Canadians and international tourists are always looking for opportunities for outdoor adventure. An aerial park provides that adventure in a safe, family-friendly environment and combines the great outdoors with fun equipment like zip lines and suspension bridges. If you’re looking at starting an aerial park of your own, you need the right location, the right equipment, and a plan of action.
Securing Aerial Park Land
To create an aerial park, you first need to find a big enough chunk of land. Ideally, you want a few acres that are reasonably close to a community or within accessible distance from an existing tourist hub. Canada’s far north might be a location worth considering if you don’t already have the land — there’s plenty of space in this region, and there might be less competition from other similar businesses.
If you already own a plot of land, make sure you apply for commercial zoning. Zoning laws are usually a provincial concern, so contact your local provincial government branch and find out what you’re allowed to build on your existing land and what the rezoning process looks like. Government applications can be time-consuming, so plan accordingly.
Is an Aerial Park Feasible?
Before you build anything, you need to make sure an aerial park actually makes sense in your area. A feasibility study helps determine whether an outdoor adventure businesses is right for your community. Are there plenty of young, active families living in your area? Is the local population dense enough to provide you with regular traffic? If the local population isn’t enough, can you count on a busy tourist season to boost ticket sales?
A feasibility study can also include a glimpse into the local terrain and climate. In most parts of Canada, outdoor aerial parks are seasonal businesses — if you’re opting to buy land in the north, make sure the summer months are going to be profitable enough to cover maintenance and upkeep expenses during the winter when your equipment is most likely going to be buried under snow.
Park Equipment and Safety
If you don’t have a background in aerial parks or outdoor adventure businesses, consider finding a partner who does. You might also hire a small management team with plenty of combined experience. Like most business models, outdoor recreation parks come with their own unique set of challenges, ones you’re better off facing with some practical knowledge to draw from.
You may want to spend a few days visiting other parks to see how they operate. Don’t expect anyone to divulge trade secrets, but even a day spent exploring a park as a regular guest can tell you a lot about that park’s business model, the type of equipment it uses, its pricing scheme, and the demographics of its visitors.
Before you start building, get together with your contractors to ask some questions:
- What needs to happen to turn your plot of land into an aerial park?
- How much excavation is required?
- Are there any underground pipelines you need to be aware of?
- What is the construction timeline?
- How often does the equipment need servicing?
You should also understand how your equipment is going to react to your local weather. If you’re in the Northwest Territories, for example, you’re probably not going to want to use a bunch of plastic that warps when frozen or corrodes from winter salt. Likewise, if you’re on the Pacific coast, make sure the persistent rain and humidity aren’t going to cause rust or rot.
Recreation Insurance and Regulations
While you’re researching materials and equipment, find out what safety regulations you need to abide by. What’s the weight capacity of your zip lines? How often does your park need to undergo maintenance?
Before opening day, you also want to make sure you have a good insurance plan. An aerial park is classified as a recreation or amusement business, and there are specific insurance regulations you have to follow. Plus, your guests need to be aware of any potential risks.
Find a broker that deals with amusement and recreation insurance. Once you have your policy nailed down, work with a lawyer to draw up a waiver for guests to sign, so you can make sure everyone’s on the same page when it comes to risks and liability.
Creating a Solid Marketing Plan
You’ve made it this far — now to draw in those crowds. Marketing is another area where a little research can go a long way. You already know the demographics of your area, but do you know how to reach those people? Try conducting a survey, or even reaching out to other businesses, especially those with similar target demographics.
You might try partnering with another local business to offer perks — for example, maybe there’s an ice cream shop near your aerial park. You could offer guests who purchase a season pass to your park coupons to the ice cream place. Or, borrow social media marketing tips from the pros: get people to tag photos of your park on Instagram, or use a video format to tell a story of what a day at your park is like.
Having an easy-to-navigate website is also a must when it comes to marketing. For this type of business, you’re probably looking to attract customers from far away. A website with high-quality photos of your park, descriptions of what customers can expect, and maybe even an online ticket portal can mean the difference between people visiting or skipping your park.
There’s a lot that goes into starting an aerial park. Make sure you do your homework, and collaborate with people who have the expertise you need when necessary. With the right equipment, insurance, and marketing plan, you can look forward to being a part of fond family memories for years to come.