Great Wolf Lodge

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Water Park Industry Trends

Some current trends in the US water park industry include the increased emphasis on an immersive experience and the rising number of indoor waterparks.

Increased Emphasis on an Immersive Experience

  • It is a trend in which waterparks are placing extra and bigger television screens throughout the park. Recently, many waterparks have been seeking to place TVs around their wave pools, using them to play videos of different attractions or hosting in-pool movies.
  • The concept behind this trend is that visitors can view videos about other attendees in the vicinity while they are in any particular section of the park, imploring "them to move around" and help to increase enthusiasm.
  • This trend is driven by technology, with both waterparks and designers increasingly placing greater emphasis on displaying storylines and themes.
  • The Aquatic Development Group is an example of a company at the forefront of this particular trend.

Rising Number of Indoor Waterparks

  • It is a trend in which indoor waterparks have turned into the waterpark industry's quickest developing segment.
  • In 2018, new investments in both outdoor and indoor waterparks reached over $1 billion. That same year, there were almost 60 different new facilities and expansions opened, according to the Cornell Real Estate Council. Additionally, the council predicted a total of eight private outdoor waterparks opening in 2018.
  • There were plans for around 464,000 square feet worth of waterpark space for the indoor division in 2018 (from nine indoor waterpark resorts). As of 2018, the total number of indoor waterpark resorts and standalone indoor waterparks in the United States has reached 136 and 85, respectively.

Research Strategy:

To identify some current trends in the U.S. water park industry, we searched through news articles, press releases, and media publications on related topics. The rationale for this research strategy was to try to identify something that people, companies, or other actors are doing more often (or less frequently), over a time, which involves a change in how things are done. We searched through numerous news articles published in leading media outlets, including Forbes, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, TapMag, Business Insider, Fortune, and Bloomberg, among others.
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Water Park Industry Disruptors

The water park industry in the United States grew at a CAGR of 7.5% from the year 2014 to the year 2019. The industry is expected to continue growing as the rates of travel and consumer spending increase steadily. Some disruptors that have contributed to this growth include gamification and RFID wearables.

RFID wearables

  • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) wearables are devices that contain an embedded chip that allows water park visitors to purchase food, souvenirs, and beverages without having to use cash or cards. The gadgets are waterproof, which means the wearer can swim with it, and it also offers freedom, convenience, and security.
  • The RFID wearables are considered as disruptors because it's a technology that is convenient for both the water park guests and the operators when it comes to making payments and keeping track of where the customers are. The technology is used to track customers' ridership and movements, providing insights into the water parks' visitor flow and throughput, according to Michael Turner, the Vice President of Global Business Development.
  • According to Nick Neuman, CEO at Water Technology Inc., water park companies in the United States are adopting the RFIDs because it provides real-time access to guest profile data that is accurate.


  • This is the art of including gaming technology in the water park activities, like on the slides. This is done to create excitement among the guest and create a sense of competition, which in turn, boosts repeat ridership and visitation.
  • For example, controls are built into the slides, and the customers gain points by touching the buttons as they go depending on the instructions of the game. The games are integrated with the visitor management system to encourage the participants to keep a record of high scores.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies are also incorporated into the slide experiences to create a unique sensation.
  • Gamification in water parks in the United States is a disruptor as it breaks the norm of just having basic slide games. Gamification incorporated into the slides has attracted more guests in water parks in the United States, which in turn has led to growth in the industry.
  • Guests like to compete against each other, especially if they are fighting for a prize. The management at water parks is using gamification as a way to get closer to the guests because of the personalized experience they create and can learn the customers' preferences, which help in building a more customized experience.


  • The market size of the United States water park industry is $5 billion, with a total of 158 businesses. According to Statista, there are 817 outdoor water parks in the United States in 2019, and 155 indoor water parks.

Research Strategy

Your research team has scoured through credible websites like IBIS World, Connect NGO, and Statista to find two disruptors in the United States water park industry. The provided disruptors have both changed the way operations are done at water parks and have made it more comfortable and convenient to conduct business at water parks, as explained above. Companies in the industry have adopted the trends, which has led to growth in the industry.

