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June 6, 2022

2022 Summer Travel Industry Trends

2022 Summer Travel Industry Trends published “Must-Know Travel Industry Trends For the 2022 High Season” and we dig into the report and discuss some key takeaways. We also discuss the Shanghai reopening, Castaway Cove’s staffing, the live production of “The Greatest Show On... published “Must-Know Travel Industry Trends For the 2022 High Season” and we dig into the report and discuss some key takeaways. We also discuss the Shanghai reopening, Castaway Cove’s staffing, the live production of “The Greatest Show On Earth,” and new announcements from Matel Adventure Park. Download the report here ( and read the show notes here:


Philip: From our studios, this time in Orlando and Tampa, both in Florida, this is Green Tagged Theme Park in 30. I'm Philip and I'm joined by my co-host, Scott Swenson of Scott Swenson Creative Development. 

Scott: And I got to say Philip, you are wearing a very snazzy shirt. You're wearing a very Florida shirt right now. For those of you who can't see it, it's actually skeletons riding surfboards. Only Philip, or me I suppose, but it looks great on you, and I wanted to compliment you because I'm usually the one who has the ridiculous shirts on, but no, you win this week. 

Philip: I brought my game to Florida for my visit here.

Scott: There you go, there you go. 

Philip: OK, well let's start off with our first story. There's a new report out, and it's the must know travel industry trends for the 2022 season. Sorry, I just, this title was so clickbaity when I saw this and I thought that it was going to be one of those, I don't know, like the USA TODAY lists of like top rides or whatever, it was actually a surprisingly useful report. 

Scott: So, less clickbaity than it originally appeared. 

Philip: Yeah, it's like wow, OK, that copywriter, OK. Basically, this was from a ticketing company and they surveyed 2000 people across the US between the ages of 18 and 65 who travel for different reasons, and it's a like a 22-page report, but I kind of broke down the stuff I thought was most important for discussion today and I'll go through some of these points and then we can talk about it. 

So, 26% report that they have always extended a business trip to take advantage of some leisure time, and on average when they do that, they visit nearly three attractions per business trip--which is huge. How much they spend on these attractions, they spend between $40 and $59, and they spend a little bit more for theme parks $60 to $80 basically. Then, a little bit about when they go. 58% reveal that they travel while working remotely, which we talked about that, we'll talk about it more. Then, when they are traveling for work, or when they're extending the trip, or in any of these situations, they prefer to go in the morning to the attractions--which I thought would be the opposite--and then 44% have time constraints and they book last minute. Which makes sense, because if you're working, you're not sure if you're going to be able to go to something when you finish work or not. Then they have time constraints, 43% tried to get reimbursed for that, so they're looking for something that kind of ties in with their work a little bit. 35% do little research, they just kind of realize they have an evening free basically and then stumble into the nearby museum, you know? Then 31% are actually nervous about going alone to whatever they're going to.

So, this is the first chunk of the report and I thought it was fascinating because I think we talked about this in terms of the new normal, the Airbnb stuff, and where people would end up after the pandemic and this whole thing. So, what do you think, Scott? 

Scott: Well, it's funny, because as somebody who travels quite a bit for business, first of all, I want to know how they're extending their trips. I'm usually going from one place, then I go home, change my luggage and go to the next. So, I'm not necessarily in the norm when it comes to extending, per se, a business trip. I will say though, the rest of it is pretty spot on. Although I prefer to visit attractions in the morning, I'm actually usually working at attractions in the morning and my time usually happens in the afternoon. So, I think that's just unique to what I do, but you know the idea of booking last minute completely, understand that. In fact, 9 times out of 10 I'll walk in in the morning, have a meeting with somebody, and then say, "OK, so we're not doing anything this afternoon, my flight doesn't leave until such and such a time, what can I go check out?" I get some local recommendations and then book at the last minute. So, totally understand that.

As far as getting reimbursed, I very rarely actually almost never ask my client unless they've asked me to go check something out. However, in my industry it is considered research, so quite often if I'm going to another attraction, it's not reimbursed, but it is a write-off. So, I try to look for things like that that are somehow related to a project that I'm either working on or a client that I actually have, so that I can justify that as a write-off at the end of the year. 

