The key to success, says businessman John Aboud, is to "create a world class product, provide excellent customer service and give your customers value for money."
Aboud was speaking with Business Day about the success of Five Islands Water and Amusement Park (Five Islands) in Chaguaramas. Aboud is chairman of Fouraime Enterprises Ltd, parent company of the park.
Five Islands opened its doors on August 5, 2017 with attractions such as a ropes course, trampoline jump zone, go-karts, ice skating rink and an arcade.
The water section of the park however is being constructed now, with a scheduled opening in the first quarter of 2019.
Reflecting on the park's first year of operations, Aboud said, "We've met our (sales) projections and gotten tremendous reviews on the attractions. The feedback has also been very positive about our staff and customer service, which is rare in Trinidad. That, to me, is very gratifying. So anyone who doesn't believe Trinidadians cannot deliver good customer service, they're making a mistake."
This was achieved through extensive training in customer service. Five Islands hired the US-based consultancy firm, Innovative Attraction Management (IAM), whose president Mike Friscia spent more than a decade at Walt Disney World in various roles. IAM also trained staff in safety and park management.
Five Islands' Facebook page has an average review score of 4.2 out of 5. Aboud said in addition to training, "90 per cent of our staff are young people who have not been indoctrinated in a bad work ethic. The park is a fun place to work and once you train your staff, once they understand what it's all about, you get a consistent level of performance which has people telling me, on a regular basis, how wonderful our customer service is."
Responding to customer feedback about the need for attractions better-suited to toddlers and young children, the park recently opened a new attraction – Rainbow Land.
"We spent almost $2 million spent on Rainbow Land. It's a secure area (within) our already secure park, with supervisors. In addition to being ideal for those who don't like (or) can't go on some of our other attractions, having supervisors on hand means kids can play there while their parents are on another ride."
Aboud told Business Day adding this new attraction is part of Five Islands' aim to provide holistic entertainment for the entire family.
"Anytime you think of family spending time together, we must be able to cater for it. And of course, the real big event is the water park. The big slides are being installed now. They are very tall, maybe 40 feet or 50 feet high. When it's open, the water park will be a world-class facility. There'll be a big wave pool and lazy river too."
When the whole park is open, approximately 400 jobs of varying skills will have been created. Aboud expects most of those will be filled by people from the catchment areas of Carenage and Diego Martin.
Upon completion, Aboud said Fouraime will have invested $350 million on the whole park; $90 million of that has been spent on what's open so far.
Five Islands was the first of its kind in TT but with the opening of Skallywag Bay Skallywag Bay Adventure Park (Skallywag Bay) on July 14, consumers now have two adventure parks on the Chaguaramas peninsula to choose from.
Asked if he considers Skallywag Bay competition, Aboud said no, explaining that he expects they will "complement" each other.
"When our facility is fully open, it will be a different experience, so I don't consider it competition. Every person has to look after his own business and create a product that he thinks people will enjoy. We've had a lot of positive feedback and Skallywag will complement it."
Commenting on the rising popularity of staycations while the economy is in recovery, Aboud said, "While it's true that when the economy is bad, some people choose to stay home and do something with their families, when the economy is booming, we expect to see people down there (Five Islands) day and night because they will have even more disposable income."
Regarding crime, Aboud said the park has robust security protocols in place, so there was no need to change them following the shooting on the Chaguaramas boardwalk on the evening of July 8 which left three people dead.
"We have guards and we have armed guards who are not visible, deliberately, who are prepared for a bad event, strategically located. In any event, you can't get into the park just so and we have a very robust CCTV system.
"That's one of our main features – that you could come here with your family and feel a sense of relaxation and not have to be concerned about security per say. That's a big plus. If a family has to come and be worried about where their children are, that's stressful. It's intended to be a stress-free environment...We've done everything we can do and it's a closed and controlled environment."
Aboud also told Business Day they plan to market the park to the rest of the Caribbean and to offer special packages for guests of The BRIX hotel in Cascade – Aboud is chairman of Superior Hotels Ltd, parent company of The BRIX. The hotel, originally set to open in January 2019 has a new projected opening of the third quarter of 2019, likely either November or December.