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Family Resort Industry Trends

Three current trends in the US family resorts segment of the Hospitality and Travel Industry include: increased personalization through ecosystem integration and smart functionalities, increased preferences for all-inclusive resorts, and increased preferences toward eco-friendly resort options.

Note: This report does not take into account immediate and impending trends related to the COVID-19 pandemic; since this is a sub-segment of the overall Hospitality & Travel Industry, and that industry is likely to among the hardest hit by global shutdowns, these trends might no longer be valid once normalcy resumes.

Increased Personalization through Ecosystem Integration

  • Deloitte’s research shows that many hotels and resorts are moving from siloed property management systems toward greater ecosystem integration. In many hotels/resorts currently, the property management system lacks integration with other related systems, like customer relationship management and loyalty program systems. Additionally, they often lack integration across multiple brand-owned properties (or regionally-based properties); this lack of integration causes myriad guest-satisfaction opportunities to be missed whereas increased integration allows for greater personalization.
  • Deloitte’s research also shows that more hotels and resorts are approaching guest personalization from an “autonomy and action” standpoint; the autonomy signifies the resort’s (or hotel’s) ability to provide guests with flexible personalization options through functionality options like “mobile check-in and room selection, in-room smart-home technology, and chat concierge services.” With autonomy comes guest preference selection on a variety of aspects, all of which can be (should be) tracked by the system.
  • During a family’s week-long stay a resort, each family member leaves “clues about their preferences everywhere,” and all of these can be leveraged in real-time, as well as tracked over the long-term (for long-term stays, multiple stays, or stays at other brand-owned locations). The “action” piece of this comes in the form of the resort’s ability to immediately leverage guest data and put it to good use enhancing the customers’ experience (through “moments of convenience,” for example), and thereby making the brand more likely to get repeat bookings.
  • In today’s market, hotels and resorts are now “investing in technology that personalizes, simplifies, and automates every facet of the guest journey from beginning to end, smoothly and seamlessly.” For a family, this could mean the difference between an amazing experience at a brand’s resort and one that goes on the “never again” list for family vacations.
  • Industry expert Dave Berkus notes that the convergence of PMS (property management systems), CRS (central reservation systems), CRMs (customer relationship management systems) is a slow-but-steady trend largely due to the increased costs associated. He states that grouping the systems (and others) into a tech stack is the only next step for hoteliers and resort brand owners.
  • Experts state that this move toward increased integration and automation will be affected by several major trends in hotel tech: increases in “chatbots, assistants, AI, and Big Data;” a shift to “mobile everything;” an increased number of “smart rooms;” an increased methods of “self-service;” increases in “blockchain technology and on-demand workforce;” and “tech-powered improvement of hotel processes.”
  • Marriott is one brand that offers a selection of hotels and resorts focused on families, and that puts a lot toward seamless integration and smart hotel functionalities. They offer family-focused resorts in Florida, California, and Mexico, and have partnered with Samsung and Legrand to “launch the global hospitality industry’s first Internet of Things (or IoT) hotel room[s].”