Yeah, I don't do a ton of research. I will say that it's the low-hanging fruit that I approach. Although, I will also say that when I say low-hanging fruit, it's low-hanging fruit based on what I'm told by the people around. For example, when I was in Philadelphia, I had three people say, "have you been to the Mütter Museum?" Knowing that I have a very dark side when it comes to Halloween, and the Mütter Museum is a museum of historic medical oddities. Yeah, it's not for everybody, it is weird as all get out, but it's really cool and really well done. So that was kind of the thing. It's like, "Oh, well, I got to find out more on the Mütter Museum." I found out its location, that was pretty much the research that I did. I even had a panic moment as I was walking up to it like, "is it open? I probably should have researched their hours as well." 

Then as far as nervous about going alone, I'm fine. I actually prefer to go alone because that way I don't have to do what anybody else wants to do. I can take things at my own pace, and I can focus on the things I want to focus on and bypass the things that are aren't necessarily of interest to me. But again, I'm not afraid of being alone pretty much anytime because I travel alone, most of the time. So, that's kind of how it fits in with my world. But I do totally understand this, and I'm really glad to see that there is now some documentation on this. 

What this says to me is for the industry, is you can probably start to cater to these business travelers. You can probably find ways to maybe... Everybody thinks about doing discounts that are later in the day, you might want to get with the local hotel concierge and try to do business traveler morning discounts. So, you can give them and it doesn't even necessarily have to be something you advertised, maybe it's something that only the concierge knows about and they will say, "XYZ Zoo or XYZ theme park, if you want to check that out, if you arrive within the first hour, I can give you a coupon for 25% off." And just target that to your business traveler, target that through the hotels. 

Philip: Yeah, I love that idea. That's exactly what I was thinking. I was also thinking, in my own lens too, I actually don't like to go alone. Actually, I'm the opposite of Scott. I don't like to go alone, it makes me feel awkward at particular times, especially if it's a place that kind of caters to families. I'm obviously a Disney nerd, and so I always feel weird like, "oh here I am, like wandering around Disney by myself." I'm always the guy who is like, "ugh, these parents and children."

Scott: t was a little creepy the last time I went to the Children's Museum, I'm just saying, because I went by myself. So, it's like, "Hi, I'm here for the Children's Museum."

Philip: Yeah, it gets a little eh. So, I prefer to go for reasons. But I love this idea of thinking about how can we capture these travelers? I was thinking that just earlier this week, where I was thinking I wanted to go see an exhibit at a museum, but I could only go, basically, after work or before work, so I only had like half a day and they only had one ticket option, which was a full day ticket option. I'm like, "well, yeah, but what if I want to show up at 5 and it closes at 6? Do I still want to pay the full price for that last hour?" I'm like, "I only need to go in and see this one thing, that's what I kind of want to do." I think that's what this report is saying, is that if you're in town for a thing, you're staying at the hotel nearby, or like you're across the street from a museum, and you might want to jump over there after work for something to do, then think about how you can cater to the people that are in those situations. There's apparently a lot of them, and there's also a lot of people that are traveling while also working. So, they'll be working on their computers in their Airbnbs in the day, but then they'll have something to do, or the flip side of that, yeah? 

So, the next phase of this has to do with upsells that I thought was the most interesting. I don't know, surprise, surprise but something we've been talking about is, most of the things that people are willing to pay for involve interactions with other people that are kind of velvet rope situations. So, 30% were interested in interactions with animals, those extra touches, the subsets of animals. 27% are interested in seasonal activations or seasonal specials, that kind of stuff. 25% are interested in behind-the-scenes tours. Then it plots down to only 21% being interested in food and beverage and 21% being interested in skipping the line. 

What I'm seeing behind that is that it's like the bare minimum, the lowest hanging fruit, is for you to have F&B and skip the line, and those type of things, because they don't really involve a lot of extra work in terms of you don't have to design special programming for that, you just add a ticket option that skips the queue and you train your staff and you're good. For food and beverage, you should already be doing that anyway, so it's not really too much of an extra lift; you know, food and beverage and merchandise. 

