Zoos & Aquariums are ripe for innovation
By: Elizabeth Pratt
This spring, we attended the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Mid-Year Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Nearly a thousand zoo and aquarium professionals from across the country assembled to discuss and share in the advancement of the zoo and aquarium industry, including conservation, technology enhancements, and general facility operations. With over 200 accredited zoos and aquariums in 10 countries, the industry and conference placed an important emphasis on the guest experience for its millions of annual visitors, specifically discussing how and what technology can dramatically impact the overall facility.
Integrated approach to planning and operations
Unique to the AZA conference – relative to the other tourism and entertainment conferences we attend – is the opportunity to speak with members from every department of a zoo or aquarium. Attendees include marketing and facility operations, senior leadership, animal handlers, vets and curators, education and guest experience managers, etc. The critical lens with which AZA members use to view the state of their facility within the industry is comprehensive and complete, electing to operate as one unit versus siloed departments with independent objectives. We have seen firsthand an industry that evaluates innovation and technology holistically, aiming for optimal integration across its broad spectrum of facility responsibilities.
Interest in like-industry movements
While the majority of AZA facilities operate with a revenue-neutral budget, there is genuine interest and enthusiasm to learn about, and incorporate the best practices of other industries – specifically within sports, entertainment and tourism – to elevate the guest experience. Even though the AZA looks to other industries for customer experience best practices, surprisingly the number of annual zoos and aquariums visitors (180+ million) dramatically trumps the total number of sports attendees for the five major US sports leagues combined. That volume requires thoughtful and innovative solutions to sustain industry interest and attendance. What we’ve encountered at the AZA mid-year is that discussions are focused on evaluating technology vendors, and the extent to which those vendors can achieve the same results established in other leading industries. Zoos and Aquariums are acutely focused on technologies that achieve positive visitor impact, while also providing the cost-savings opportunities, staffing efficiencies, and unique marketing functionality afforded to a professional sports arena, Broadway theater, or ski mountain and resort.
We are proud to be committed sponsors and partners for the AZA, ensuring that our solutions help decrease call volume and save hours by providing a 24-hour resource for visitors to receive information. This allows our partners to focus their efforts on elevating facilities and enhancing the visitor experiences so all can get maximum enjoyment from their Zoos and Aquariums.