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 “VR is done for me” says attractions expert

Mini dark rides, ambitious storytelling and greener design are all trending in the attractions tech market – but VR is over, according to AV veteran and theme park specialist Bart Dohmen.

Opening up Friday’s attractionsTECh conference at the Hotel Okura – organised by attractions resource, Blooloop – Dohman, said that VR’s increasing presence in home tech meant that the novelty of the immersive experiences would soon wear off. 

“VR – is done for me. I’m sure it will persist but we have seen the hype. It’s started to make its way into people’s homes – which in our industry usually spells the end. 

The expert opined that VR doesn’t work well attraction space where people generally tend to want to experience things together. 

“Do you see anyone walking alone in the museum? No – you go with the people you love – why would you isolate these people when they want to be together? Disney worked that out a long time ago,” he said. 

Despite spending millions on rides, it is investments in storytelling that are going to be the real game-changer Dohmen predicted. 

As a case-in-point the former electronic engineer who has also headed up divisions at BRC Imagination Arts and Mansveld cited the theme park  Bobbejaanland as an example.

The Belgian theme park’s new attraction Land of Legends incorporates a narrative linked together by one character, The Guardian of Elements. 

“Yes they have new rides, but what’s interesting is that they’ve invested in a number of extra smaller items that tell the story to the visitors,” he said. 

Dohmen added that Europa-Park in Rust, Germany, was another park becoming more story-focused – with a movie commissioned around the park’s new €180m water park, Rulantica two years before it opened. 

Another trend, he added, was compact dark rides.  “Until recently dark rides have been too expensive for all but the big parks – but firms are now offering rides that don’t take up such a big footprint,” he said, citing the launch of Jora Vision and ETF Ride Systems’ mini dark ride Pirate Mania as an example. 

Challenges the industry will face in future, according to Dohmen, included reducing the carbon footprint of theme park tech – something that younger visitors will demand, following the influence of young campaigners such as Greta Thurnberg

Some parks are already planning to take action. At Efteling, a theme park in South Holland, Dohmen pointed to a new project that included a roof with 800 solar panels. 

“We will need to change more and more – and green thinking will also extend to our tendering process,” he added.