But if you really want to entice more people, then it's about that developing an exclusive program. So, developing the behind scenes tour, developing an interaction with animals or special interaction, or behind-the-scenes thing or something. Those all require a little bit extra work, but there's people that are more interested in them rather than the lower-hanging fruit. So, I think the takeaway is if you don't have the low singing fruit use, do it right now. Then, if you don't have something that's a little bit extra to add on, you should also consider doing that. 

Scott: And if you are looking for something that's a little bit extra to add on, these things all fall into one of two categories. They're either timesavers or they are immersive things guests can't do without the up charge without the additional velvet rope access. So, I think it's important to recognize that as we are developing new and unique things for our own attraction. I agree with Philip 100%, skip the line, that is printing money. Back in back in the day when I was working in theme park, more in an operational sense, we would never "sell-out" of tours, because one person on a tour pays for the labor for someone to run that tour. One person. So, gosh, you got a group of 10? Yeah, we're always going to find somebody who can make that tour work. There are some operational challenges, yes, but it is something that has very little investment. 

All of these things, with the exception of seasonal activation, which actually does require some planning and forethought. Animal interactions, working with so many zoos, this is good for the animals too. It gives them more activation, for example, there are feeding opportunities, there are tactile opportunities, and there are training opportunities. It gives them something to do. I've been doing a lot of work with dolphins recently, for example, so guest interaction with dolphins just keeps the dolphins interested. So, it's a win-win. You make money off of reinforcing your dolphin population. 

Philip: And the final chunk that I thought was interesting from this report. Again, we're trying to convince 22 pages here like a few minutes, but the final chunk that was interesting was really the marketing side. Where do people learn about your attraction? I'll go through them, but basically, it's kind of even in the 32% to 34%. 34% is search, 33% is travel blogs, 32% is ticket booking sites and 32% is social media, specifically Instagram. So, on its surface, you may think, "Oh yeah, that makes sense." But let me just put this in perspective, think maybe like 10 years ago how it has changed since then. The fact that now there's four main areas that are pretty evenly divided and it is, search, travel blogs, booking sites, and then that social media is just as important as search ranking and travel blogs. In travel blogs, they include everything like they include National Geographic, the Travel Channel as well as the Time Out, that's all in that one section. So, their influence is shrunk to being just on the level of social media, and I think we talked about that before, but those little things about when you have your media night, how important is it to invite a TikTok influencer or an Instagram influencer out to make a 60-second overview of your attraction? Oh, it turns out it's just as important as you trying to get on Time Out. This turns out, surprise, surprise. 

Scott: Well and the two things that I notice from this particular, from this particular data, is of all of the top four things, none of them are print media, and none of them are purchased television advertising. So, I find that very interesting number one, and that's a huge change from the way it was when I first started in the industry. So, that's a huge shift, and I know how much it costs to do TV media, and for some of the larger parks or larger attractions, you still have to, just from a standpoint of presence. But it does not translate nearly as well, certainly with these people who travel for business or business-pleasure hybrid. It doesn't translate, it doesn't translate into dollars in your pocket.

The other thing that I think is very interesting is, if you look at these four topics, if you break it down, you're at about 130%, so it's obvious that people get information from multiple sources. So, you know, a search engine and then it's reinforced on a ticketing site, or social media and then it's reinforced in a travel blog. So, what it suggests to me, and again I'm just trying to read through the mire of the data. But what it suggests to me is you need to make certain that you appear in multiple places so that that repetition reinforces, "oh, I heard about this on such and such, let me search it," and it comes up at the top of your search engine. So, I think it's important to have that sense of repetition of, "here they say it's good and here they say it's good." I mean, if you're like me, I don't even make large purchases without finding at least three different places that have good reviews. So, the same is true with attractions. 

