Skip the Queue Season 2 Episodes 10-20 – What you’ll learn

E10 The future of the experience economy in a post-COVID world. With Ben Thompson

Ben Thompson, at the time of recording chief storytelling officer at 9 Degrees West, a strategic consultancy specialising in brand and marketing strategy for theme parks, visitor attractions, and brand homes.

 An IAAPA speaker, Ben has previously worked at Mars, the Walt Disney Company, and Merlin Entertainments. 

Since recording the podcast, Ben has joined  Storyland Studios as their Chief Strategy Officer.


Ben Thompson


What will you learn from this podcast?

  • The future of the experience economy
  • Customer service and cautiousness during visitor attractions re-opening
  • How organisations need to adapt in a post-COVID world
  • What are the conversations like with his clients that are looking to open their experiences in a year or two
  • Ben would add or do for the overriding resilience that attractions have

What Ben thinks the experience economy is going to look like post-COVID: 

The power of this industry is that people will still go to attractions repeatedly even when they are told not to.

The difference between indoor and outdoor is that the outdoor is safer for the more risk-averse folks, yet, indoor is still a massive role and will be better to have a new experience available to offer.

A big part of our industry is about suspense and surprising people that is why escape rooms are a trend since people want it quicker and to have different experiences each time. 

Don’t open an experience that was already there because people always want something new. 

There is an advantage in experiencing being at home like eSports than in physical space with people like physical theme parks or museums.  

A lot of organisations and businesses are creating virtual digital experiences that are also revenue-driving opportunities like the distillery industry.

People won’t buy expensive and high end products alone. They will buy because of the story behind the product – provenance, heritage and characters all throughout the years.

Selling done virtually are often more effective and successful with some of the latest digital technologies.

Listen to the podcast here



E11 The legendary Disney customer service. With Lee Cockerell, former Executive Vice President of Operations for the Walt Disney World® Resort

Lee Cockerell, former Executive Vice President of Operations for the Walt Disney World® Resort.


Walt Disney Resort

Image source

What will you learn from this podcast?

  • Day-to-day challenges running a large operation
  • Leadership
  • The legendary Disney customer service
  • Lee’s advice to anyone operating a visitor attraction now

Key takeaways from Lee on customer service:

On leadership:

The key to leadership is getting people feeling good about trusting you.

Take a personal interest in the training development of people and improving their self-confidence, their belief in themselves.

Create an environment and a culture where people wake up in the morning want to come to work, not have to come.

Trust is the number one thing in the world. When people don’t feel safe, they don’t trust you, and when they don’t trust you, they won’t do what you tell them to do. 

Build trust with the people that you are managing.

On technology:

Be on all social sites; Facebook, Linkedin, even on TikTok to understand and reach more people especially the younger generation.

Why they are better in customer service than anybody else:

Number one, we hire better. We’re very careful. We have high expectations for performance and we explain those to anybody that wants to work for the company so that there are no misunderstandings about being professional and doing your job the way we train you.

Second thing is training. We train you and test you and we enforce the training, and we’re very serious about that. It’s like we’re putting on a show. It’s just like on Broadway, you got to be able to do your job on the stage or you won’t be on the stage. So we audition you. We train you. We rehearse you. 

Then, we create a culture where I would say most people that work at Disney wake up in the morning and are excited to come to work because of the way we treat them, out of respecting them.

They have the opportunity to get promoted. They have the opportunity to get development and learn and move up and get promotions. 

And so, I always say, “Hire them right. Train them right, and treat them right, and it’ll work just fine in any company.” 

Lee added; “We’re very respectful. We’re very professional. We care about people having success. When they have that environment, they go out and take care of the guest because they want to, not because they have to. That’s the difference.”

Listen to the podcast here


E12 Marketing approach for attractions during a time of capped capacity. With Jules Ozbek.

Jules Ozbek, Head of Sales and Marketing at Continuum Attractions.


Jules Ozbek


What will you learn from this podcast?

  • Marketing approaches for attractions during a time of capped capacity
  • Keeping your existing audience engaged
  • Marketing segmentation that’s not driven by demographics
  • How is it working with all the different destination marketing organisations across the UK


Key takeaways from Jules about the marketing approach for attractions during COVID:

Boost your social engagement and social following.

Plan your content ahead.

Contents can be entertaining, enriching, fun and a tell a story about the attractions.

Part of marketing is talking to the media about the closing, reopening and the safety measures that are put in place when the attractions reopen.

Review the marketing budget.

Boost your social media channels’ activities.

Make sure PPC, digital retargeting and basket abandonment activity are going well.

Make use of the PR, OTAs, and utilising online ticket agents. 

The online ticket agents can reach the mass market at a percentage without a cost.

“The most pleasing thing for me was that everybody enjoyed their experience. So they came and they felt looked after, they knew we had the right safety measures in place. So whilst the attraction has been sanitised, the experience hasn’t, and there’s still a richness to the experience. They’re still able to engage with that story and take something away from it, and be entertained and have some fun.”