Increased Preferences for All-Inclusive Resorts

  • Hospitality Net reports that not quite half of Millennials “list all-inclusive resorts as a top choice for their vacation stays.” Of families that took vacations in 2019, 15% opted for an all-inclusive resort for their stay, with an additional 28% stating they planned to vacation at one of these resorts in the near future.
  • Reasons for choosing all-inclusive resorts include the preference for knowing that everything is taken care of and there will be no need to have cash-on-hand, the immediate availability of cultural and interesting activities, the chance to have an adventure one day and relax the next with no restrictions, and the array of options, like menu choices for example, available at resorts. For families, these reasons are even more on-point.
  • All-inclusive resorts can offer a cheaper alternative to families, as well. When everything is included accommodations, meals and snacks, drinks (including alcohol in many cases), child care, activities (night and day), and often airfare and hotel-to-airport transport, it can be a lot easier for parents to manage on tighter budgets. Additionally, this helps many parents avoid the “nickel-and-dimed-to-death” feeling that can often arise when every aspect of the trip is separated.
  • Since getting the “best value/price for our budget” is the top concern for most parents (75%) taking their kids on vacation and “close proximity to attractions and activities” ranks second important (at 72%), it only makes sense that these types of resorts would be inviting to this demographic.
  • ResearchGate shows that among children’s top interests for things to do on vacation are the usual pool, theme/amusement/water park, playgrounds, nature activities, and historical sites; additionally, 27% of kids vote in favor of staying at resorts with kids’ clubs.
  • All-inclusive family resorts often focus on a particular aspect of fun for the whole family, and provide alone time and together time for all family members. Experts on children and on family travel agree, and the statistics of skip-generational travel prove parents need time away from their kids even when they’re traveling together.
  • Among the “10 best all-inclusive family resorts for 2019” are the Woodloch Resort in Pennsylvania, a 1200-acre resort in the Pocono Mountains," which features a huge selection of activities for kids, adults, and both including a year-round ice-skating rink and a go-kart track; Tyler Place in Vermont that specializes in keeping kids busy all day long while the adults relax with a game of golf, a massage, or sitting in on an art workshop; and Mohonk Mountain House in New York, a Victorian castle in the Hudson Valley, which offers a relaxing schedule or one jam-packed with mountain-based activities.
  • The Hilton La Romana is one example of a popular all-inclusive family resort. This resort features an array of gourmet dining options with no reservations necessary, in-room and concierge services, a wide selection of daytime and nighttime activities and entertainment, private clubs for kids and teenagers (plus one for adults-only, as well), a fitness center, a pool with a built-in private beach, and a variety of other entertainment options. Activities include those on-premises, as well as events and activities through local partnerships.

Increased Preference Toward Eco-Friendliness

  • More than half (60%) of US travelers took an eco-friendly trip within the last year, and hotels and resorts all over the US (and the world) are stepping up, “answering the call with energy-efficient building systems, green building ratings and certification systems, and by promoting themselves as eco-friendly” destinations. Some resorts and hotels are encouraging eco-friendly practices, like using sensors or auto-functions to turn off the lights and A/C when a guest leaves a room or having towel/lined reuse policies in place.
  • Globally, over half (55%) of travelers state they are making more sustainable travel choices, with nearly three-quarters (70%) stating they be “more likely to book an accommodation knowing it was eco-friendly.” Of these travelers, nearly half (40%) state they “choose to stay in eco-friendly places to help reduce environmental impact.” Notably, a whopping 73% stated they planned to stay at a “green accommodation” within the coming year.
  • StayNTouch notes that this movement (in the US and globally) toward eco-friendliness is “more than a trend it’s on its way to becoming the new normal.” Hotels and resorts that embrace this not only see increased satisfaction rates from guests, they also see leaner and more profitable returns.
  • Resorts that cater to earth-centered lifestyles, like veganism, are increasing in popularity. With the rise in food intolerances and allergies, resorts catering to these needs (like gluten-free menus, as an example) are finding success. Additionally, resorts that offer micro-mobility options that are eco-friendly like scooters or bikes on which to ride around the property (or to nearby activities) are becoming increasingly popular.
  • Woodloch Resort, mentioned previously, was voted “USA Today’s #1 family resort in America” (along with multiple other awards), and partners with multiple organizations to keep the resort as eco-friendly as possible (like the Delaware Highlands Conservancy Green Lodging Partnership).
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Family Resort Industry Disruptors

Technological developments and consumers’ growing interest in sustainability have been disrupting the hotel and hospitality industry in the United States for several years now. In the country’s family resort industry, however, there are two new disruptors, namely, gramping or skip-generation travel and the truly digitally-native Generation Alpha. These two latest disruptors are discussed below.