So, to reinforce what Philip was saying, don't underestimate the power of that social media influencer. Do not underestimate it, because that may be the gateway to the search engine, which you're you know, obviously going to have to invest more time and money into. That may then lead to the ticket booking site, which obviously is going to take a little bit more of investment. But that first touch point may be that social media person, and all of these things seem to work together. 

I mean, I'm certainly not an expert when it comes to online media algorithms, but all of these things, I believe, reinforce one another. Philip, you're more of an expert in this area than I am, so I'm sure you can either tell me I'm completely wrong or reinforce this, but it seems to me that the more anything gets attention on the Internet, the more it rises to the surface. I don't know. 

Philip: I would say, back in my day, when I started in marketing, the guest needed to come across your stuff like about 7 times. Ah gosh, marketing is one of those fields where everyone wants to make it seem like it's really complicated, but actually, it's really simple and it's really just the guests that are coming to your attraction, what do they pay attention to, and are you there wherever they're paying attention? That's basically it. Then, you just think about how many times you have to tell even your significant other, or your friends or your family something, it's really more than once, and so that that's it. You just take this thing together like, OK. So, back in my day, it was seven times, and now it's 14 because of the amount of information that comes across here. So, 14 touch points before they will really, you know, buy a ticket. Unless, like they said in this report, they're a business traveler who's really trying to make a decision very, very fast. So, at that point, it's really just, like Scott said, probably just a quick search on Google, on Maps, on YouTube, or on Instagram. You know, go to any of those places and use them as search engines that just say, "something in this area to see", and then they'll pull up content for it. The proliferations are definitely proliferated a lot more than it has.

The nasty little thing I think that a lot of attractions get wrong is when they survey people, generally, people only remember the last place that they've heard about your attraction. That's why it's hard to say like these people didn't mention billboards and all that, but it might have just been that when they landed at the airport they saw a billboard or an ad for this museum and it kind of got filed in the back of their brain because at that point they weren't ready to receive the message because they were there to work. But then, flash forward two days and they have an extra afternoon, and they do a search, and that museum came comes up in search as a top-three museum. Well, then they remember they saw a sign for it in the airport and they're like, "oh, this place." But then if you ask them on the survey, they'll say, "I googled it." That's really more how these things work. So, your data is not always accurate with that just because of the way people remember things. 

Scott: Well and I think it's also important to recognize that I think, and this is true with me, if I had taken this survey, what I would have said in the survey was the thing that actually tricked me into buying a ticket. So, you're right, Philip, it's the last thing because obviously, that's what's going to make you go ahead and say, "OK I'll do it." The other thing that I want people to keep in mind too is, I will very rarely do just a blind search of what am I going to do this afternoon. I will rarely say, "what museums are nearby." Instead, I will search "what do I need to do in," selected city? And it's fascinating what comes up because they're not always the biggest attractions, it's not always based on the amount of money spent on the buy of media, it's based on what people are talking about. So, it's interesting, so just be aware of that when you're planning your search strategy. 

Philip: Yeah, OK, well if you want to read the full report, we're going to put the link to that in our show notes. It's one of those things we would go in and you opt-in to their email list and then you can download the report. So, it is behind a little bit of a gate, but that's OK. 

So, let's move on finally. Parks in Shanghai can now reopen after the lifting with lock down. Some parks and resorts in Shanghai, China are planning to reopen to the public after a two-month coronavirus lockdown was lifted in the city on Wednesday. Let's see, Shanghai Disney has yet to announce our opening date, and Universal Beijing is still closed and has not... So, kind of not really announcing opening dates yet as this, at least at the time of this recording that this came out. I'm just going to add on my own little experience here. You know, our factory, of course, was located in the lockdown zone, and our factory is reopening on Monday. I'm just going to say, this is something that we should be paying attention to in the attractions industry on any end that you are on it. If you are an attraction, I guarantee you, something that you're trying to get for your supplies is coming from that area that is locked down. You may not think it, but it definitely is coming from there and the lock-down is going to definitely impact you, your new openings or your supply chains and all that kind of stuff. For us, we're planning to reopen on Monday, but that means that we're we basically added eight weeks of lead time to our current orders. 

Cough, cough, sorry, Universal, sorry. 

