As the leisure and hospitality industry works diligently to find new ways to deliver the best service to customers, new innovative experiences are being created at an accelerated pace in Orlando.

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Orlando-based tech firm accesso® has long been a front-runner in creating new digital experiences for the hospitality sector. The company’s virtual queuing technology Prism creates a waitfree experience for guests, in addition to features including cashless payments, push notifications, automated photography tagging and more.

A saying that is becoming more common in the current COVID-19 environment states, “crises don’t create trends, they help accelerate them.” This adage is especially true as it relates to the effect of the pandemic on the leisure and hospitality sector. As the industry works diligently to find new ways to deliver the best service to customers, new innovative experiences are being created at an accelerated pace in Orlando.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on our entire industry, which, at its heart, is all about bringing people together to share memorable experiences,” says Steve Brown, CEO of accesso®.

While these are challenging times, there is also incredible opportunity for theme parks, attractions and more to create better experiences for guests. In many ways, the crisis has accelerated trends we’d already been seeing prior to the outbreak.

Steve Brown, CEO of accesso®

While the importance of the customer experience hasn’t changed, many Orlando companies are finding new and innovative ways to deliver these experiences in the pandemic environment. And these changes aren’t happening overnight; many companies are re-evaluating current operations and making strategic investments that will enhance the customer experience in the long term.

“Guests want to return to their favorite destinations, and they’re not just ready for change – they expect it,” Brown says. “In the past, theme parks and attractions were understandably hesitant to make big operational changes like this, but the COVID-19 pandemic has really flipped the idea of standard park operations on its head.”

During the pandemic, these trends have escalated to a new level and are now driving the acceptance of innovative technologies for customers years ahead of the projected adoption curve.

“Customers who did not trust e-commerce before, and never shopped online, are now taking the leap into online ordering,” says Barbara Staruk, chief growth officer at Epos Now, a cloud-based software provider specializing in electronic point-of-sale technology. “Companies’ entire ‘reason for being’ is challenged because of drastic changes in their customer base and consumer behavior. It’s driving entirely new operational models for companies, especially small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).”

Epos Now, which works largely with SMEs in the retail and service space, has seen this shift first-hand. To meet customer needs, the company has quickly pivoted its product model by expanding its e-commerce network, diversifying its e-commerce portfolio and focusing on its frictionless and contactless ordering products.

In the world of themed environments, many destinations are re-assessing their operations and making improvements for guest safety in addition to operational functionality and customer satisfaction.

“The way people interact with spaces is changing – they are more aware of their environment and the people around them, creating a need to re-evaluate the guest experience,” says Marc Plogstedt, CTO of ITEC Entertainment. ITEC is seeing more demand for intentional place-making and design from urban developments and transportation projects as well as parks and attractions.

One of the biggest trends that we’ve seen accelerating is the Internet of Things.

Marc Plogstedt, CTO of ITEC Entertainment

“Intelligent devices can solve our clients’ needs from both a safety and operational standpoint, and new technology solutions are being considered if they can alleviate costs or make a customer feel safer.” The company recently developed a touchless temperature kiosk, specifically made for destinations, that minimally disrupts the guest experience. 

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ITEC Entertainment launches new touchless temperature kiosk designed to minimally disrupt the guest experience.

Investments in safety can also improve the guest experience in the long run. For example, the accesso® team worked quickly after the outbreak to launch its 100% virtual queuing solution. The technology frees guests from long physical lines while also reducing contact with high-touch surfaces, such as ride check-ins and payment counters. The technology has already been adopted by Walibi Holland, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari® and Parc Astérix.

“From virtual queuing and date- and time-specific tickets to arrival reservations and mobile food and beverage ordering, operators are making incredible strides in harnessing the power of technology to ensure a safer, more enjoyable visit for returning guests,” Brown says.

In the case of theme parks, many efforts toward the modernization of rides and park experiences were already underway.

“At the end of the day, the customer wants to be immersed in the story; the best innovation does this without the customer seeing ‘behind the curtain’ at the technology used,” Plogstedt says.

An infamous science fiction author once wrote: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. As the world’s most magical destination, it makes sense that Orlando tech companies are at the forefront of experience transformation and continue to create the world’s most mind-blowing magic.