Listen to the podcast here


E13 Digital marketing for attractions and what lies ahead post opening. With Johnny Lyle

Johnny Lyle, Marketing and Digital Director for the attractions industries.


Johnny Lyle


What will you learn from this podcast?

  • Digital marketing advice for attractions pre and post Covid
  • What lies ahead for the sector in the UK
  • The biggest surprise in last few months
  • The worst job he’s ever had

Johnny’s advice in digital marketing during the COVID pandemic and for the future:

“The main thing is trying to welcome people back, trying to make sure that it is fun. It’s more about having fun than them thinking they’re at risk.”

“Making sure that your staff are smiling because that smile first ask questions later has always been something I’ve tried to work to. And I think if you don’t make it a fun place to be first and foremost, people won’t come back.”

Johnny added: “Make sure you try, and keep your costs to an absolute minimum and maximise the fun and try and survive.”

Listen to the podcast here


E14 What attractions can learn from the Covid-19 situation. With Charles Read, Managing Director of Blooloop.

Charles Read, Managing Director of Blooloop, the world’s leading online resource for professionals working in the visitor attractions sector.

Charlie Read


What will you learn from this podcast?

  • What can attractions can learn from the Covid-19 situation
  • Positives to come from the situation
  • What attractions in the UK learn from overseas attractions
  • What’s next for Blooloop

Key takeaways from Charles on the podcast:

On what attractions can learn from the COVID-19 situation:

Attractions are going to accelerate quickly in terms of digital like face recognition and touchless technology.

A lot of attractions are going to rethink how they operate. It can start leveraging its outdoor spaces more. Innovate in terms of what we do with visitors. 

On what UK attractions can learn from overseas attractions:

Look at how the streamlined process is. Look at what attractions are doing in places where they’ve essentially conquered to a large degree.

Make attractions more engaging on social media. Reaching out to audiences even if the audiences aren’t there. 

Institutions collaborating and doing something engaging and thinking outside of the box.

Charles added, “I think there’s a kind of cautious optimism. It is a resilient industry.”

Listen to the podcast here



E15 Managing demand when your tourist attraction is free to attend. Alastair Barber, Marketing and Communications Manager at National Parks.

Alastair Barber, Marketing and Communications Manager at National Parks.


National Parks New Forest

Image source 

What will you learn from this podcast?

  • How National Parks have communicated with their audience during lockdown
  • Managing demand when your tourist attraction is free to attend
  • Being more outside
  • Breaking old habits and making new ones
  • The future of tourist attractions in the UK


Key takeaways from Alastair on the podcast:

Managing demand when your tourist attraction is free to attend:

You can’t manage the demand but you can remind the people to be aware of the situation on the ground. 

People take responsibility for themselves with proper guidance. 

Give the people the information, helping them think through the process and do the right thing.

Alastair added, “It’s paying attention and noticing, and that’s how you build that connection with nature.”

Listen to the podcast here



E16 The importance of communicating with your team. With Wes Smart, Managing Director of Harbour Park.

Wes Smart, Managing Director of Harbour Park, The Children’s Beach Adventure.


Harbour Park

Image source 

What will you learn from this podcast?

  • Operating within the current restrictions
  • The importance of communicating with your team
  • Plans for the future
  • OODA loop decision making method

Key takeaways from Wes on the podcast:

About communicating with your team:

It’s really helpful trying to deliver a consistent experience for the guest through managing training regimes, and that coaching technique that you use with younger managers who are coming through. And you are able to see the mistakes before they come and go and talk it through so they can see it coming.”

“There’s certainly a value to having been at the entry-level and then at the mid-management level, with dealing with your staff and having sympathies for some of the pressures that come

Wes stated that having a granular knowledge of the roles of your team will help in organisations’ team management but the most important things are building teams, building trust and delivering expectations.

Wes added, “Plan your work and then work the plan.”

Listen to the podcast here


E17 Emerging innovation and why pre-booking is a benefit to attractions regardless of Covid. With Carly Straughan.

Carly Straughan began her career working in tourist attractions on a 3 month contract until she found a “real job” and almost 15 years later she is still here. She now works with museums, arts and heritage, and tourist attractions worldwide and is a passionate supporter of the industry.


Carly Straughan


What will you learn from this podcast?

  • Innovation in attractions
  • Pre-booking and why it’s a benefit regardless of Covid
  • Managing internal resource
  • Why guests shouldn’t remember buying a ticket
  • Travelling back in time!

Key takeaways from Carly on the podcast:

The people don’t have to queue for long hours if they booked in advance.

If people have to pre-book, they will plan more.

Carly added, “If you can get people to pre-book, you can manage your resources internally better. There are lots of things you can do that will improve your business and make your business easier to run because you’ll know how many people you’re going to service that day.”

“The transactional stuff has to happen but it doesn’t need to be a part of your experience really. It should be forgettable almost instantly.”

Listen to the podcast here


E18 The importance of Sector Cooperation with Carlton Gajadhar and Rachel Mackay

Carlton Gajadhar MSc – a Visitor Experience Professional and co-founder of the Visitor Experience Forum


Carlton Gajadhar


Rachel Mackay – Manager of Historic Royal Palaces at Kew, including Kew Palace and the Great Pagoda. Creator of The Recovery Room Blog.


