Paul Noland was appointed as CEO of accesso in 2018 following three decades working in the attractions and hospitality industry. Here InterPark editor Andrew Mellor talks to Noland about his previous roles, accesso’s development over the years, its current product range, adapting to industry trends and more
Andrew Mellor: Can you provide a brief outline of your time in the attractions industry and the positions you’ve held?
Paul Noland: I had the pleasure of working in the attractions and hospitality industry for more than three decades prior to joining accesso. Most recently, I served as president and CEO of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) from 2013 to 2018, helping the organisation continue its growth as the largest international trade association for amusement facilities and attractions worldwide.
Before that, I served in senior executive roles with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts for 16 years, helping bolster continued growth across the company’s domestic theme parks and resorts and overseeing the financial planning, revenue management and pricing functions at Walt Disney World Resort. Prior to Disney, I spent more than a dozen years in leadership roles with Marriott International where I focused on optimising and driving revenue across the company’s then 900 hotels.
I was thrilled to join accesso as the company’s CEO – sometimes an opportunity comes along that you just can’t turn down. I’ve developed a strong background in ticketing and queuing and have built strong connections to industry decision makers, both in the US and internationally, so taking on this role felt like a perfect fit.
AM: What is the history of accesso? When was it founded and by whom?
PN: Founded in 2000, we are proud to now stand as the premier technology solutions provider to the leisure, entertainment and cultural markets. accesso has seen tremendous success and built a great reputation within the industries we serve.
We began as Lo-Q in 1999 and grew through the acquisition of five companies in five years – accesso in 2012, Siriusware Inc. in 2013, ShoWare in 2014 and Ingresso and The Experience Engine (TE2), both in 2017. With a complete range of complementary technology, we are truly the only company in our industry to offer a complete guest experience technology solution. We base our success on the quality of the relationships we have with some of the largest and most ambitious operators in the world. Over 1,000 clients in 30 countries around the globe trust us to improve guest experiences and drive revenue.
AM: What are accesso’s key products and what types of venues does the company serve?
PN: Our range of award-winning technology products service a wide variety of markets, from theme parks and waterparks to ski resorts, cultural venues and live entertainment events.
Our fully hosted ticketing solutions – including the accesso Passport ticketing suite, which processes tens of millions of tickets every year for top attractions around the world – offer operators the ability to shape their customers’ journeys well before they set foot onsite, streamlining operational needs while ensuring an unforgettable guest experience.
In addition to our portfolio of ticketing technology, accesso offers innovative virtual queueing solutions and powerful guest experience management platforms that allow operators to craft personalised guest journeys and truly redefine the guest experience.
AM: What do you think makes accesso stand out from other suppliers of similar products and solutions?
PN: One of our hallmarks is connectivity in the industry. There is no other company in this space that can bring our level of experience and innovation to the table, period. Many of our team members come from backgrounds working within the attractions and tourism industry. In this way, we are experienced operators who run a technology company serving attraction operators, versus a technology company that happens to serve the market. We truly have a unique understanding of the needs and challenges of this ever-evolving industry.
AM: What are some of the company’s most recent developments?
PN: We continue to heavily invest in our products and to devote a considerable amount of money to research and development. Our newest product, accesso Prism, is a significant step forward for our industry when it comes to in-park wearable technology. The new smartpark wearable device is the most technologically advanced device of its kind available today. Prism has set a new standard for our industry, providing a range of capabilities, from virtual queuing to cashless purchases, push notifications based on guest location and invaluable guest intelligence for operators.
AM: In what ways does the accesso offering enhance the visitor experience at parks and other venues?
PN: We believe that we’ve moved beyond simply enhancing the guest experience to truly redefining it. Today’s consumers are more discerning and have extremely high expectations, setting the bar higher than ever for attractions operators to deliver excellent experiences.
One sure-fire way to craft an unforgettable experience is to maximise engagement. While traditional marketing tactics, like surveys and emails, serve as channels to connect with guests pre- and post-visit, they don’t tell a complete story. With the right technology in place, operators can create countless touchpoints and opportunities for guest communication – from the moment a guest decides to purchase a ticket, through their time onsite and once they’ve returned home.
These moments also allow for greater personalisation, something the majority of consumers have come to not only appreciate, but also to expect. With the aid of accesso technology, our clients are positioned to consistently cater to that expectation.
