As the saying goes; “Sometimes there are decades where nothing happens and sometimes there are weeks where decades happen”. For Family Entertainment Centres (or FECs), this is one of those ‘weeks’. Despite the devastation of the entertainment and leisure industry through the pandemic, a silver lining is quickly becoming apparent. Now, more than ever, after weathering lockdowns, restrictions, and isolation, there is much pent-up demand for entertainment that creates memories. People are craving genuine, authentic connection with those around them after being disconnected and starved for so long. FECs are spaces that deliver on both these demands and as such are experiencing an unprecedented rise in popularity.
What are FECs?
FEC’s exist in multiple forms as leisure centres that appeal to visitors of all ages. Categories include adventure sports parks or ‘active entertainment’, such as go-karting, trampoline parks, and even snow sports. There has also been an increase in modern arcades, such as tech and gaming centres that include exciting new convergences of gaming and technology, with VR gaming zones expected to register the fastest growth in the coming years.
The defining feature of these centres is that they are comprised of at least five main anchor activities to keep visitors entertained: essentially small amusement parks. They are often located in high-traffic shopping centres and other easily accessible locations and typically indoors.
The rise in demand for FECs
According to TechSci research in 2018 the revenue generated from FECs was approximately $18.7 billion and is forecast to grow at an annual growth rate of 10.93% from 2021 to 2026. The largest areas of growth where FECs are gaining traction include regions such as Asia-Pacific, North America, Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Africa. While North America currently dominates the FEC market, Asia-Pacific is expected to witness the highest growth rate, with a projected annual growth rate of 24.1% from 2018-2021. The takeaway is that FECs are set to become lucrative areas of opportunity that should not be overlooked.
The challenge, therefore, is to figure out why FECs appeal to audiences as much as they do and how they can ensure that they continue to attract and retain repeat visitors with a truly sustainable competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive industry.
What is the appeal of FECs?
FECs offer all the thrill and fun of theme parks, but in a bite-sized package:
Whilst they may offer fewer activities, the beauty of FECs is that they take the best aspects of theme parks and deliver them as a less time-intensive and costly experience. In the hustle and bustle of the modern world, families are wanting to engage in experiences that allow them to experience fun in its most convenient form without compromising on an amazing experience.
They have something for everyone:
Perhaps the biggest appeal of FECs is that they have something to offer for the entire family; these are spaces where parents can indulge their inner child and children can live in the joy of childhood. These are spaces where people can come together and relish in the simple joy of having fun. They provide more of a sense of community and encourage repeat visitation.
How to make your FEC stand out
With increasing competition in this industry, ensuring that your FEC truly stands out and defines its competitive advantage is imperative. Thus, the following factors must be considered to create an FEC where guests return time and again:
- Do your homework. Ensure a robust feasibility study is undertaken.
- Choose a location with superior visibility, proximity, and access to customers. Currently, the most successful FECs are located in areas of high traffic such as shopping centres.
- Superior thematic design; if rides, games, and attractions are all the same, from one FEC to the next, a factor that truly differentiates will be the fun factor in the overall décor and interior.
- Multiple anchor activities; guests must be able to efficiently go through the FEC without extensive wait times. The current culture of instant gratification means that guests want to be able to instantly access their chosen activity.
- Exceptional marketing that becomes part of the customer journey.
- Superior food and beverage: Food and beverage are the second most lucrative revenue stream in FECs. A way to elevate this could include further integrating food into the experience itself beyond mere sustenance.
- Be strategic in incorporating Covid-19 restrictions and guidelines into the experience, so that they do not hinder the experience.
So, rather than lamenting the demise of the bowling alleys and arcades of our past, we should be invigorated by the opportunity to reimagine what they could be; a space of fun, entertainment, and more importantly, connection in a world where we are increasingly disconnected.
Pico Play is a global leader in leisure and entertainment solutions delivering outstanding guest experiences across theme parks, water parks, surf parks, family entertainment centres, zoos and nature parks, aquariums and marine parks and public brand activations.