible, so you can adapt to sudden market changes? And how can you leverage new technologies to make your attraction more sustainable and ready for the clean energy future?
In this edition of “Convious in conversation with”, we speak with Andreas Sievering, managing director at Fort Fun Abenteuerland, a seasonal amusement park in central Germany. Andreas has been managing the park’s team, which has around 25 full-time fixed and up to 250 seasonal employees, for over 15 years and has around twenty years of experience in the leisure industry. He has witnessed how technology is transforming the way leisure attractions like Fort Fun operate. In this interview, he shares what he’s learned and what he’s looking forward to in the future.
“When you’re choosing new technology, you have to be sure it’s a fit for your team. Our park is 50 years old, which means we’ve entered a new generation. Today, our team is made up of digital natives who understand the power of technology.” – Andreas Sievering
Despite his years of experience, Andreas says that the past few years have brought some of the biggest challenges, from shutdowns to high inflation and an ongoing energy crisis. He says Fort Fun’s strong foundation in technology and digitalised working processes has enabled the park to succeed, even during difficult times. It enabled them to explore new models, like selling online tickets for their drive-in cinema. It also allowed them to keep working, even during lockdown periods.
“For years, we’ve been quite strong in online ticket selling. We are also heavily digitalised in terms of our workflows. So, when the pandemic occurred, we were able to pivot to remote working relatively smoothly. And now, we see that being able to offer that kind of flexibility as an employer is advantageous in the job market.” – Andreas Sievering
As new generations take to the workforce, Andreas says offering a digitalised work experience is vital for employers to attract talent. All office staff members at Fort Fun now have the flexibility to work from home. Andreas says this culture of freedom, flexibility, technology and trust helps Fort Fun retain loyal employees. He says most of his team have been with the company for years.
“It’s tough to find new employees, and most people today expect flexibility and the ability to work from home. That’s also an important factor in retaining employees. There’s a very high level of trust within our team, which is also essential for being able to work from home effectively. It’s given us the possibility to remain agile, fast and flexible.” – Andreas Sievering
Andreas says that digitalised workflows (like paperless invoice processing), online ticket selling and data analysis are at the core of Fort Fun’s internal operations. Technology is also helping Fort Fun achieve its sustainability goals and prepare for a more energy efficient future.
Which technology trends are on the rise in the leisure industry and how is Fort Fun responding?
Augmented and virtual reality (VR) are becoming a growing trend in leisure, ever since the first VR-enhanced rollercoaster was launched at Europa-Park in Germany in 2015. Visitors wear VR glasses that transport them into a different world, while they experience the real-life thrill of a gravity-defying rollercoaster ride.
New technologies have also made their debut at Fort Fun, such as Foxdome: a family-friendly “shoot ‘em up” attraction that includes immersive 3D graphics and futuristic laser guns. Their Fort Fun L.A.B.S. is an indoor playground featuring attractions that combine video gamification with physical activity. Sutu, for example, is a digitalised wall that interacts with players who have to kick a football to hit moving targets.
“We’re continually monitoring new products and developments on the market to see whether there are new technologies that would be a good match for our offering. Any time we decide to integrate new attractions like these, the most important thing is that they offer added value for our visitors.” – Andreas Sievering
Although Fort Fun has embraced many new technologies, Andreas says he is also proud to be operating what he calls a “real reality” attraction rather than a virtual reality one. The park’s beautiful natural landscape and scenic views are a big part of what makes it so special. Andreas wants Fort Fun to remain a place where people come to unwind, put their devices aside and enjoy some good old-fashioned fun.
“There are most definitely areas where VR can add value, but we want to show “real reality” instead of “virtual reality”. People, even small children, now spend so much of their time with a digital device in their hand. So, we want to offer them an escape from that. When they’re visiting Fort Fun, we want the kids to just go wild and have a great time.” – Andreas Sievering
It’s important to remember that technology is not just about reinventing attractions and creating high-tech experiences. Andreas says the real value comes from the speed, agility, convenience and optimal experience that he and his team can now offer visitors at Fort Fun.
