Staffing concerns, security issues, and technological innovation are emerging interests for amusement operators in 2023.
Developing amusement and carnival industry trends
As the industry slowly returns to “normal” in the wake of the pandemic, several trends dominate headlines and vie for owners’ attention. Staffing shortages continue to plague amusement parks and carnivals of all sizes, leading some parks to reduce the number of attractions and cut operating hours. In addition, increased petty crime and vandalism have led many park managers to increase security measures and beef up safety standards. But these challenges have also spawned innovation. New technologies are springing up to address these and other issues facing the industry. This blog will examine these trends for amusement parks and carnivals.
Like many sectors, the amusement parks and carnival industry struggles with labor shortages. The pandemic is one source of labor shortages, and the Great Resignation is another. However, aside from these national trends, the amusement industry is particularly impacted by the residual lag in the Government’s temporary work visa program (aka H-2B or J1 visas).
Many amusement parks and carnivals rely on the H-2B program to meet staffing needs. But the pandemic slowed the number of applications to the program to a trickle, causing the Department of Homeland Security to slash the number of available visas. However, over the summer, Homeland released an additional 35,000 H-2B and J-1 visas for the rest of the year. This still falls 25% short of 2019 numbers but is a marked improvement over 2021.
Given the slow return of the H-2B program, it’s likely that the amusement and carnival industry will be dealing with the labor shortage trend well into 2023—and perhaps beyond.
Learn more: Amusement H-2B Visas and Labor Shortage
Increased crime has been in the news a lot recently. And theme parks have also been making headlines lately, with a surge in reports of petty vandalism, unruly customers, and even shootings in and around amusement parks.
In response, many parks are bolstering security. Measures that parks are taking to respond to elevated threats include:
- Increased security cameras.
- Additional security staff and guards.
- 24/7 command centers.
- Security towers.
However, it is essential to remember that for security measures to be effective, there must be complete buy-in from all levels of the amusement park team—from the leadership to the ticket seller. Communication is also key to ensuring security teams and regular staff train properly in crisis response.
Learn more: Reopening & Preparing: Active Shooter Response
Staff shortages have led to reduced hours, attractions, and ride availability. But they have also driven technological innovation. For example, in response to fewer available ticket sellers, the Ohio State Fair went cashless in 2022, replacing 33 staffed ticket booths with automated kiosks selling “Magic Money” credits through their app. Instead of a staffed booth, about a dozen roaming attendants help customers operate the kiosks. So far, the program has been a wild success, with customer resistance practically nil. Other customer service innovations revolve around apps. They include virtual queues and checking wait times for attractions via mobile phone.
Ride safety is another area seeing new advancements. In Ohio, Tyler’s Law takes effect this year, which adds new rigorous inspection standards. Flying drones with cameras now help engineers inspect countless welds and mechanical elements of rides that previously required specially trained climbers or crane operators. In addition, routine staff inspection notes are going paperless and migrating to the Cloud. Wireless, instantaneous storage replaces paper notebooks or binders, creating a cleaner and more secure “paper” trail.
Trend-proof risk mitigation for the amusement and carnival industry
Many amusement and carnival industry trends are rooted in the COVID-19 pandemic. Continuing labor shortages and rising petty crime rates challenge the resolve of theme park leadership. But these challenges are also leading to innovative technology that better serves park guests and maintains safety standards.
But while monitoring trends is vital to business intelligence, park owners must also mitigate risk with insurance. For over 35 years, McGowan Allied Specialty Insurance has specialized in the unique needs of the entertainment industry. We offer highly customizable insurance coverage options for amusement parks, carnivals, fairs, festivals, and other entertainment venues.
Learn more about how McGowan Allied can protect your business as industry trends rapidly change.