InterPark editor Andrew Mellor talks to Jonas Luttermann, COO of Universe Science Park in Denmark, about his time to date at the venue, its key selling points, how the park takes inspiration from the amusement business, trends in the European parks sector and other aspects of the theme park industry

Andrew Mellor: When did you first become involved in the park/attractions industry and in what capacity?

Jonas Luttermann: I was employed as the F&B manager at Universe in 2010. Prior to that I was in the restaurant business so have always had guests as the ‘final product.’ I’ve been at Universe ever since and have worked my way up until being promoted three years ago to the position of chief operating officer.

AM: Who owns Universe?
JL: It is owned by a non-profit foundation. It was founded to inspire children and young people in science and entrepreneurship by the son of the founder of the Danfoss company. His idea was to create a family place where you can explore science and discover how to take things apart and understand them, for example.

AM: Can you briefly describe the park and its latest developments?
JL: A theme park on science. It is full of science based fun. We try to combine the best elements from science museums and amusement parks to create a hybrid type of venue. So it’s a science fun theme park with lots of active attractions.

In relation to new developments, we have a reinvented virtual reality (VR) exhibition. We’ve added more physical elements and have also added a ‘finger coaster’ where visitors draw a coaster and then try it in VR. Other new attractions include a film studio in which visitors can look behind the scenes of movie making and a new soap bubbles pavilion with the science behind these, their shapes, bubbles with smoke inside, foam bubbles and other types – but all about playing, not teaching.

We also have a phenomenon pavilion which features science, technology, engineering and mathematics and where you experience more about vortexes, illusions, magnetic fields, shapes of mathematics and more.

AM: What would you say are the park’s main USPs?
JL: Where we create attractions for the whole family, things that they can actually do together rather than just sitting on a ride together. Parents can show kids how to do things but then the children may do things differently again.

It’s also about a mix of indoor and outdoor facilities. We have 5,000sq.m. indoors and six acres outdoors, so we are not your usual science museum. Guests can also visit no matter what the weather is like.

AM: What has been your most successful attraction in terms of return on investment?
JL: When you are a purpose driven park it’s different to other parks as far as ROI is concerned. We need to inspire children in science, maths and technology so it’s hard to say. The best we have done in the last few years is to look more into the amusement business. We have more visitors now so we try to ‘sneak’ in the science elements. We take our inspiration from the amusement business more now to make the experience even more entertaining overall.

AM: How do you incentivise your staff to do the best job they can?
JL: I believe it’s about showing them. What I want them to do is what I do. I go into the park and mix with the guests. Staff need inspiration to create service moments, so we get colleagues to tell others what they have done to inspire them to do something extra for guests. All our employees are unique people and they need to realise that guests are unique too and try to create an experience for that unique moment.

AM: What do you feel are the main challenges facing park operators in general today, apart from competition from other parks?
JL: Increased expectations from guests. We know if we want to create loyal guests and guests who tell their friends about us then their expectations must be met. A lot of different things can be experienced today so when they come to a park their expectations are sky high, so we have to cater to that, and go above and beyond.

AM: What do you see as some of the key trends in the European parks industry at the moment?
JL: I see media based attractions as one. They connect to the younger generation coming through now while it is also possible to change the content of such attractions without changing the whole attraction. They are really taking an important spot in parks at the moment.

AM: Do you think it is necessary for parks to invest in new attractions every year or can other things be done to keep visitors coming back?
JL: It is really important. If your base is repeat guests it’s really needed. If you live off new guests it’s different. There are always some attractions you can redevelop but the trigger to bringing visitors back is new attractions.

AM: What future development plans are in the pipeline for Universe?
JL: We are working on a masterplan up to 2025 which includes a lot of interesting things. We have a growth strategy for the next few years and have added 46 per cent to our attendance figures over the last three years. We are looking at what should be done for return visitors, for tourists from the surrounding area, how we can inspire children and more and thinking about how to cater to these different groups.

Personally speaking

Not a lot of people know this but I am very good at … turning cartwheels

The most interesting place I’ve ever been to is … Havana, Cuba

Family aside, the prized possession I value above all others is … a necklace my late father left behind

My favourite film is … The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix, a Norwegian stop motion-animated feature film

When I’m not working I like to … play with my children

The person who has influenced me most is … my daughter; having children has affected me significantly

My favourite musician/band is … R.E.M., the soundscape for my upbringing

If I could invite a celebrity to dinner it would be … Anthony Bourdain or Walt Disney (if he was still alive)

My unfulfilled ambition is … to travel on family leave for a few months, in Asia or overseas

To really chill out I … enjoy good food and wine

I really dislike … cumin and untrustworthy people