The Future of Recreation and Parks: Post Pandemic

Several of our staff socially distanced and joined together to participate in a virtual presentation last week by Neelay Bhatt regarding the Future of Recreation and Parks Post Pandemic.  Neelay, a prominent voice for customer service in the recreation industry, describes himself as:  “ a servant leader passionate about connecting people in the Sports Business, Government Agencies such as Parks and Recreation or non-profits such as Governing bodies and Sports Commissions, I'm committed to helping clients one agency at a time. Be it sports marketing, master and strategic planning, facility development or business planning, training or speaking on leadership, customer service or brand building, I continue to share and learn from professionals and friends alike.” 


  1. Financially Sustainable:

With limited and sometimes frozen budgets, we are going to need to rely heavily on sponsorship, naming rights and crowd funding to support everything from construction of assets to event production and programs development.


  1. Resilient:

Our landscape is changing and we are going to be mindful to create and work within Climate Action Plans.  Climate friendly behaviors will need to be at the forefront of sustainability planning.  Achieving net zero builds, looking at energy efficient equipment and the like will be at the center of creating and working within  a plan.


  1. Data Driven:

With all of the changing technology at our fingertips, we want to ensure that we are using our registration platforms to the best of their ability in terms of accessing date. Upselling programs will be easier now more than ever; connecting to software that provides users with easy transaction and automated style preference recommendations is a great way to introduce new programs to your market.  When looking at software, we need to be mindful of all applications and aligning policies that support the use of block chain and crypto currency.


  1. ESports:

Recent data confirms that 90% of kids between 12-17 play video games. No matter what side of the philosophic coin you fall on in terms of these video games being “sports” or their players being called “athletes” it can’t be denied that this is a huge current trend and one that will only get bigger in the future.  There are many avenues to explore such as public and private tournaments that support program style opportunities or even leagues and open tournaments that physically engage the public at large for viewing  and can generate significant revenue given the right venue.


  1. Social:

We are all learning to live social lives over the internet, and it is likely that this will be some of what stays as our new normal.  Taking an essential look at how we are using social platforms and social media is going to be crucial as we strive to remain relevant in our communities.  What is our voice?  How are we targeting? How to do reach people in a meaningful way.  Hard copy print is going to be a think of the past, what sells is active conversations, constant engagement and grass roots marketing; all of which are far more cost effective that traditional methods of the past. We need to be in the virtual social circles, the community watches, forums, blogs and groups; getting essential information directly to people.


  1. Outdoors:

As we know, people are accessing our open spaces now more than ever; so to preserve these spaces we are going to have to put money into maintaining and sustaining them.  Once land is gone, it is gone, so the conservation platform will be significant as protections will need to be put into place to preserve the opportunities for future generations. The trend during this pandemic has seen an increase of 38% of park use and we are hopeful that trend stays and that more and more people access the great outdoors.  Ensuring accessibility to these opportunities will also be essential and budget must be built to reflect that.


  1. Augmented and Virtual:

Providing technology in the outdoors is going to be crucial, so looking at infrastructure within your park system to ensure there are solar charging stations as well as  Wi-Fi hot spots will be key. The convenience and cost effective option of virtual classes has been appealing and we must continue to offer these opportunities even when facilities can safely re-open again.  Virtually led hikes, museum and parks tours are all great opportunities for engagement.  Pokémon Go has welcomed millions of people to our parks; we need to be prepared for this trend to continue and make accommodations for that.  


  1. Inclusive and Equitable:

When building an inventory of parks, programs and events, there will need to be intentional design for all abilities. ADA accessibility in outdoor spaces has been long underfunded and will need to be a focus and priority.  As well, embedded website translation and providing sign language interpreters will allow for broader and richer participation by the public.


  1. Costumer Focused:

It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one negative- with social media, you don’t even have the opportunity to explain and justify- what is written is believed.  Need to think ahead of potential conflict, potential issues and solve before they come up.  Disney model of customer experience; everyone is scripted to provide a magical day.


  1. About People:

It will always be about people!  Providing experiences for people to interact with nature, to interact with others and to benefit self is at the heart of what we do.

Learn more about Neelay by accessing one of his Tedx Talks, You had me at hello, hola, bonjour! at the link below.