Great Wolf Resorts Inc. Redefines the Guest Experience with Smart Band® RFID Wristband Systems

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Building a History of Success with RFID

As the largest provider of family indoor water park resorts, Great Wolf Resorts, Inc. made a big splash in the waterpark industry after launching the first-of-its kind Smart Band® System at its Great Wolf Lodge® in the Pocono Mountains, PA in 2005. After outstanding success, seven additional installations have been deployed throughout North America (Niagara Falls, Ontario; Mason, OH; Williamsburg, VA; Grapevine, TX; Grand Mound, WA; Charlotte/Concord, NC and Fitchburg, MA).

PDCs’ Smart Band® is a non-transferable wristband with a securely sealed RFID microchip, which is programmed with a unique 16-character code. When scanned by an RFID reader, a low-power radio wave activates the chip to securely collect and transfer data. The technology creates a convenient and seamless guest experience in which guest activities are handled—almost like magic—with a wave of the wristband!

Guest Convenience & Experience Drive Success

Great Wolf’s state-of-the-art guest experience starts at registration where the whole family is armed with individual Smart Band® RFID wristbands. Parents receive a Smart Band® that is linked to their pre-programmed credit card and hotel room and allows them to charge products and services to their account. Children may also receive a Smart Band® that is associated to
their parents’ room and linked to a pre-funded account that their parents control. All data is protected via security encryption keys based on tag unique identifier numbers to prevent counterfeiting.

Easy ID & Keyless Access with High Security

Designed for the waterpark and other hospitality venues, Smart Band® replaces traditional forms of identification and access credentials that need to be carried in a wallet, purse, or pocket. These include keys, badges, and door cards that can become lost or don’t mix well with water.

For hotel room access, the automated wristbands provide secure, keyless entry. The inconvenience of handling, sharing, or losing room keys or fidgeting with faulty door cards is now a thing of the past. The wristbands are comfortable, waterproof, and highly secure. Compared to magnetic stripe cards, “RFID is a much more solid and reliable technology,” said Tom Neely, Resort Manager for the Williamsburg, VA property. “Guests can feel assured that all their valuables are safe and secure.”

To access the resort, guests simply place their Smart Bands® over RFID readers dispersed throughout the property to electronically unlock entrance doors. For those returning to the resort at wee hours, there’s no need to locate personnel or request entry. The RFID system also serves as an important security device, detecting exactly which guests are entering the property at exactly which time.

Available in 13 vibrant colors, Smart Band® provides many color coding options, which can be used for identification, admission control, and customer loyalty programs. The Grapevine, TX property uses color coding for crowd control. “Being that we serve a large metro market (Dallas/Ft. Worth), we change wristband colors on a daily basis,” said Jack Bateman, General Manager of the facility. The Niagara Falls, ON facility uses color coding to identify repeat guests. “It’s kind of like a VIP band for them,” said Keith Simmonds, the resort’s General Manager. “Guests get extra benefits with it, depending on which business unit they’re in or what specials we have going at the time. It might be early check-in or late check-out, or discounts on spa treatments. We always make it a point to welcome back returning guests.”

“Wrist Wallet” for Cashless Purchases

In addition to the elimination of traditional keys and badges, Great Wolf guests also enjoy the freedom of a cashless and credit card-free environment. Money can be instantly loaded to Smart Band®, which serves as a convenient “wrist wallet” for purchases throughout the resort. All that’s required is a quick scan of the band for payment at restaurants, retail, gift stores, spas, arcades, and vending machines! The instant transactions equate to quicker sales, shorter lines, and happier customers.

“Guests don’t have to carry anything on them,” said Bill Colavito, Assistant General Manager of the Pocono Mountains property. “There’s no need to worry about keys, wallets, or cash. When you go swimming, you can’t put these valuables in your pocket and you don’t want to leave them behind at your chair. Everything’s on the wrist! You can’t get more convenient than that!”

Philip Cunningham, General Manager of the Concord, NC resort, added, “It’s part of our mission to create great guest moments. The convenience of cashless spending is a major customer value point that helps define these moments. No fiddling around with wet money at our waterpark!”

And reloading money to the Smart Band® is a breeze. Guests can add funds and check their balances at PDC Smart Kiosks® located throughout the resort. Featuring convenient and user-friendly on-screen instructions, the kiosks operate similar to ATM machines.

