It's All Fun and Games...

By Reid A. Paul • Editor-in-Chief | June 01, 2006

How much should one pay for fun and what is the return on investment? As the parent of young children, these are questions that I must ask myself,
seemingly, on a daily basis. They are also questions that are extremely important to hotels and resorts that offer fun as part of the equation.
It is a hard calculation to make sometimes. A $20 video game can be played for many hours (or even days), while taking our family of four to see a movie in a theater costs close to $40 for less than two hours of what may or may not even be fun. Still, a life without ever seeing a movie in a theater or spending all of our family time in front of the TV hardly seems well rounded or healthy. There is a time and a place for each, but for most families, it has to be a careful calculation about where, when and why. The same standard holds for hospitality companies, whether it is Chuck E. Cheese, Medieval Times or Disney World. How much more are you willing to pay for that burger or hotel room to also have the added experience? As Joseph Pine and Jim Gilmore argue in The Experience Economy, businesses that can deliver not just a product, but an experience will succeed precisely because guests/customers are willing to pay a premium. Still, it is a fine line. I'm still not convinced my children are old enough to appreciate everything Disney World has to offer, for example. As an experiment, last summer we went to Hershey Park (a short drive and a lower cost alternative in most respects) and the kids had a wonderful time. Still, when my oldest son was asked to write about his favorite memory recently, it wasn't Hershey Park, it was going to a small, old amusement park even closer (and less expensive) to home. Do I need to spend thousands for a special event when a hundred still produces lasting memories? To be honest, I still don't have the answer to that one.
These calculations come to mind after visiting Great Wolf Resorts Poconos Lodge. The company has established itself as a new force in the resort
industry and has been able to provide unique points of differentiation. Describe a Great Wolf Lodge to any parent of young children and they'll
immediately see the value. Give Great Wolf credit too, for continuing to expand those points, rather than waiting for the inevitable onslaught of competition for the family destination dollar. Great Wolf Resort's RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) project represents a significant challenge in two respects. RFID provides a clear level on convenience and adds significantly to the guest experience. But can there be an ROI on such a project? How much are guests willing to pay for the experience? Judging from my own visceral reaction as well as my family's (my youngest son requested that we return when he is big enough for the one ride he couldn't do) this project should meet everyone's ROI analysis. Now, if only I can get them to take off the wristband.

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