Gramping or Skip-Generation Travel

  • Gramping, otherwise known as skip-gen travel, is travel that involves only grandparents and their grandchildren. This could mean grandparents taking their grandchildren on a trip and giving the parents of these grandchildren some time off.
  • Both the Family Travel Association and the NYU School of Professional Studies Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality note the strength of this trend in the United States, so it is likely that family resorts in the country are already feeling the impact of this trend.
  • The 2019 U.S. Family Travel Survey commissioned by these two organizations shows that, of grandparents in the country, 17% have gone on a gramping trip in the last three years, and 37% are inclined to take their grandchildren on a gramping trip in the following three years. Skip-generation travel has been found to be more common than multi-generational travel.
  • Grandparents travel with their grandchildren because they enjoy spending time with them (76%), they believe gramping is a really good way for them to bond with their grandchildren (75%), and their grandchildren enjoy spending time with them (68%).
  • Family resorts are expected to adapt to this disruption by catering to skip-gen travelers’ vacation preferences. According to the 2019 U.S. Family Travel Survey, skip-gen travelers appear to favor day trips and weekend trips, with theme parks, water parks, and New York City emerging as the preferred destinations. Grandparents also seem to favor activities that they know will not compromise the safety and health of their grandchildren.
  • Marriott, which has its own roster of family resorts, is one example of a hospitality company that has already taken notice of gramping. It has already published an article describing this trend and promoting its gramping-friendly properties.
  • In said article, the company promoted the following properties: New York Marriott Downtown, Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel, Aloft Atlanta Downtown, the Westin Seattle, and Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. It also promoted activities such as scavenger hunts and visits to the museum, aquarium, and zoo.
  • It is likely that this disruption is being driven by the retirement of boomers. The family resort industry in Minnesota has noted that “boomers are retiring at record numbers.”

Generation Alpha

  • Generation Alpha pertains to the children of millennials or the generation that was born after 2010. Having grown up with the iPad and Instagram, both of which were launched in 2010, the generation is considered truly digitally-native.
  • Online travel agency Expedia found, through a survey of over 9,000 families with Gen Alphas in the United States and eight other developed countries, that Gen Alphas have a say in family travel planning.
  • Eighty percent of surveyed families say that they often talk travel with their Gen Alphas. Sixty percent also say that family travel ideas come from both adults and children in the family.
  • Forty-three percent of surveyed families say that their Gen Alphas influence their family travel decisions.
  • Given these findings, it is expected that family resorts will adjust their marketing strategy to cater to these Gen Alphas’ preferences. According to Expedia’s survey, Gen Alphas are influenced by information or imagery that highlight child-friendly activities or attractions (33%), travel-related information or imagery on television (30%), travel-related information or imagery online (27%), things they learn from friends or in school (27%), and things they learn from family members (27%).
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge in Florida, Waldorf Astoria’s Arizona Biltmore, and Kimpton Taconic Hotel in Vermont are three examples of family resorts in the United States that are highlighting child-friendly activities. Among the child-friendly activities they are highlighting are campfire activities, movies under the stars, cooking classes, arts and crafts, birdhouse building, and snowman building.

From Part 02
  • "Additionally, per capita spending by water park visitors has also increased during the period. As a result of these positive trends, IBISWorld expects industry revenue to expand an annualized 7.5% to $5.1 billion over the five years to 2019, including a projected 1.5% increase in 2019 alone. "
  • ""We’re seeing companies provide products that interface with all the ticketing and payment companies, in all the turnstiles and all the lockers,” said Michael Turner, Vice President of Global Business Development at The Producers Group. “They’re able to track guest movements and ridership, providing insight into park throughputs and visitor flow.”"
  • "This statistic shows the number of waterparks in the United States in 2019, by type. Of a total of 1,158 waterparks in the United States in 2019, 75 were resorts with outdoor waterparks."
  • "Adding elements of gamification is one more way you can get closer to your guests. It offers them an enhanced experience they will remember. Any time a guest participates in their experience at your park, it becomes more personalized and therefore more enjoyable for them. Whether young or old, most guests enjoy playing games and winning prizes. It’s a simple concept that, when supported by RFID technology, can be easy to implement at any theme park or event."