Agent-Based Simulation in the Themed Entertainment Industry: Enhancing the Guest Experience with Predictive Analytics

By Shelby Seifer, Analyst

Agent-based simulation modeling is a powerful tool for predicting and analyzing complex systems. In the themed entertainment industry, this technology allows designers and operators to simulate the behavior of guests and staff in real-world scenarios, allowing stakeholders to visualize how changes to an operation will impact the guest experience.

In an agent-based simulation for a themed entertainment venue, such as a theme park, museum, zoo, or resort, each agent (person) is built with artificial intelligence that mirrors how guests would make decisions in the real world. This includes decisions such as stopping to view an exhibit, moving past a line that is too long, needing to use the restroom, or eating at certain times of the day.

Agent-based simulation reveals how 'real-world' guests will interact with experiential designs and respond to changes in operational strategies, and can be applied in several scenarios, including:

  • Testing Experiential Designs
  • Improving Operational Efficiency
  • Testing Health and Safety Protocols
Testing Experiential Designs with Agent-Based Simulation

One of the most applicable uses of agent-based simulation for themed experiences is to test the schematic design and layout of a venue before ground is broken on the project and costs are incurred – a significant cost savings, as construction rework from design errors can increase total project costs by 5-20%1 .

project efficiency with simulation

By simulating how guests will interact with an experience in a virtual environment, designers can test the fluidity of the layout, identify potential bottlenecks or congestion points, and optimize the placement of attractions, shops, and amenities. All aspects of the design can be evaluated to ensure a seamless guest experience, and key questions can be answered, including:

  • Crowd Flow: How do crowds navigate through the design in peak periods? Where are the potential bottlenecks and areas of congestion? How do changes to the layout impact crowd dispersion?
  • Wayfinding: How do different signage systems, landmarks, or spatial configurations influence people's navigation behavior and decision-making?
  • Guest Entrance and Exit: How does our security, ticket scanning, and admissions process accommodate varying levels of demand? Are guests able to smoothly exit the venue during peak times, such as during closing?
  • Capacity Planning: How does our designed capacity accommodate peak demand periods? Where do congestion points occur that we can modify before it becomes a real-world issue?
  • Emergency Egress Planning: In a state of emergency, are guests able to quickly and efficiently exit?

These are just a few of the questions an agent-based simulation model can answer for designers. Our simulation projects are completed with an iterative process that allows stakeholders to ask questions and make adjustments as the design is being refined. For example, the simulation can test reconfiguring the layout or sequence of experiences, adding capacity to a specific experience, changing the expected dwell time for each activity, or adjusting the visitation levels to the venue.

Case Study - Capacity Planning for Zoo Attraction & Water Park

An attraction venue engaged Integrated Insight to assess how the addition of a water park to the existing attraction would affect capacity on the whole operation.  Since the capacity of this type of park is highly dependent on the weather, multiple scenarios had to be simulated:

  • A warm day where many guests would be in the water park
  • A cool day where very few guests would be in the water park, and
  • A normal day where there would be an even split of guests between the water park and the zoo.

Click to play video.

The simulation highlighted areas that might be constrained at different times of the year. From this, we were able to inform the client of pathways that needed to be widened due to their high levels of cross traffic, as well as recommend operational improvements for food and beverage, which may be capacity constrained during the lunch rush on cooler days.

Improving Operational Efficiency

Agent-based simulation can also be leveraged to improve operational efficiency of a themed entertainment venue by testing scenarios and operational strategies before implementing them, to ensure decisions help to reduce wait times, improve visitor flow, and enhance the overall visitor experience.

Operators can run tests to model process improvement scenarios with multiple demand levels and visualize the impact on the guest experience. For example, simulations can help test:

  • Staffing levels
  • Line management techniques
  • Wayfinding
  • Parking and transportation
  • F&B mobile ordering
  • Retail self-checkout

The implications are expansive, and the benefits are considerable, as repeat visitation from satisfied guests and reduced costs from inefficient operations can significantly improve profitability.

Case Study - Modeling Queue Optimization Techniques with Agent-Based Simulation

One major example of simulation’s capabilities includes modeling egress and ingress efficiency. This could include a rush of guests entering a theme park as soon as they open, or sports fans exiting a stadium after a game. Simulations are also ideal for gaining helpful statistics - such as how long it takes a guest to exit the building or the average time someone spends in a line.

For example, Integrated Insight worked with accesso to test the impact of ticketing solutions on queue times for a ski resort. The operation was tested under two scenarios: free guest queueing and virtual queueing. In the video, you can see how simulation modeling was used to clearly highlight the major differences between the two scenarios.

Testing Health and Safety Protocols

Another great use of agent-based simulation is to ensure the safety of guests. For example, during COVID-19 we used agent-based simulation to help theme parks, attractions, and venues successfully navigate the new world with social distancing guidelines and reduced capacity.

These simulations helped shed insight on changes in demand, new pinch points, and areas to potentially open up to keep guests safe. Even outside of a pandemic, changing regulations, safety protocols, and guest behavior can affect the capacity of a space. To keep up with these changes, we work with our clients to determine how incorporating health precautions and emergency protocols might impact their operation.

Case Study - Optimizing Space Utilization with Safety Protocols

A client approached Integrated Insight seeking operational advice on how to re-open a long running walk-through attraction in a COVID-19 world. The initial scope of the project was to model the attraction as previously designed and then simulate the impact of changes to determine a layout that followed social distancing guidelines, while also optimizing attendance and revenue.

Click to play video.

By leveraging agent-based simulation, we identified a 14% increase in capacity for our client while still maintaining social distancing simply by redesigning the space of the event. These learnings applied beyond the extent of the pandemic and have improved the operation in the long run.

Leverage Agent-Based Simulation in Your Next Project

Whether designing a new state-of-the-art immersive experience or conducting operations assessment on your current venue, agent-based simulation gives you the opportunity to get it right the first time and create a great guest experience.

Want to learn more about agent-based simulation?

Schedule a free consultation to discuss your business needs.

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