Accesso, Village Roadshow partnership creates model for pandemic reemergence

AT: David Fake

ORLANDO — The COVID-19 pandemic forced almost all service industry companies to take a good, hard look at their operations as well as reevaluate and strategize almost every aspect of their business models. In some way, Spring/Summer 2020 can be likened to the Dark Ages for many industries, especially the amusement and attractions industry. At this same time, however, Accesso Technology Group plc,had already been preparing the way for a renaissance of their own. 

In November 2018, Accesso and Village Roadshow Theme Parks, Australia’s largest theme park operator, announced a partnership that marked the first holistic integration of Accesso solutions: ticketing, eCommerce, point of sale, virtual queuing, distribution and guest experience.

At the time the deal was announced, it was questionable if either company could have predicted that this partnership would become a benchmark for the industry in 2020/2021. It is probable that both companies had foreseen the success of the collaboration, since the two companies had solid business models and proven products/services. Yet, this was to be only a portion of the success that was to come post-pandemic shutdown. After all, at the time of the announcement no one had heard of COVID-19 and the word “pandemic” was still mostly relegated to science fiction and horror movies.

However, when COVID-19 did reach Australia in 2020, Accesso’s technology had exceeded its original purpose. That original intent was to power revenue performance, service, and customer engagement, but this was only a portion of the reason the partnership became integral to the reopening of Village Roadshow Theme Parks’ attractions. 

The best way to paint the full picture of how Accesso’s solutions made a smooth reopening possible for Village Roadshow Theme Parks is to examine Accesso through three different, but equally important lenses: product, leadership and service/delivery. 

Accesso’s award-winning solutions are currently used by more than 1,000 venues in 30 countries around the globe to streamline operations, generate increased revenues, improve guest satisfaction, and harness the power of data to educate business and marketing decisions. 

These products include the award-winning Accesso Passport ticketing suite, Accesso LoQueue — a patented suite of virtual queuing solutions — Accesso Siriusware point-of-sale ticketing, the Accesso ShoWare box office ticketing suite, the Ingresso global distribution system and The Experience Engine (TE2), a guest experience management platform, acquired by Accesso in 2017, that empowers attraction and venue operators to deliver personalization at scale. Each of these products has had a particular application during — and after — the current global crisis.

Contactless technology itself is certainly not new. For years, Accesso has delivered this technology and theme parks and attractions operators have “dipped their toes in the water” as the company rolled out new functionalities and advanced the design of its products to align with and improve the individual guest experience and further drive revenue — on and off-site.

However, when COVID-19 took hold, the timeline for what Accesso refers to as the “smart park of the future” accelerated exponentially. Venues had to prepare for safe reopening, while navigating changes to guests’ activities in ways that no one could have predicted.

Accesso’s adaptable and scalable technologies are helping the theme park group manage change at an incredibly challenging time. The company’s solutions have always leveraged emerging technology designed to enhance the guest experience, and at the same time these technologies have also unearthed new and unique ways to drive revenue. This remained true throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Operators have needed to rethink the ways technology could be used to facilitate safe operations. Without compromising the quality and convenience of their guests’ experiences.

As COVID-19 shuttered venues around the world, Accesso worked quickly to adapt its technologies to help operators adjust to and overcome new and emerging challenges. They found that much of that legwork was already done, in progress, or charted as future development. These adaptations and evolution required by the pandemic and the role Accesso’s products play in that evolution are outlined in the company’s white paper, “Re-Imagining the Guest Journey in the Age of COVID-19,” from which portions of this article have been sourced and is available for download from the company’s website.

The TE2 guest experience management platform has evolved significantly under Accesso’s ownership; today, the solution serves to bridge the physical and digital aspects of a guest’s journey, giving operators insight-driven access to every step of a guest’s journey — pre-, during and post-visit. The solution empowers operators to deliver personalization at scale by enabling them to leverage existing customer data along with real-time location and behavior, which they can use to deliver personalized, contextual messaging, recommendations and offers to guests at just the right time and place. 

The use of technology solutions like Accesso’s guest experience platform can empower operators to offer contactless payment options and establish unique guest profiles through a centralized guest identity and stored wallet feature. This links mobile F&B purchases and restaurant arrival bookings to develop a robust guest profile.

“Our guest experience management platform allows operators to take personalization to new heights and maximize the value of each and every guest visit,” said Accesso’s CEO, Steve Brown. “The modern guest expects the power to navigate every element of their experience from the palm of their hand, and our mobile-first solution makes that expectation a reality.”