So, we're adding those extra lead times. But also, we know, and we're trying to communicate this to our clients as well, that could change as well, it doesn't mean they're going to stay open. The policy there in China is still there, they're trying to keep the zero COVID policy, and honestly, that is impossible right now in my opinion with the strain, the new, new, new, new, new, new, new variant, whatever it's called now, which is more contagious than the previous ones we've known. Then, their vaccination rates are not as high in particular areas, especially when they're elderly there in Shanghai. So, we're not certain that this is going to be open even that long, it could shut down at any moment. So, where can I just telling everybody, we're like, "look, so again, we're back where we were like in 2020 in China with this area where it could shut down any minute, we're unsure." Also, to give a little bit more insight, remember we talked about the app that they have where you're logging information, you have your code on it? Well, people that are working there, so our employees there, have to regularly test almost every day to go into the office and they have to submit their test results into the app, and if they get tested positive, then like they're shutting down the whole area and they have to stay home, and it's doing this contact tracing thing. I mean, it's a mess. So, I'm just saying it's complicated, it's a mess, just be aware this is going to impact you in some way. I promise.

Scott: It kind of goes back to what we said at the very beginning, you know, almost when we started doing this podcast. That is, anytime you have the opportunity to establish multiple supply chains, do it, take advantage of it, even if it costs you a little bit more every now and then to keep a vendor going that has supply chain from a different location. I will admit, in many cases, a lot of certain types of things only come from China. Anytime you have the opportunity to open yourself up and to continue to maintain multiple parallel supply chains, it will help you in the long run, and it's not something that you can do after you're in trouble, because those multiple supply chains will immediately get overwhelmed. 

As you're looking forward, you know if you stay ready, you don't have to get ready, if you stay prepared for a shutdown, you don't have to get ready for when it happens. So, continue to explore that, continue to research that, multiple supply chains will benefit you, and in the long run will also benefit suppliers so if they don't have this logjam when all of a sudden, the things open or they lose clients. I mean, for example, you decide, "you know what? I'm not going to work with you anymore, I'll find someone else." Yes, well that's not good for any organization either. Continue to find ad research and explore multiple ways to get what you need. Obviously, find the one that is most cost-effective for you, delivers the highest quality product, the product that you're looking for, but keep the relationships open with those other ones so that in this uncertain time you're able to continue to do what you need to do in a timely manner. 

Philip: Well, another piece in the supply chain is the manpower, that is also a piece of this, and we're starting to see some stories trickle in. I'm sure you've heard probably in the mainstream media this past week about the whole lifeguard shortage, or at least I heard it. I was like a rolling my eyes a little bit, just because, as usual, mainstream doesn't cover the nuances in our industry. That's OK. But we have one story here from Castaway Cove that has been trimming their hours due to shortages. The park operator said they've trimmed one hour a day from its schedule throughout the summer to keep staff in a single shift rather than two. The new hours are 11:30 AM. 7:30 PM Sunday through Friday, and then 10:30 AM. 7:30 PM on Saturdays. So, these are definitely going to start trickling in, and you will see them in other places as well, we've talk about the F&B and all that. So, it continues to be important to get your staff in. I'm not sure I agree with the one shift thing either honestly, and we've talked about this too about how doing half shifts that are more flexible might be a better situation in this, and then to be able to bring in your teams, or stagger them if somebody needs to leave early for childcare or whatnot, then you have a more staggered approach. But I don't know, I'm not running this water park. 

Scott: Well, I think, Philip, you brought up a good point and that is, you need to be, as an employer, aware of what is best for your employees. You need to be in constant contact. This is something that has just been good advice long before COVID ever... well, we ever knew that it existed. Just make sure that in a situation where staffing is difficult, make sure you are providing what your staff needs, not what you think your staff needs. That may be what they've done at Castaway Cove, I don't know either. They may have said," well, this way we, because people don't want to come in and work half a day, they feel like they're getting cheated somehow, their whole day is shot, and they don't get 8 hours of pay." OK, well that's fine. To your point, flexibility is going to allow you... if you are flexible as an employer, the people that you can bring in as employees become more flexible as well, and it expands significantly. So, if you have somebody who can only work half a day and has childcare issues, great be open to that as well. I think that's the real takeaway. Recognize what your staffing base needs and do everything you can as a company to accommodate that so that you can remain appropriately staffed. 

