COHOES, NY—Water features have evolved at high-end resorts, ranging from playful and vibrant to sophisticated and serene. As the needs and demands of today’s traveler change, so does the industry. In response, hoteliers have sought out new ways to differentiate, excite and draw in guests to their property.
“One way properties have found they can [attract guests] is by adding—or expanding—their water area with new innovative attractions, amenities and available areas for guests of all ages,” said Jim Dunn, president of Aquatic Development Group (ADG), based here. “Guests, no longer impressed by a standard kidney wading pool, are looking for more ways to enjoy water. This is why industry visionaries have developed the concept of ‘creative water.’ Creative water is a form of recreational water area that goes beyond the edge of the pool, by looking at the target audience and tailoring a water experience that not only gives guests a way to beat the heat, but keeps them staying, playing, spending and on property longer.”
Dunn noted there’s a big difference between a resort setting and a water park, with higher-end resorts realizing that with the right mix of attractions, amenities, landscaping and upscale features, they can create a hybrid setting that delivers both experiences.
“Experienced aquatic designers and builders who are up to date on all the latest developments in water features, technology and architectural design elements are able to blend water play and leisure together seamlessly,” he said. “It creates a branded resort destination draw that is a revenue-driving amenity when it comes to increasing ADR and RevPAR by keeping guests on property longer.”
The Gaylord Opryland and Kartrite Resort are examples of two major resort expansions. Dunn weighed in on the creative water trend at these two properties:
“The concept of creative water is popping up across the U.S. and can be seen at popular resorts such as the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, TN. In 2019, the resort added an indoor/outdoor water experience called ‘SoundWaves’ where they combined state-of-the-art attractions with modern design elements, marking a leap forward in architectural design for resort water parks,” he said. “This property blended recreational family fun with attractions such as waterslides, a multi-level play structure, a FlowRider surf ride, and an activity pool with adult leisure where guests can relax and sip a cocktail in a tile-lined infinity pool. This blend was accomplished by incorporating design elements such as live vegetation, water curtains, a soaring atrium roof, varying level dimensions, and a clean white interior to reflect the upscale-feel of the Gaylord brand.”
Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark
“Another example of creative resort water can be found at the Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark in Monticello, NY, which opened this Spring. The Kartrite utilized differentiating design elements inspired by the architecture of indoor water parks in Europe,” he said. “The unobstructed 60,000-sq.-ft., column-free construction features a barrel-shaped transparent Texlon roofing system that provides natural sunlight and lush landscaping year-round. This indoor water park is home to family friendly attractions that cater to guests of all ages and features multiple waterslides, a FlowRider, an action river, and a kids’ activity pool. Guests can choose to engage in water play or relax on the water park’s mezzanine alongside cabanas, a bar and grill, and lounge options overlooking the resort, providing families with the perfect space to spend some down time and watch their children enjoy the expansive array of waterpark attractions.”
Dunn advises hoteliers seeking to dip a toe into the creative water trend to consider the target audience, budget space allocation, staffing, bed-base, existing amenities, F&B outlets and time frame.
“When choosing your aquatic designer/builder, they should look at your project from a holistic perspective. It’s so much more than just adding a pool; it is an extension of your brand and vision to carry through the most efficient resort water project,” he said. “In addition, it’s key to consider the attraction’s landscaping, F&B outlets, towel stations, lounge chairs, cabanas and deck space, and how all these pieces will look once they come together. Will the project be indoor or outdoor? What is the seasonality of your core business? What type of business are you looking to drive? What type of experience do you want your guests to leave with? These are the types of questions hoteliers should answer before pencil meets paper on the project.”