We spoke with the IAAPA consultant and head of operations for three of Catalonia’s best-known water parks, with more than 10 years of experience in the sector.
Amusement Logic: How did you go from marketing to aquatic leisure?
Xavi Guerra: I spent almost nine years in a multinational advertising agency and there came a time when perhaps it had lost its charm, the opinion of the client prevailed more than the opinion of the internal marketing department. So I fell out of love with that sector, the 2008 crisis caught me and I recycled myself.
A.L.: With so many things to do, why the aquatics sector? What do you like about it?
X.G.: I had my first contact when I was studying. I worked as a lifeguard for two summers in a water park and, well, it seemed like a world of fantasy and constant fun. I had and still have a very good relationship with the person from the property with whom I have worked to date, we studied together at University, and we met again later along the way. He needed support and it suited me for recycling myself and everything was aligned… I came from a multinational structure, with my department and my functions, and one that was very hierarchical, which kept me from progressing. On the contrary, in a family environment I have been given the opportunity to fully expand the range of functions and to enter areas where it might not have been possible in a multinational structure.
A.L.: Where do you feel most comfortable? What do you like most about park management?
X.G.: I think that would be the creation of new spaces. It’s what I most like because it forces you to strive to find new trends, new needs and new ways to approach what the user asks of you, which is to have fun within the facility and have a great experience. All this attracts me, because I always try to seek constant improvement and not stick with what we already have … what we have we already know, it works, great, let’s move on to the next thing, there’s a long way to go in this sector.
A.L.: You are involved in three parks at once, all in Catalonia. What are the differences between them?
X.G.: The customer segment and operations. The northern region of Catalonia encompasses a more tourist target from Europe. Water World has much more dynamic, more powerful attractions, with greater focus on a slightly younger audience, from teenagers to twenty or thirty-somethings, without forgetting families. The other park, Aquadiver, located less than 40 km from the other, encompasses a national public with second residences and some tourism from the same coast. It’s another type of facility, much closer, more family-friendly with more attractions that aren’t as powerful, but more focused on children, adolescents and family audiences. Lastly, Illa Fantasia, located in Vilassar, is a park with a great history and due to its proximity to Barcelona one with enormous growth potential. This park stands out for having a hundred percent local audience, with some international visitors coming from indirect tourism in Barcelona.
A.L.: What do you consider as the most satisfactory thing you’ve achieved during these last ten years?
X.G.: Optimising operational processes. There was an economic outlay destined for areas that didn’t make sense and that had no return for the company. We have tried to focus on optimising the company’s internal resources, thus establishing a medium and long-term strategy plan to renew the facility and give it a facelift, place it in the 21st century and make it very powerful.
A.L.: What do you think of park management in Spain compared to that of other parts of the world?
X.G.: As an industry we’ve put ourselves on a par with many markets, we still have the older brother, which is the United States, a global benchmark for the type of attractions and the dynamism of its market. In theming we’re reaching an excellent degree of quality, I have colleagues from the sector who work outside of Spain and in the USA, and are highly regarded, which gives a quality seal to our national know-how. I do believe that we are far from achieving excellence in service … we leave a lot to be desired and we lose a lot of quality … We need to improve customer experience and customer service.
A.L.: What is your role at IAAPA?
X.G.: I’ve been attending IAAPA conferences and trade shows for five years. They constantly contact me to find out how we are here in Europe and what is new. During this confinement I’ve had the opportunity to join work groups, to design operational protocols for the new Covid-19 crisis. My goal is to continue collaborating, participate in the growth of the industry with my knowledge and continue to expand mine in turn, through the networking that we have organized at IAAPA.
A.L.: How do you see the future of waterparks?
X.G.: The sector as such has branched out and mutated. We’ve seen how hotel chains that previously only had rooms and a swimming pool, now have a water park inside, we’re seeing how campsites or resorts now also have water facilities … Where is the sector going? I think that more and more people will opt for interactive things, the digital component will enter in a very strong way in the short term, it’s already being seen in North American or even Asian parks, either to reduce operating costs or to make life easier for users. The music and lighting components, have already been added to enhance visitor experience. Lastly, I would highlight that virtual reality is already a reality in our industry. Reports have reached me, even experiments being done here in Barcelona, on the impact of virtual reality applied in water parks. It is a very lively and dynamic industry. There is still a long way to go and for years to come we’ll see spectacular things.