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McClatchy-Tribune  07/16/2014 12:01 AM ET
SeaWorld rolls out new tech features [Orlando Sentinel :: ]

July 16--SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. launched technology Tuesday that allows visitors to pay for food and souvenirs with their smartphones.

Guests also can use the new SeaWorld app to skip the line at the busy Antarctica attraction in its Orlando park -- but for $10.

The mobile payment system is available at most shops and restaurants throughout Orlando-based SeaWorld's parks. That includes SeaWorld in San Diego and San Antonio; Busch Gardens in Tampa and Williamsburg, Va.; and Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pa.

Guests register a credit card in their mobile app accounts to use the payment system.

The new features that debuted Tuesday include one-time $10 Quick Queue access for Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin.

Quick Queue is a sort of express lane for SeaWorld's rides. Customers typically pay in advance via a desktop computer or at the front of the park. It costs $19 for unlimited access to several rides including Antarctica.

The feature SeaWorld is trying out is unique because visitors can buy express access at the ride if they decide the line is too long, said Anne Fischer, SeaWorld's corporate director of interactive marketing.

Each SeaWorld user can only access the $10 Quick Queue app feature once. SeaWorld doesn't know when it will expand the feature to other park rides.

"We're going to see what consumer demand is," Fischer said.

SeaWorld has been working on a multiyear digital innovation project that Chief Executive Officer Jim Atchison has said will give guests "a premier user experience."

SeaWorld redesigned its app earlier this year, working with San Diego-based tech firm TE2 (The Experience Engine).

SeaWorld is rolling out its app features at the same time Walt Disney World has been focusing on MyMagic+. That billion-dollar technology project includes a system allowing visitors to book attraction times weeks before their trips and microchip-embedded wristbands that interact with sensors throughout the resort.

"On vacation, particularly now, it's all about convenience," said Jim Hill, an industry blogger and editor of JimHillMedia.com. "SeaWorld doesn't want to be left out. This is them stepping up to the plate and getting their version out there."

Universal Orlando Resort launched a new app last month with attraction wait times and interactive park maps. Universal announced the debut of free parkwide Wi-Fi access, too.

spedicini@tribune.com or 407-420-5240

 

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