AM: You announced an expansion of your partnership with Village Roadshow Theme Parks at the IAAPA Expo in November. Can you explain what accesso will be providing to the parks involved and how this will impact on the guest experience and benefit the operator?
PN: For the first time ever, we have implemented an integration of accesso queuing, ticketing and guest experience management solutions tailored to the attractions industry. With the use of our accesso Passport, accesso LoQueue, The Experience Engine (TE2), and accesso ShoWare technologies across three of its key Gold Coast properties, Village Roadshow Theme Parks will set a new operational standard for the attractions industry, engaging with guests at every potential touchpoint and gathering critical data each step of the way.
This unprecedented integration will allow VRTP to drive revenue through the delivery of seamless mobile ticketing and eCommerce experiences; purchasing capability for retail and meals; real-time, personalised communication at every step along the guest journey; and much more. Village Roadshow Theme Parks’ guests will benefit from the integration as well, with access to hassle-free booking capabilities across all three properties and deeply personalised, immersive in-park experiences.
AM: What does this deal mean to accesso?
PN: This deal marks the latest development in our amazing partnership with VRTP, following the installation of our accesso Passport product suite earlier in 2018 at several of their Australian attractions. We are very proud to continue to grow our partnership with them and deliver groundbreaking technology for their guests.
AM: What other key projects are you currently working on?
PN: Because we are publicly traded, we can’t comment on any specific projects that haven’t been announced yet. However, we recently shared another very exciting announcement alongside Merlin Entertainments, a long-time accesso client, to provide an end-to-end suite of guest experience, queuing and ticketing solutions for The Bear Grylls Adventure, which recently opened in Birmingham, England.
This agreement utilizes our accesso Prism wearable – labeled BearTag for this attraction – which serves as a one-stop portable resource for guests, allowing them to enjoy their time on-site to the fullest, hassle-free and worry-free. The technology provides guests with a host of features that allow them to make the most of their in-attraction adventure, including a custom itinerary with live messages and reservation notifications, the ability to make secure, cashless payments for meals and merchandise and the delivery of personalised marketing offers in real-time.
AM: What changes and/or trends is accesso currently adapting to in the parks and attractions industry?
PN: According to the most recent Global Theme and Amusement Park Outlet report, worldwide spending on theme parks hit a record $44.8 billion in 2017. This should come as no surprise, as we are living in an “experience economy,” with more and more consumers investing in experiences over products. However, what attracts guests to theme parks is the promise of a unique experience and technology is what can take the guest journey from routine to truly unforgettable.
Two priorities remain consistent for operators: revenue growth and enhancing the guest experience. While our technology will always be designed to deliver on those two constants, we are careful to tailor our solutions to the unique needs of our clients. Fortunately, we have an incredibly strong team of developers committed to meeting these requirements as they emerge.
AM: How do you see the accesso offering developing in the future?
PN: The future of the industry will continue to be defined by the guest experience and we are going to see a move toward guest empowerment, which can only be accomplished with the use of streamlined, effective technology. Technology shouldn’t be a barrier between the guest and the experience; rather, it should empower guests to connect with the experience from the very beginning.
At accesso, we are committed to staying at the forefront of innovation and meeting the ever-evolving technology needs of our clients, including those in the amusement and attractions industries, while continuing to introduce new ways to redefine the guest experience.
Not a lot of people know this, but I am very good at… grilling. I’m not sure I qualify as very good, but I do enjoy it
The most interesting place I’ve ever been to is… I’ve been blessed to have travelled to some amazing places in my career. I can’t narrow it down to one, so my top three are Tokyo, Cartagena, Columbia, and the Garda region of Italy
Family aside, the prized possession I value above all others is… as we all get older, I’ve come to value my health over anything else. I’ve watched my incredible wife battle breast cancer and seeing her go through that has given me a new outlook on what’s important
My favourite film is… a close tie between Godfather Part II and Chinatown
When I’m not working, I like to… spend time with my family and read books, particularly historical works and thrillers
The person who has influenced me most is… I’ve had several inspiring, key mentors throughout my career that have helped me develop leadership skills, but I would say that the person who has influenced me most is my best friend, Mike Burke. As a person, I really admire who he is – his faith and his values – and I really aspire to be like him
My favorite musician/band is… The Beatles
If I could invite a celebrity to dinner it would be… Winston Churchill
My unfulfilled ambition is… to figure out how to decently play golf. I love the sport, but my game is subpar at best
I really dislike… nuts in my chocolate chip cookies