The RFID system’s cashless function also allows guests to make quick vending machine purchases and buy tokens for arcade games. Children can play games freely without the need to prod mom or dad for coins or cash to buy tokens. “Parents do not have to worry about their children spending the family vacation budget because children’s RFID wristbands are linked to a pre-funded account. The system allows the guest more impulse buying opportunities and the “wow” factor is great for both kids and adults,” said Kim Schaefer, Chief Executive Officer at Great Wolf Resorts, Inc.

Jack Bateman, General Manager of the Grapevine, TX property sums it up nicely, “The RFID system really is the ultimate service convenience that Great Wolf offers our guests. While there are so many benefits that the system offers, it all boils down to providing great guest service and unforgettable guest experiences.”

In today’s highly competitive hospitality industry, customer loyalty is built around convenience, security, and overall guest experience (or wow factor). Great Wolf Resorts, Inc.® provides all elements rolled into one via the Smart Band® RFID Wristband System from PDC, the leader in RFID Guest Experiences.

Smart Band® serves as a high-security admission pass; cashless payment card; vending and arcade token; hotel room key. Now that’s multi-tasking!

Bottom Line Benefits for Resorts and Parks

While guests favor the many convenience and security features of Smart Band®, resorts and parks profit from the bottom line benefits of the system. These include increased purchases, group spend tracking, streamlined operations, and unmatched efficiency.

Increased Purchases

Nothing deflates a sale quicker than a buyer without money on hand when the purchasing impulse hits. Rajiv Castellino, CIO for Great Wolf Resorts, illustrates missed sales opportunities
encountered before implementing Smart Band®, “When folks left the waterpark, the first thing they’d see is the Dippin’ Dots machine. Before the new Smart Band® system, a child would ask for Dippin’ Dots and the mother would respond, Honey, I don’t have any money with me right now. Let’s go up to the room and get some.’ After arriving to the room, they’d get comfortable, probably shower, change, and then end up going to dinner. And the sales opportunity was lost. With Smart Band®, that doesn’t happen.” With an ever-present “wallet on the wrist,” there’s no chasing down cash or credit cards. “RFID helps streamline the sale,” said Bateman. “When guests use actual cash, they’re counting dollars. But when guests use their wristbands, they tend to spend more.”

Enhancing Efficiency

The Smart Band® system’s advanced level of technology also helps streamline operations and maximize deficiencies at Great Wolf Resorts. By automating manual procedures, transactions
become quick and seamless. Neely states that since launching RFID, “sales transactions take about half the time compared to using credit cards or cash.” With quicker processes come faster
purchases, shorter guest lines, and more satisfied customers.”

Resort maintenance and engineering staff can also appreciate Smart Band’s® ability to maximize performance in its many applications, from cashless point of sale, to room access, to vending machines, which can lead to costly maintenance or missed sales opportunities when they break down. “It’s a very reliable system that streamlines things for sure,” said Neely. “We don’t have to worry about jammed coin mechanisms, defective door access, or ever running out of change.

Tracking Group Spending

Tracking sales of retail items facilitates improved inventory management, while providing insight to buyer behavior. Through Smart Band’s® group tracking feature, Great Wolf staff are able to keep popular items on the shelves and reduce or eliminate spending on slower moving items. Terrie Zajo, General Manager of the Mason, OH property said, “Whether we have a Girl Scout
group or a corporate group making purchases, we can track the items and make sure we keep them on hand. Knowing the group travelers’ buying trends in advance makes it easier for us to
accommodate their needs.”

Bolstering Brand Image

As Smart Band® can be custom printed, Great Wolf Resorts promotes and perpetuates its national brand via the wristbands, which many guests wear long after their stay. “My 7-year old has worn a Smart Band® for three-and-half years,” said Simmonds. “He changes it every time he goes to the park!”

Word of mouth also helps. Smart Band’s® unique design with an integrated RFID chip tends to draw attention. “We have a theme park next door to us and our guests often pop over for a
day,” said Terrie Zajo, General Manager for the Mason, OH property. “My friends at the park are always telling me how the bands capture attention of their guests, who ask about the Great Wolf waterpark and room rates. It’s a form of free advertising that definitely gives us a branding boost in marketing to people outside our resort.”

Partner with PDC for Your Best Season Ever

Position your park or resort as an innovator in technology and wow your guests with the power of cashless purchasing, social media integration, keyless hotel room entry, and more. To learn more about how PDC’s RFID Solutions can help your company control access, increase impulses purchases, and promote your brand. Contact a PDC RFID representative today:


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