“The technology we use, like our online ticket shop, crowd control and visitor data analysis, is all focused on making things better, faster and more convenient for our visitors and improving our service level. We also want to make it easier for our teams to do their job. Well-designed technology also has the power to make even redundant, boring tasks seem more fun, so people are happier to do them.” – Andreas Sievering
It starts with a highly digitalised back office and online ticket shop but extends to a data-driven approach to crowd control and resource planning. All these solutions ensure Fort Fun visitors enjoy a smooth, memorable experience from the moment they arrive at the park.
How do data analysis and crowd control enhance the visitor experience?
Andreas says that the ability to analyse data is essential to giving visitors the experience they expect today. Since partnering with Convious, Andreas says Fort Fun is able to manage crowds more effectively. The Convious online ticket shop uses timeslots to distribute ticket sales more evenly, so the park avoids overcrowding, while also selling more tickets during historically slower times of the season.
“Having better data simply enables you to know your visitors better, so you can design your offering to cater to them more fully. It enables us to predict and prepare for the exact number of visitors who are coming on the next day. That means we can have the right levels of staffing in the right places at the right times, so we improve the overall experience for everyone—for our visitors as well as for our team members.” - Andreas Sievering
Andreas says Fort Fun also uses online surveys to collect data about visitor satisfaction. This helps them improve their offering. It also helps with key planning, such as adjusting prices.
“Analysing visitor feedback helps us set our prices better, because we can see how price changes affect purchase behaviour in the park, even if we don’t pass on 100% of the cost of inflation to our visitors. There are so many factors that the data lets you identify and incorporate into your decision-making. It’s also important to strike the right balance between analysing data and actually putting the insights into practice. Often, it’s a question of learning through trial and error.” – Andreas Sievering
With a clear view of visitor data and automated crowd control features built into their online ticket store, Fort Fun gives visitors a day of relaxation without the hassle of waiting in queues.
“With our online ticket shop, we can control crowds and distribute sales more evenly from day to day. Plus, checking the tickets at the gate is much faster, because we can just scan the QR codes now. In the past, we’d have to operate 5 or 6 ticket counters and every morning there would be a queue of 1,000 people waiting to buy their tickets. Online ticket selling is a major optimisation. The visitors flow much more smoothly through the gates and into the park now. We would never want to go back to doing things the old way.” – Andreas Sievering
What will technology mean for the future of the leisure industry?
Looking to the future, Andreas is excited about the possibilities for optimisation that technology will bring. While new technologies will continue to enhance the visitor experience and streamline workflows behind the scenes, Andreas says sustainability is another important area where new solutions will make a difference.
To help prepare Fort Fun for a greener future, Andreas says he and his team are retrofitting older equipment with new, energy-efficient technologies. For example, the park recently upgraded the control unit of its log flume to a new state-of-the-art control unit, which lowers energy consumption for that ride by 30% each year. It has also installed water-saving systems that recirculate water from water rides, reducing wastewater.
The park has recently invested in a major sustainable construction project, building its new Yakari theme world, which premieres in the 2023 season. The project relies on natural, sustainable materials and will continue to expand to include new attractions in years to come.
“Technology will only continue to grow in our society. It is also going to play the leading role in fighting climate change. The current energy crisis also teaches us how important it is to become more energy-independent and self-sufficient in all areas. That’s why our park is investing in solar and alternative heating systems, which should start working in the future.” – Andreas Sievering
Andreas is optimistic about how technology will continue to shape the industry. Above all, he emphasises the importance of setting the right priorities.
“Above all, any new technology we introduce has to be useful. We don’t just implement technologies because it’s possible to do so. If it’s not a good fit for us, then we accept that and move on.” – Andreas Sievering
For Fort Fun, the right fit means: technologies that lighten the workload for staff, improve the experience for visitors and help the park operate more sustainably for years to come.