By: Pam Westerman
President and COO - International Theme Park Services, Inc.
Attractions in our industry are currently operating in the midst of a global pandemic because of the Coronavirus. Others are still trying to re-open after having been closed for several months. Those that have opened, and those that will soon open, are having to navigate new waters in terms of guest and employee interaction. Facilities are facing protocols they have never faced. Guests need to know that these facilities care about their safety and well-being, while employees are charged with operating under new and often extreme norms. ITPS believes the time is right to consider an external audit, one which can also focus on Covid-19 protocol compliance.
If you are in a leadership role in a theme park, water park, or other leisure operation, you want to assure that all staff members are doing their jobs correctly, eﬃciently, and safely under all circumstances. After all, if this is not the case, then you and your facility face several risks. You have a greater risk of an accident or incident occurring. You have a greater risk of employee turnover because employees are not happy or do not feel valued. You have a greater risk of negatively impacting your attendance because your guests did not receive positive interaction or a memorable experience. Or, your facility is not properly implementing Covid-19 protocols, thus risking the health of guests and employees.
How can these risks be lessened? One way is to have an outside company conduct an audit of your facility. Simply put, an outside operational audit assures that your facility’s activities comply with your overall policies, and also explores the effectiveness, safety, and eﬃciency of the operation. This is especially important in today’s world when facilities have been required to extremely modify their guest interaction protocols due to the impact of the coronavirus.
Regardless of how well you believe your staff is performing, an outside audit from an experienced firm can provide you with the confidence in knowing that your pre-determined policies and procedures are indeed being implemented. Outside auditors can truly be your “eyes and ears” so you will know whether or not your staff is being compliant in all operating and service areas.
Our company, International Theme Park Services, Inc. (ITPS) offers this high level service to park and amusement facility operators. This service can be targeted to the overall business, where we observe and assess all business segments – ride operations, merchandise, games, food and beverage, safety, or maintenance. Or, this service can be targeted to specific segments, as is the case with our newly announced Audit+ (adding in the impact and protocols from Covid-19).
We believe there are six fundamental reasons why you should have in place regular operational audits from an outside firm.
1. Compliance to Operating Policies. An external audit can help identify areas where your company’s practices and policies are no longer being implemented, or are not being consistently followed. An external audit has no reason to be anything but honest about the status of how policies are being followed, so you can rely on the independence of the observation and the recommendations being made.
2. Credibility. Internally and externally, your crowd and conduct our facility’s brand and overall marketing strategy will carry more weight if your operation can say it is regularly audited by an outside company for safety, eﬃciency, and guest service.
3. Accident Prevention. A park should take every measure to help ensure that accidents do not happen, both involving employees and guests. An outside audit that offers recommendations for safety improvements or that calls attention to non-implementation or non-consistency of policies, and that does so after an impartial review, could help keep your business from risking major loss due to an accident.
4. Enhanced Guest Experience. In our industry, a lack of positive guest service can eventually lead to negative results. Our business thrives on the ability to create a memorable guest experience, which is achieved through employees on the “front lines” who interact daily with our guests. Our audits offer critical observation of how these employees interact, and to what level. You need to know how friendly your employees are with your guests, how approachable they are, how helpful they are, and whether or not they do everything possible to create a memorable guest experience as they fulfill their basic job duties.
5. Increased Eﬃciencies. How well your operators group, service, and assist guests according to pre-determined policies can have a huge impact on your overall eﬃciency. If your facility is ineﬃcient, not only will your guest service suffer, but also your revenues can be negatively impacted.
6. Process Improvement. In the end, the ultimate purpose of an outside audit is to make sure that your facility’s programs, policies, procedures, and processes are properly in place and being followed by all staff. An outside audit can make sure of this, and can also provide you with recommendations for improvements, leading to a more positive operation.
+ Specifically, ITPS has sensed the need for audits that address your facility’s internal protocols relating to Covid-19. As such, we recently announced an expansion of our auditing services, called Audit+. An ITPS Audit+ will address your facility’s protocols and provide you with insight on how your employees and guests are adhering to your required compliance factors. These blind audits would focus on observations of such compliance factors as the wearing of masks/gloves, proper distancing signage, capacity limitation requirements, adequate sanitizing stations, touchless interactions, and much more.
In recent years, we have completed a series of ride operational audits for a large theme park in the U.S., as well as an indoor theme park in the Middle East. These audits focused specifically on the ride operations department program, and allowed for each auditor to observe and note a checklist of important items. These included safety, proper ride operation, eﬃciency, courtesy, show, and cleanliness. These audits were “blind” audits, where the ITPS staff blended into the crowd and observed without the ride operators being aware of the audit taking place. Utilizing a mobile inspection app, ITPS created a customized checklist for these facilities that offered a unique scoring system to allow comparisons of improvement or decline from audit to audit.
Most recently, we performed operational and safety-based audits for a leisure operation in the Australia region. These series of multiple audits covering several operating days, which were both blind audits and management interaction audits, specifically looked at safety-based factors, overall organization and management approach, maintenance-related support, capital spending history, and a host of other due diligence requirements.
As you can see, an operational audit by ITPS is not a one-size-fits-all. We can help you customize the audit to best serve your facility and meet your internal needs, as well as your long-term objectives. Also, we can provide regular operational audits along with the Covid-19 compliance audits, or if desired, we can focus solely on Covid-19 compliance as the primary objective. Flexibility is our key to ensuring that your needs are met.
Now is the time of year when budgets are being prepared and approved. It is incumbent on you as a theme park or water park leader, as well as operators of zoos, aquariums, and other leisure attractions, to properly plan your budgeting needs to include the all-important outside operational audit from a reputable company. And, with Covid-19 upon us for the foreseeable future, it is time to make certain that your operation and your staff are properly addressing guest service protocols in order to help ensure that your guests feel safe. It will be money well spent not just for your peace of mind, but for your guests as well.
To learn more, or to receive some sample pages of an ITPS audit report, please feel free to reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to download an informative flyer on Audit+ services.
Feasibility Analysis - Design / Masterplanning - Pre-Opening Operations Planning - Management