Lounge Chairs in pool
A New Approach in Planning IN THE NEWS | AQUATIC DEVELOPMENT GROUP | April 9, 2018

5 Steps to Ensuring Your Recreational Waterfront Settings are Meeting Your Objectives – in guest satisfaction AND bottom-line results.

The most successful resorts understand that there’s more to recreational water than just putting in a pool.  You must develop your entire waterfront area not only to enhance your brand experience but your bottom-line results as well in order to make the most out of your investment.

Incorporating new attractions or enhancing current areas in your resort is a substantial undertaking and investment to any property.  And to get it right takes significant planning and a comprehensive understanding of everything your property is – and wants to be.  What if the underlying reason for developing these areas – and let’s face it we wouldn’t be spending the money if we weren’t planning on making it – was incorporated into every aspect of the planning right from the start?   What if each element was designed to maximize your existing operations, infrastructure and brand to achieve an overall experience that not only is pleasing to your guests but drives ROI through incremental revenue opportunities and repeat visitation?

Before you put pencil to paper, consider how the development of your attraction and aquatic setting ties into these bottom-line concerns that truly help drive your business to succeed in the competitive landscape – and then choose a partner with the design and operational experience necessary to make those ideals a reality.

Choosing the right attractions and creating the right recreational aquatic environment for your resort starts with a larger conversation.  From concept to completion it’s about addressing the guest experience, branding, operations and processes from a holistic approach – putting the right mix of attractions, landscaping and operational functionality together in the right way to best reach your overall business goals. When approached correctly, in many cases it could take at least two or three meetings before you even begin to talk about the actual pool or slide!

Before you begin your next venture into developing or enhancing your attractions and recreational aquatic settings for your property, here are five key factors to consider from the onset.  Incorporating these factors into your planning will not only help save you time and money during development, but can pay off in back-end revenue generating enhancements as well.

Design for the Overall Guest Experience


Recreational aquatic settings and attractions have a major impact not only on sales and revenue, but on the overall clientele demographics you are trying to attract.

A couple floating down lazy river under water fall

To be a successful investment, any aquatic project must deliver the desired guest experience while building around the specific business goals at the core of the project. Instead of thinking “we need another pool or slide,” you should actually be asking the question “what do we want this new attraction for and what do we want it to accomplish?” The answers to these questions may naturally lead you in a few different directions and should help to focus you on exactly what your investment is meant to accomplish.

As with any setting, it all begins with the guest experience you are trying to create. There is a big difference between the phrase “waterpark” and “luxury resort.” Two ends of the spectrum evoke two very different images. Are you looking for guests to bump elbows on the way to the waterslide line? Sip cocktails in a poolside cabana? Or maybe it’s a little of both. Do you want to attract more families to your property or are you looking to increase traffic among a particular demographic or clientele?

Incorporating the right amount of space for fun and relaxation, as well as retail, food and beverage, exit and entry points, service accessibility and guest flow, are all key factors that affect the overall guest experience and should inform your design from the onset. It has to do with the size and intimacy of the space you are creating, the capacity during any given time period and how much public vs. private space you want guests to have access to.

Whatever the specific goals, the initial conversation should never be about what size or shape the pool is or how fast the slide will go, but should instead start with a business plan that defines the experience you are trying to create for the guests you want to attract.

Achieving (and exceeding) Brand Expectations

Carefully consider these three things when it comes to designing a new attraction or aquatic setting or your park or resort:  Physical Appearance, Attractions and Amenities, and Logistical Operations.

Hilton Anatole overview of property

So much more than just adding a pool or waterslide, it’s designing and building specifically to meet your guest’s brand expectations in each of these areas.

Whether bright, kid-friendly colorful indoor and outdoor attractions or a more sophisticated adult setting, the goal is to create the right blend of design with the right mix of attractions that reflect the brand image you have so carefully developed.  Consider how each attraction, amenity and design element supports and enhances your brand’s goal of creating market differentiation and how these images will convey the brand though marketing and advertising initiatives.  Creating an environment that will allow for effective communication of the experience is of primary importance when it comes to attracting your desired guests.

The key part of continued success is then meeting those expectations with delivery once the guests are on-property.  Incorporating the existing logistical and operational workings into the design from the very beginning allows you to ensure that the environment will work within your resort’s infrastructure and staffing ability to deliver on those expectations.   From the placement of every lounge chair, towel station and umbrella to the location of food and beverage stations, control portals and access paths, the entire design and function of your new area needs to be carefully considered and planned in order to deliver upon the promised expectations.