Philip: OK, well our next few stories have to deal with brands and IPs. Feld Entertainment is bringing back their Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey with performances in late 2023. They're bringing back the live production of The Greatest Show on Earth, debuting in fall 2023, so next fall. This got covered quite a bit last week, and the article that we're going to do is the InPark Magazine article. I think what a lot of people focused on in the coverage was that they are not bringing back animals as part of the show. To me, that wasn't the biggest takeaway. To me, the biggest takeaway, which is what's highlighted here in the InPark Magazine, is that they're basically incorporating technology into the show. What they said in the article is, " New technologies and a 360-degree experience will break down the barriers between the performers and attendees. Additionally, each show will incorporate interactive elements that engage the audience, ensuring that every performance is unique."

Also, one of the show designers said in the interview is also that they're going to be looking at incorporating guest-generated content as well. So, to me those are the bigger takeaway, it's like they're taking an older show and that they had to close to the pandemic, and they're bringing it up to date with current trends, which is a more 360 design and user generated content, and not as much reliance on the, I think the old-style animal acts. That's how I would phrase it. I would not phrase it like they're dropping animals from it, I would phrase it like they're updating it to the current entertainment trends.

Scott: What I'm telling all of my clients, guests no longer want things to watch, they want things to do. This is a perfect example of that. They are providing the audience at The Greatest Show on Earth with things to do as opposed to just things to watch. They want to be involved. 

Philip: Probably our last story here, as we're getting down to time, is the Mattel Adventure park has announced their next two licenses, or areas that they're putting in. This is the park that's coming out in Arizona, and they're adding Barbie and Masters of The Universe. So, the newly announced attractions include at Barbie Beach House that features a Barbie flying theater to take riders on a journey from underwater to outer space. Other Barbie themed experiences are the Dream Closet Experience, which uses state-of-the-art hologram technology to bring Barbie life, and a Barbie Rooftop where guests enjoy panoramic views from the roof of Barbie Beach house while they sipped signature pink beverages. And their Masters of the Universe iconic Castle Grey Skull will be transformed into a 4500 square foot state-of-the-art laser tag arena that brings a world of Eternia into life and invites players to join an epic battle to regain the power of the universe. 

What do all these things have in common, Scott? 

Scott: Well, I mean, this is, again, all immersive, this is all things to do. Let's face it, if you think back to why kids liked Barbie, or why kids liked Masters of the Universe, it is because there are things that they did. They picked up the dolls, they made them interact with one another, they created their own stories, they sometimes with Barbies, cut their hair, expecting it to grow back, you know? But it was all interactive, it was all immersive and with these kinds of brands with the Mattel Adventure brands, it only makes sense. If you're going to take something that we all remember as something cool to play with, we might as well give people a whole new way to play with it, and that's exactly what this is. So, I think this is going to be very successful. It's on the right track based on all the other trends that we're seeing. Kudos, it sounds like fun. 

Philip: I think we're at time. Well, that's it for this week's Green Tagged Theme Park in 30. I'm Philip from the Haunted Attraction Network and Gantom Lighting, and that's Scott from Scott Swenson Creative Development, and we'll see you back here next week. 




Scott SwensonProfile Photo

Scott Swenson

Owner/Creative Director

For over 30 years, Scott Swenson has been a storyteller, bringing stories to life as a writer, director, producer and performer. His work in theme park, consumer events, live theatre and television has given him a broad spectrum of experiences. In 2014, after 21 years with SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Scott formed Scott Swenson Creative Development LLC. Since then he has been providing impactful experiences for clients around the world. Whether he is installing shows on cruise ships or creating seasonal festivals for theme parks, writing educational presentations for zoos and museums or directing successful fund raisers, Scott is always finding new ways to tell stories that engage and entertain.