Rachel Mackay


What will you learn from this podcast?

  • Lockdown experiences in both the UK and Kuwait
  • Crisis management for museums and heritage organisations
  • Improving sector cooperation
  • Eurovision – because why not!

Key takeaways from Carlton and Rachel on the podcast:

Carlton Gajadhar – Visitor Experience Forum:

“What I love about the forum is, we are given opportunities for our members to do stuff, that they would not normally do as well – speaking at our conferences and building that confidence and building their personal profile”

“The main purpose of the forum, is literally sharing information and learning from each other and that is the key of what we do. We are all volunteers as well, so we don’t get paid to do any of this. We do this kind of the goodness of our hearts because we’re passionate about the sector and we love what we do and we just wanted to make sure that people enjoy their jobs, as well as we do as well.”

Rachel Mackay – www.therecoveryroomblog.com:

The Recovery Room was created as a resource for sharing research around crisis management of the Covid-19 crisis in museums and heritage organisations.

“I wanted to create something to help – free practical resources, training scenarios you can use for crisis management and tabletop exercises.”

“In fact, in one of the surveys I did, 81% of people said that the most useful thing in terms of resources, was information from their colleagues in the sector, we have both gotten updates. It’s something that has always been in the sector but has just come out a lot stronger.”

Listen to the podcast here

E19  The positive impact of reopening with brand new attractions. With Adam Goymour

Charles ‘Adam’ Goymour! Company Director & Park Manager at Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure.



Image source

What will you learn from this podcast?

  • Government support for the sector
  • The challenge of developing complex reopening plans
  • Audience engagement when you can’t be open
  • The positive impact of reopening with brand new attractions
  • Meeting your idols and Tom Hardy’s phone number!

Key takeaways from Adam on the podcast:

On the things to do in reopening the attractions: 

Absorb all the informations from all different avenues that are available. Listen, watch, read and take everything on board. Speak to the council, owner-operators and listen to the guidance from the government. 

Listen to other operators in other countries and speak about the specifics for each attraction where you have a common denominator in terms of similar attractions. 

It is a massive task, not only to return to the park to its normal high standard presentation but also to bend with the whole situation in understanding and implementing all the additional COVID-19 protection requirements.

On things to prepare with your team: 

Train your various managers and let them understand what COVID19 is and how to manage the situation.

Look at how many visitors you think could get in the park before the guidance came out.

Look at how many staff can operate with to be profitable on fewer visitors, but also supplying that excellent service. Denominating fact that there have some staff that don’t want to come back because they’re scared. 

Implement COVID signage, sanitiser points, which probably cost us about six to eight grand and PPE for the crew.

On how to get through the challenges: 

Check on the number of people who enters your attraction.

Do something different. Have backup plans in case something didn’t work and know the cost.

Get a system where you can have your attractions prebooked.

Adam stated, “I want to come out of this growing, all the better businesses do in the tough times. That’s what I want us to accomplish.”

“We knew we had to keep connected with our customers and we had to look to engage with them in their homes. So we brought the Roarr! experience to them.”

Listen to the podcast here


E20 Customer loyalty, guest experience and managing negative feedback on social media. With Joshua Liebman

Joshua Liebman, ICAE – Founder of BackLooper and co-host of the brilliant AttractionPros podcast!


Joshua Liebman


What will you learn from this podcast?

  • Guest experience
  • Customer loyalty
  • Managing negative feedback on social media
  • Nickelback – yeah I know, stay with it though!

Joshua’s tips for attractions on how to manage negative feedback on social media:

Social media can be your best friend. You want to make sure that you’re using that to boost your reputation, but specifically with your guests who have proven that they are satisfied. You want to collect as much feedback privately first, before recommending to post online. Otherwise, you do run the risk of online reviews starting to chip away at your reputation. 

Acknowledged that whatever you respond to is in a public arena. You are in the spotlight, and you’ve got the opportunity to alleviate the concern of any potential reader or user of social media, or you have the opportunity to make it worse.

Establish that rapport and that relationship with the guest. When people have their concerns resolved, and the resolution is effective, they will be more satisfied than if they did not have a poor experience in the first place. This is the recovery paradox. 

A lot of research has been done on complaint resolution and service failure, which makes it very imperative that we are seeking out complaints, so we can improve the business and make it better for the future. That interaction that we can have with the guests is, we can now turn them into loyal advocates.

“Every organisation has flaws, you shouldn’t be learning about yours from social media”

“Anyone who visits you in 2020 is your most loyal guests, make sure they know, you know that”

Listen to the podcast here

Paul Wright.
Kelly Molson Managing Director

Host of the popular Skip the Queue Podcast, for people working in or working with visitor attractions, she regularly delivers workshops and presentations on the sector at various national conferences and universities including The Visitor Attractions Conference, ASVA and Anglia Ruskin University.

Read more about me

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