Optimizing Operations
Thinking beyond the edge of the pool when it comes to creating new aquatic attractions and settings means thinking about how the delivery of guest experiences will be carried out from a logistical and operational stand point.  From general management to marketing, reservations, food & beverage, retail and staffing, the right operational functionalities must be in place in order to successfully meet the new requirements that your space will demand.

FlowRider surf attraction

Capacity.  By focusing on the overall goals and objectives for the entire aquatic space – instead of just the size of the pool for example – allows the narrative for how you develop the project to really start to take shape. For example, consider the average size of potential events that take place in your market area vs. your current capacity.  A need for more entertainment venues can be incorporated into the initial design by getting creative with additional deck or outdoor F&B areas through multi-level structures to maximize the available space, even if the “actual space” is limited. Beyond just a pretty pool to stand around, incorporating capacity maximizing factors into your design from the very beginning can yield tremendous results in the end.

Accessibility.  From access to kitchens, to service paths, to power access points, designing around these necessities makes for a more efficient and productive experience for both guests and staff – one that creates both an aesthetically pleasing environment that is operationally and functionally sound. In terms of revenue generation, how to best utilize available space needs to be developed in conjunction with current amenities and “delivery convenience”.   Having easy access to bars and kitchen areas, for both employees and guests, can have a tremendous impact on your incremental revenue generation – shorter waits between drinks means more drinks the staff can deliver which means more drinks purchased.  Which means the location of not just your main attraction, but of walkways, cabanas, lounge chairs and tables all affect your ability to generate revenue.  Ensuring available space and allowing for the proper allocation and placement of these amenities affects more than just how your guests enjoy your property, it affects your bottom line.

Guest Flow. Adding water also involves how you service your guests around the water. Design factors that direct the flow of guests through your property such as changing landscapes, adding or removing furniture elements, and compartmentalizing decking areas may create more circulation to make it easier for people to move and direct them past key points of revenue generating venues. Access paths that directly cross retail outlets, towel stations positioned near F&B, cabanas positioned to create appeal to an otherwise out of the way location – all of these elements should be incorporated into the initial design of your recreational water area to maximize guest flow for revenue.

The Appeal of Attractions
Creative water is all about creating a fun and memorable experience for your guests, but it also needs to complement your brand and not overwhelm your existing architecture and infrastructure. Incorporating unique and exciting features that appeal to guests, work within the operational structure, and capture the essence of the brand is a constant challenge.  How do you push the envelope to offer guests a unique experience while still maintaining the essence of your brand? Experienced designers and planners are familiar with all of the latest developments and architectural treatments that creatively showcase the areas you want to highlight, camouflage those you don’t, and blend them seamlessly together with subtle approaches in design.

Capturing market share of your target audience means incorporating attractions that will appeal to their desires.  And attracting multiple audiences, from families to business travelers to convention groups, often mean’s combining contrasting elements into one cohesive design – hot tubs for adults, a play structure for kids, a surf simulator for teens, large groupings of slide complexes vs. spaced out rivers and pools?  Determining how to showcase and blend each area into one cohesive “story” needs to be based on a combination of brand image, operational functionality and guest experience. Ultimately the decision to add any new recreational setting comes down to how you want your resort to be positioned in the market and how these elements can work together to achieve the results you want.

When evaluating a design you should always consider the present opportunities – but also look to the future. Do you have the right property layout and design to accommodate added features down the road?  Should you consider both indoor and outdoor elements? Do you have current spaces that could be reconfigured to accommodate new plans? All of this should be on the drawing board as your creative water areas take shape.

Implementing a Successful Process

With cost, construction schedules and seasonal timing always at the forefront, it is important to work with an experienced partner that has the expertise to tie all of these elements together from the very beginning to maximize efficiencies in development time – incorporating guest experience, branding, operations and future expansion possibilities into every conceptual plan.  If you want to achieve the most successful revenue producing project then all of the key elements from landscaping, architecture, aquatic design and attractions should be considered from the onset as one holistic entity for design and developmental purposes.

Anyone can put in a pool and make it look pretty or add a slide and make it fast and colorful. Your aquatic development partner should have a keen understanding of how all of the elements that go into creating your setting – feel and capacity of the space, the operations flow, revenue generating opportunities, and how architecture and landscaping enhance the water attractions – come together to build the value and appeal of your property. Done correctly from the start, the blending of these many disciplines should merge into a single conversation about creative water settings, and the form and function of the individual pool shapes, decking areas and other specific attractions will emerge.

Aquatic Development Group