As Covid-19 continues to shape visitor attractions and experiences across the world, the future continues to look positive and operators are moving forward with an optimistic attitude. Over the next few pages RLI takes a look at the sector and highlights some key trends and world-class examples of attractions and experiences that are a cut above the rest.

At its most basic level, an ‘immersive experience’ pulls a person into a new or augmented reality, enhancing everyday life by making it more engaging or satisfying via technology. Immersive experiences look and feel different depending on where and how they are applied – an art exhibition vs. a mobile app AR for example – however all of them remain committed to the same goal of improving everyday life through technology.
In Michael Mascioni’s Chapter entitled “Scenario on Future of Immersive Media in Amusements Parks in 2038” within the book “50:50 – Scenarios for the Next 50 Years”, due out in March of next year, he explains that ‘Immersive’ has become a buzzword in the leisure entertainment sector in the last four years. He goes on to explain that the scope of immersive entertainment experiences has broadened considerably due to technological and creative enhancements and innovations.
“To some extent, immersive location-based entertainment has been recalibrated and better integrated in broader attraction portfolios and agendas, partly due to a greater understanding of guest response and operational consideration, but also due to external conditions, such as the pandemic. Location-based immersive attractions experiences seem to be generally more organic and immersive experiences generally seem to add more dimensions to amusement parks and other leisure facilities, and are increasingly aimed at broader audiences.

Meanwhile, Keith Dunphy, Chief Revenue Officer at Omnico says that: “The pandemic has changed consumer’s expectations of attractions and what’s clear is that UK consumers do not want things to get back to how they used to be. Visitors expect technology to be seamlessly integrated into every stage of their visit – whether that’s ordering food ahead, contactless payment options, or online shopping – and what’s more they’re willing to pay more for it. Now, the onus is on attractions to meet these demands by creating an experience that guests love.”

Immersive attractions & experiences around the world
When speaking about attractions and experiences that are immersive, Gravity Active Entertainment ticks every box. The UK’s biggest name is active entertainment; their sites across the UK provide experience-led leisure in settings that department stores and retail giants once dominated. Fun is the word at Gravity, with thrilling multi-level e-karting, best-in-class trampoline parks, daunting high ropes and futuristic augmented reality bowling among the 30 activities now offered for franchisees. Their brand appeals to families with a broad demographic that includes adult leisure, families with young children, teenagers and adult fitness. With a reach of millions, the brand is fast becoming a household name and a destination synonymous with fun. One of their latest openings, Gravity Southside, is set over three floors and covers 100,000sq ft.

Gravity Wandsworth, Lonodn, UK

Electric Gamebox offers an immersive group gaming experience and gives guests the opportunity to mix up their socialising with something a little different. Visitors are invited to step into the Gamebox and enter a fully-private, interactive digital room featuring projection mapping, touch screens, motion tracking and surround sound to enjoy a hyper-immersive 60 minute adventure. Whether you’re being graded by aliens, searching for rare martian minerals or saving the queen’s corgis, Electric Gamebox brings people together through shared play with a mission to reinvent how we play video games. The company currently offers four sites in the UK and two in the US with many more in the pipeline.

Electric Gamebox,, London, UK

One recent attraction that has been wowing audiences in London is Jeff Wayne’s The War Of The Worlds: The Immersive Experience. This award-winning attraction features ‘layered reality’ as well as music from the classic musical. It is far from passive, as guests must walk, crawl and slide in order to escape the Martian invasion. A range of techniques, from high to low tech, immerses them in this strange new world. From the minute they enter the experience, a new world is created and brought to life, with sets that guests can walk around, encounter live actors and even witness pyrotechnics. Cutting-edge virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) technologies and holograms further enhance the atmosphere. The War Of The Worlds: The Immersive Experience stimulates every sense in order to make the experience fully immersive. There are changes in temperature and sets they can touch and feel. Welsh attraction company Frontgrid has revealed a new attendant-free VR attraction and the new compact ParadropVR Pod allows operators to capitalise on the esports and competitive socialising trends. This latest innovation brings the fun of multiplayer gaming to the company’s successful ParadropVR attraction, which can be found in popular venues such as Skytropolis at Genting Highlands Resort, VR Park Dubai and Universe Science Park. Over the last 18 months, Frontgrid’s R&D team have been working to introduce a compact, portable, attendant-free version, ideal for entertainment centres and arcades, and the result is the ParadropVR Pod. With the new ParadropVR Pod, venues can safely operate the attraction without an attendant, for lower operating costs, and also generate a higher spend per visitor as guests return to compete with friends and beat their previous scores.

