Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blue Ocean Strategy for Parks

One of the top selling books in business strategy right now is Blue Ocean Strategy by Kim and Mauborgne, published by Harvard Business School Press. The basic idea is that to win you need to play a different game than your competitors. Instead of the red ocean of fierce competition, is you come up with a different value proposition for the customer you can carve out a new niche in the market.

To be successful parks must also seek blue ocean strategies, to attract new customers, offer high value and generate the enterprise revenue that is become more key than ever in our difficult economy.

One example of blue ocean strategy is Pirate’s Cove Waterpark at Pohick Bay Regional Park. On of NVRPA’s five pools/waterparks, the pool at Pohick Bay Park was one of the largest on the east coast when it was built in the early 1970’s but for the last decade it had been underperforming. Fixed costs and fewer users resulted in an annual operating loss of around $50K per year. A few years ago we nearly mothballed the whole facility.

Then came the blue ocean strategy; instead of just adding a big pay feature in the pool, like slides, dumping bucket, or other common waterpark feature, we decided to create a unique and imaginative experience. And instead of trying to build a waterpark with a little something for every possible age group, we decided to focus our efforts on making a fun place for children 2-10, with the understanding that those children will influence where the whole family goes to have fun in the water.

By creating an imaginative pirate themed waterpark that was the perfect scale for small children we carved out a unique niche in the market that is different than either the community pool or the large waterpark (some of which we also operate). By combining some features of each and some features that neither of the competitive models has we are able to offer our customers a great value and experience that they can not get anywhere else. This made it a popular destination site last summer and made lots of little buccaneers happy, and helped us find more treasure than we have seen at that operation in decades!

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