Virtual queuing technology itself is far from new. Accesso has been partnering with clients for years, leveraging its Accesso LoQueue solution to help guests step out of physical queues, wait less and enjoy more.

“Our virtual queuing team has over 20 years of experience helping clients install, launch and optimize their virtual queuing operations,” said Andrew Jacobs, CCO. “Over the past two decades, our patented suite of solutions has evolved and grown as we’ve worked closely with our partners around the globe to uncover new ways to free guests from long lines.”  

This same technology also interprets into a contactless experience, the demand for which both hit a new high and took a giant leap forward while much of the world was figuratively — and literally — standing still. 

While the core benefits of virtual queuing technology hold true, the pandemic revealed new potential use cases. Operators have harnessed the power of virtual queuing in new ways which are unlikely to disappear once the pandemic is in the rearview. For instance, implementing virtual queues for retail or dining locations.

Accesso adapted its 100% Virtual Queuing model in response to the pandemic to support venues in safe and successful reopening. Now operators can make the formerly premium add-on available to all guests at an operator-selected list of popular, in-venue rides and attractions.

By integrating Accesso Passport, Accesso LoQueue and Accesso’s guest experience platform technologies across the three Village Roadshow properties, Accesso set a new operational standard for the attractions industry, engaging with guests at every potential touchpoint and gathering critical data each step of the way — from the moment they decide to purchase a ticket, through their time onsite and once they’ve returned home. 

Ultimately, Accesso is providing operators the same advanced technology as before the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have advanced its offerings in a way that meets multiple needs. Operators now have the chance to become true architects of the future. They can leverage technology that helps keep guests safe, while further enhancing the experiences they came to know and love prior to the pandemic, all while driving revenue and operational success.

The Accesso story began almost 20 years prior to the pandemic when the ticketing solutions company was founded in late 2000. The company’s success was not instantaneous, and it entered bankruptcy protection almost immediately, only reemerging in 2007 under the leadership of then-Principal and CEO,Steve Brown. The invaluable ticketing strategy, sales, revenue management and product development experience Brown had amassed during his years at such large industry players as Walt Disney World, Walt Disney Company and Six Flags proved itself quickly, as he immediately landed such key clients as Six Flags Entertainment, Cedar Fair Entertainment, Palace Entertainment and Herschend Family Entertainment.

In 2012 British company Lo-Q PLC and Accesso merged  via a $22 million deal. While Lo-Q’s Tom Burnet retained the title CEO under the merger, Brown stayed on and became a board member and COO of North American operations. After landing a long-term agreement with Merlin Entertainments Group, several title changes and overseeing the acquisition and product integration of multiple additional ticket services and guest experience management companies, Brown departed Accesso in 2018. However, he again reemerged as CEO just prior to the pandemic in early 2020 and has successfully guided the company through the past two years.

Brown’s leadership returning to Accesso has been so strong that by the end of Q3 2021, the company had returned to form and was positioned again at pre-pandemic performance levels, projecting it would close the year with revenue at “no less than $124 million.”

“Since the company’s founding, our goal at Accesso has remained the same: to deliver best-in-class technology solutions that enhance the guest experience and drive operational revenue,” said Brown. “Today, we’re proud to serve as the solutions provider to forward-thinking operators from around the globe, working hand-in-hand with each partner to meet and exceed the expectations of their valued guests.”

But superior products and strong leadership alone could not produce the kind of success Accesso has seen without an exceptional team continually striving to reach the next level of success by adapting and enhancing their products and solutions, doing their best to anticipate the next challenge around the corner.

It is the combinations of product, leadership, and a dedicated team that have produced the third, final, and most important factor of Accesso’s success.

Village Roadshow Theme Parks’ improved operating performance, high-yield ticketing strategy, continued focus on customer experience, and careful cost management are supported by “everything that Steve and his team have done for us,” says Bikash Randhawa, chief operating officer at Village Roadshow Theme Parks, which includes Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World, and Wet’n’Wild, along with seven other venues.  “We are where we are today because Accesso has delivered above and beyond everything they had promised.”

While the pandemic forced attraction operators like Village Roadshow Theme Parks to take a hiatus, it also gave them time to reevaluate everything. “The biggest thing I’ve taken away from this difficult year is the importance of a good team and terrific partners.

“When technology delivers the right outcomes, we are happy to spread the word,” added Randhawa. “If service, quality, and consistency flow throughout the theme parks industry, that’s good for all of us.”

This article appears in the JANUARY 2022 issue of Amusement Today.
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