ParadropVR at VR Park, Dubai
ParadropVR at VR Park, Dubai

Headquartered in France, ECA2 has offices in Paris, Dubai and Hong Kong and connects people and emotions to places through dazzling stories, technology and artistry, immersing audiences for almost 30 years. At ECA2, they create and produce the world’s most renowned spectacular multimedia shows and their know-how spans every speciality needed for spectacular multimedia projects that stand apart. In the past they have devised unique creations for special events such as World Expos, Olympic Ceremonies and permanent shows for theme parks and tourism destinations. Due to their flexibility and bold vision, ECA2 has succeeded in producing more than sixty emblematic shows in seventeen countries.
Based in Belgium, BattleKart is an innovative attraction that mixes karting with augmented reality. Whilst driving a kart, the player is immersed into a virtual projected environment. More than just racing, it does not focus on the ‘race’ component of traditional karting and caters to a wider audience that offers a more immersive experience. With family, friends or colleagues, BattleKart offers a unique immersive experience with a guaranteed excitement and due to its projected nature; the concept can be easily integrated into shopping centres, exhibition halls and other leisure destinations.

Battlecart, Antwerpen, Belgium
Meow Wolf, Santa Fe, US
Meow Wolf, Santa Fe, US

Meow Wolf is an arts and entertainment company based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They create immersive and interactive experiences that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of story and exploration. Meow Wolf began in 2008 as an informal DIY collective of Santa Fe artists. These collaborative roots lay the foundation for Meow Wolf’s distinctive style of immersive, maximalist environments that encourage audience participation and their mission is to inspire creativity through art, exploration and play so that imagination will transform the world. The company currently operate three sites in Santa Fe, established in 2016 and Las Vegas and Denver in 2021 with more in the pipeline.
AREA15 is an experiential art and entertainment complex in Las Vegas, home to immersive activations, art installations, state-of-the-art technology, retail and F&B. Art experiences include a permanent gallery called Art Island that showcases artwork inspired by festivals and an ever-changing Japanese maple tree and canopy with more than 5,000 LED lights. The site is an immersive playground that is rolled into a vast and vibrant space. Throw an axe, wander through a bamboo volcano, race on a zip line, or explore other mesmerizing realms. From the futuristic to the thrill-seeking, there’s an experience for everyone at AREA15.

AREA15, Las Vegas, US
AREA15, Las Vegas, US

M+, billed as Asia’s first global museum of contemporary visual culture, has opened to the public in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District. Dedicated to collecting and showcasing visual art, design, architecture and moving image, M+ is one of the world’s largest museums for modern and contemporary visual culture. The institution is displaying approximately 1,500 works from its collections across 17,000sq m of exhibition space. M+, which boasts 33 galleries, is opening with six thematic exhibitions: Hong Kong: Here and Beyond; M+ Sigg Collection: From Revolution to Globalisation; Things, Spaces, Interactions; Individuals, Networks, Expressions; Antony Gormley: Asian Field and The Dream of the Museum. Designed by architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, in collaboration with TFP Farrells and Arup; the new M+ covers a total of 65,000sq m.
Due to open this month, Singapore’s highest open-air panoramic ride, SkyHelix Sentosa is a gondola ride that offers views of the island resort in Singapore. Located within a collection of attractions at Imbiah Lookout, SkyHelix Sentosa is a gondola ride that offers spectacular views of the island resort as it rotates 35 metres above ground along a vertical helix-like structure. SkyHelix Sentosa’s apex is 79 metres above sea level, making it one of the highest vantage points on Sentosa. It will also be the island’s first carbon neutral attraction. Guests will be seated in open-air gondolas for the ride, which includes 10 minutes of rotation at the peak. During the ascent, rotation and descent, visitors can enjoy drinks exclusively created for the attraction. Designed and constructed by French company Aerophile, SkyHelix Sentosa is only available for vaccinated guests and accompanying children under 12 years old.

The National Aquarium Al Qana, Abu Dhabi, UAE
The National Aquarium Al Qana, Abu Dhabi, UAE

The National Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the Middle East and home to 46,000 freshwater and marine creatures, has opened at Al Qana in Abu Dhabi. The National Aquarium features more than 60 exhibits across 10 zones, with species including hammerhead sharks and the ‘Super Snake’, which is believed to be the longest reptile on display in the world. With innovations including video mapping technology and signage guides on your personal device, this attraction is expected to quickly take its place among the world’s best aquariums. It is expected to take an average of two hours to complete the attraction.