Kongeparken reopens for a summer of fun
Survival, reset, and thrive
MONA ANITA K. OLSEN, PH.D.
University of Stavanger
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted all facets of life, altering lifestyles, business models, attitudes, friendships, families, careers, and spending habits. Reviewing the different approaches in response to the global pandemic taken from university to university, business to business, and country to country has been case-study worthy. Watching the reopening of aspects of society in phased approaches has opened the door to many conversations on economic and health policies.
The one commonality across everyone dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is the heightened awareness of time. The use of time when locked down, and the use of time, when in the initial stages of a phased opening, is a critical element that has currency across the globe. As they say, there is a time for everything.
For Kongeparken, the biggest amusement park in southwest Norway near Stavanger, the coronavirus pandemic posed a challenge of how to continue to operate the park with over 60 rides and adventures. As the national dugnad started, with the people of Norway voluntarily doing their part for the common good, the team at Kongeparken created a three-part plan to minimize the time to pivot and stay flexible in the navigation of the new normal including survival, reset, and thrive.
It was just recently that Norway allowed the reopening of amusement parks. As of June 1, Kongeparken was able to open its doors for the 2020 season, about two months after its usual April opening. Kongeparken is operating with some new processes to align with health guidelines. The park capacity is now limited to 50%, and pre-booking of tickets is required. Upon arrival at the park, there is also an introduction and expectation-setting welcome session. There are health stations across the park, and anyone older than 70 is encouraged to stay away.
There are also some innovations to support a safe and happy guest experience, including a transition to a fully cashless system and digital system for ordering food and beverages. Kongeparken was also the first park to open in Norway after the national dugnad on the first day allowed by the government. Their survive, reset, and thrive approach is a key element to their success.
In the survival stage, as the national dugnad began in March, the goal was to limit the burn rate to protect cash on hand to be more fluid when regulations would allow parks to reopen. There was a conscious choice to plan for the unknown date of reopening and that once the happy announcement of reopening was given by authorities, that Kongeparken could go from completely closed to open in one week. This would mean that attractions, maintenance, staffing, and inspections would be able to be managed accordingly to allow for this week turnaround when the approval was given.
In the reset stage that began in April, Kongeparken engaged with a variety of stakeholders in the government to understand the concerns from a health and safety perspective and collect valuable information to be able to reimagine operating through a global pandemic. By mid-May, approval was announced that parks could open on June 1.
In the thrive stage, which began on June1 and is currently ongoing, the focus has been the customer experience. Kongeparken works on brainstorming activities from the customer standpoint. What would a great experience look like and how can the personal and family nature of the visits be supported further? Is it possible for Kongeparken to help heal some of the pain from the global pandemic? Further, the positive side to the lower capacity of guests is the ability to provide more VIP services to the ones who are in the park—great interactions being an important part of the process.
Despite the later opening of the park, which resulted in lost revenue for the two months of ticket sales and the cancellation of festivities such as Landstreff Stavanger, Kongeparken has seen a triple increase in advance family tickets, compared with the same time last year. Thriving through a global pandemic?
Owned since 1997 by the Lund family, which has over 100 years of experience through Lund’s Tivoli, Kongeparken was originally opened in 1986 as an outdoor activities park. Now, it is considered a “must-visit” for the entire family.
Håkon Lund from the Lund Group talked about their process and success in being able to not only innovate but adjust so quickly. He acknowledged the importance of his amazing team and their respective roles in the business they are in, the show business. Lund also described the unification of the team, from a shared pain that they and the nation have felt since the coronavirus pandemic hit Norway. “When it hurts, you look into your soul and identify what is important … the guest focus,” he said.
It is easy to get to on a day trip south from Stavanger toward Kristiansand. Tickets can be purchased at www.kongeparken.no/billetter-priser. Kongeparken offers free entrance to birthday children and children who are just under 3 feet tall.
Mona Anita K. Olsen is an associate professor at the Norwegian Hotel School at the University of Stavanger in Norway and now lives in Farsund. She is also the founder of Innovation Barn AS, leading the efforts to launch Yogibana in Norway. Yogibana is an artistic wellness concept fueled by the weaving of yoga and ikebana (Japanese style floral design) together in 12 steps.
This article originally appeared in the July 31, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.