In spring 2020, the world's first AQUA CHIMP was built at Wildshore Delamere Holiday Park, UK. We wanted to know exactly how the first year with a completely new product in the ropes course sector went and asked our friend and partner James Barbour from 'ADV Holdings' for an interview.
faszinatour: Hi James, glad you took the time for this interview. The first season with the Aqua Chimp is over. We have a few questions for you. Let's start like this: What do you like best about the Aqua Chimp?"
James: What’s not to like about Aqua chimp! We are hugely proud to have the first Aqua Chimp in the world. For us it represents the next level and a new generation in group, water-based activities. Aqua Chimps sheer presence on the water is certainly very impressive. Its dominance on the water can’t help but enhance the participants excitement level before even stepping onto it. It is extremely well built and engineered giving you the confidence that it will have a very long-life span with minimal maintenance. We love the fact every element is interchangeable, and the activity is super safe. The thought and detail faszinatour have put into the elements design is also first class.
faszinatour: How come you decided to make Aqua Chimp the newest addition to Wild Shore Delamere?
James: We have operated our Foxfall Ropes overwater ropes course at our sister site at Foxlake Adventures in Scotland for 7 years. This has been a huge success and lead to the concept and development of Aqua Chimp. It was always our wish to have the first Aqua Chimp in the world as we knew it would be a huge asset to any Wakepark or water-based activity centre. As soon as we knew the development and design stage of AquaChimp was complete and Sesitec were ready to go into production it was a no brainer ,we had to select it as an activity for our recently opened Wildshore Delamere site.
faszinatour: What was the biggest challenge with this project?
James: The biggest challenge for this project was the fact that we took delivery of our Aqua Chimp at the end of March during the midst of Covid 19 lock down in the UK. We genuinely thought we would not be able to construct our course until spring 2021 as the Covid Crisis had no sign of going away. At the beginning of June, we realised that there may be a chance to get our site open for the summer. We took the opportunity to build Aqua Chimp and get it in the water. Very quickly we realised that it would be the ideal activity to achieve “social distancing” relatively easily and also expend our capacity on site.
Wildshore is based on a holiday park so we managed to get a cabin on site. This allowed us to bring in our construction team to get the Aqua Chimp constructed while conforming to Covid rules.Unfortunately, the Aqua Chimp team in Germany could not get to the UK to help us. We were a little worried that this may cause us some construction problems, being the first build of an Aqua Chimp. We were wrong and we were forgetting that it has been designed by best German engineering and design. Nearly everything went together according to plan and any issues we had were very quickly resolved with almost instant communication with the Aqua Chimp Team in Germany via our WhatsApp group chat.
faszinatour: How was the communication and support with the german team?
James: We really could not fault the level of communication and support we received from the design and concept stage to the support we got while constructing it. I have been involved in the construction industry for 25 years and particular the erection of factory-made Timber frame houses and have never experienced the level of support and communication that we had from the Aqua Chimp Team. I have to commend the Aqua Chimp engineer "Ulrich Beer" who was super helpful and guided us through any issue we encountered. He delivered awesome customer service throughout the build. We virtually had instant replies from him, and it was rare that we had to wait more than an hour or so to get an answer or solution to an issue. Absolutely outstanding service!
faszinatour: Are you planning on any further projects yet?
James: Yes, we are planning further projects. We hope to be opening a site in New Brighton near Liverpool next year and we are keen to install a non-floating version of Aqua Chimp there either in 2021 or 2022. We also have potential of installing a smaller Aqua Chimp in our site at Foxlake Dundee (Scotland) in couple of years. Our company ADV Holdings Ltd is committed to opening up more sites over the forth coming years and we very much see Aqua Chimp being a key activity on some of these sites.
faszinatour: How did the Covid-19 measures affect you?
James: As already mentioned, Covid 19 did have an impact on when and how we installed Aqua Chimp. In the UK, the Covid-19 lockdown stopped us opening any of our sites in March 2020. We had prepared and really thought we may not have been able to open at all this year. Fortunately, as the months of lock down progressed, the guidelines and restrictions changed and we realised that the Aqua Chimp could give us an Activity that we could get significant numbers of participants onto while following social distancing guidelines. This was far easier to achieve than with our Aquapark which was already installed. We were restricted to hiring out the Aqua park to single “bubble groups", one at a time. Aqua chimp however, because the structure lends itself naturally to social distancing, we managed to get multiple groups in every session and very quickly after opening managed to get to a maximum of 24 participants per session, all maintaining a 2-metre distance at all times (compared to maximum 6 per session on the Aquapark).
faszinatour: What do you think are the most valuable advantages of Aqua Chimp?
James: We feel Aqua Chimp has a number of really valuable advantages. It is innovative and new to the marketplace. It is currently a very new and unique activity available to operators. The structure and design gives it a much longer life span than an Aquapark, along with minimal annual maintenance costs. It can remain in the water at the end of the season, without risk of deterioration or damage from the weather. Variation of element design and degree of difficulty from easy to very hard, makes it an activity that can challenge children to adults of all abilities, while making it a fun, social able activity for all. It has a capacity of over 50 participants an hour so our course will be the primary revenue generating activity on site. The TUV approval rating also gives us piece of mind that it apart from being very safe to operate it has been engineered and designed to the highest of standards.
faszinatour: How’s the customer response about Aqua Chimp so far?
James: Customers have been blown away by Aqua Chimp, proving an instant hit with them. News about how fun it was spread extremely quickly once the course was opened. We have had amazing comments and reviews via social media streams, Google reviews and the majority of our Trip Advisor reviews (all 5 star!) mention Aqua Chimp. Our Aqua Chimp staff are trained to be not only Lifeguards but ropes course instructors too, so many of them have been mentioned within these reviews as being very important in enhancing the customer experience of participants on the course. This has been a very positive effect on staff moral too.We also had many comments about how safe customers felt when it came to operating during Covid restrictions.
faszinatour: The facility in Delamere had a late start into the season 2020. Can you already say something about participation numbers?
James: Yes unfortunately due to Covid by the time we finished the construction of Aqua Chimp, and completed staff training, it was nearly the end of July before the course went fully operational. We started with very small session sizes of 12 participants per session to give the staff time to gain confidence on what was a new activity for them, but also to make sure we adhered to social distancing rules. With other activities also happening on site we had also had to deal with social distancing and sanitisation measures on land. This included managing changing areas and processing equipment, which was an added challenge to site operations. By mid-August we were able to increase numbers on sessions from 12 to 18 and by September we got to a session size of 24 participants. Due to the above factors, we were extremely pleased to have a total of 6.135 participants on the course by the time we closed in October.
Next year providing we get a full season to operate we are hopeful to achieve a number of 22.000 on Aqua Chimp !
faszinatour: Thank you very much for your answers James! We wish you much success for the next season!
James Barbour is one of the directors at ADV Holdings Ltd.