Interview With Gavin Boswell CEO Of Orlando Attraction Tickets

Hey Thrill Seekers,

Happy New Year and welcome to 2015! Do you know what this means? Regular readers will know that every year in December I contact some “faces” in the travel industry and put them through an intensive interview some might say interrogation… to find out how they did in the year and what we might expect for 2015.

As always I’ll start with one of our own, the CEO of Orlando Attraction Tickets.

Name: Gavin Boswell

Who do you work for?: Orlando Attraction Tickets

What’s been the highlight of the year (2014) for your company?: There have been quite a few highlights in 2014. We’ve managed to stand out in a very crowded marketplace using innovation, great branding and by offering excellent customer service. We smashed all previous sales and revenue records and we did it all with a smile.

What’s been the highlight of the year (2014) for you?: Well my highlight starts with a low light, I was very kindly invited to the VIP opening of Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando. As you can imagine I was really excited. A few days before I was due to fly I hurt my back picking up a towel! No it wasn’t because it was too heavy! I was at an awkward angle… My story and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway I was very disappointed to miss the trip, especially when I heard and saw how amazing it was. The Universal guys mentioned there might be a possibility to get out there later in the year but they thought it might be unlikely. Then out of the blue in September I got the call I’d secretly been hoping for, there was a planned trip and after some very sweet talking Universal had managed to get me on the trip. I wasn’t disappointed Diagon Alley, the Hogwarts Express and fire breathing Dragon! How can that not be highlight?

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Make a 2015 prediction…: I think 2015 might be tricky. All the signs seem to point towards a very strong  U.S. Dollar and this will see prices rise within the industry. For Orlando Attraction Tickets we’ll be looking at ways of diversifying our offerings and perhaps enter other markets.

Best Theme Park ride/attraction of 2014? Falcon’s Fury, a one trick pony but what a trick!

Best Theme Park/attraction food of 2014?: Butterbeer, I know its the marmite of theme park food but its an iconic beverage!

Best Theme Park/attraction tip?: When you ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts get a seat at the back, you’ll see much more than if riding at the front.

Best kept secret in Florida?: Not sure its a secret but the Hurricanes served in Pat O’Briens at Universal CityWalk are something all adults should try…

A great start to our series of interviews and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Gavin for taking the time to speak to me yet again. I promise if you ever need a towel picking up again I’m your man… actually that sounds very wrong.

Smiles included…

Jamie

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June At Orlando Attraction Tickets

Hey Thrill Seekers,

June was an amazing month for Orlando Attraction Tickets just a month after smashing our previous record for revenue and orders we did it again! With one supplier we were up YOY by 184% an amazing figure which I had to double check a few times to make sure it was correct!

We smashed our previous daily record for orders and revenue twice during the month and saw our total unique visitor count increase by over 20%. A lot of the traffic was down to word of mouth which makes me very happy, we truly do pride ourselves on our customer service and we always try to put the customer first within the constraints of our terms.

Which is why I was delighted to see that after months of me waffling on (Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May) about how we had targeted an improvement on our average review score we actually achieved it. For the majority of 2014 we’ve been averaging a score out of 10 of 9.6 which is an excellent result but we’ve been trying to increase it to 9.7, which we achieved at the end of June, the review service is collected by independent review specialist TrustPilot and covers actual verified customers.

For June our dispatch team worked tirelessly, I must give them a special mention as all of them to a man came in on days off, came in early and worked late to make sure we stayed on top of a month that could of got out of hand if not managed correctly. Amazingly they still averaged a dispatch time for our free delivery service of 3-5 working days. A fantastic effort from all the ticket dispatch staff.

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At the theme parks

This is where I tell you my terrible sob story, although I’m sure I won’t get much sympathy, I didn’t get any here…

I was very excited when I got my official invite to the VIP preview of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley. I was set to be one of the first to see the new area, to ride the Hogwarts Express and to sample the thrills of Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts the new multi dimensional ride at Universal Studios.

I may have gloated a little around the office, especially to Jamie who has been covering the story for 2 years now. I was feeling very smug and had returned my RSVP with a big “I’ll definitely be there, I can’t wait”…

This is where the sad bit comes in to play (for me).

With a week to go, I hurt my back! For those of you who have ever injured your back you’ll know the searing pain and how its almost impossible to escape it. I’d like to tell you I did it doing something extremely manly like bungy jumping, bear wrestling or saving someone from a perilous situation but in reality I damaged it picking up a towel from the bathroom floor!

So the VIP event of the year that I was so keen to go on and had been slightly bragging about was now out of the question. I further tortured myself by watching  all the live webcasts. I’ve got to say the whole area looks amazing if you’re going this year I’m very jealous…

July looks like its going to be another busy month, so once I’ve dried my tears its back to the grindstone.

Smiles included…

Gavin

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March At Orlando Attraction Tickets & Theme Park Tickets Direct

Hi Thrill Seekers,

March seems to have flown by and we’re nose diving into April, 1-weasleytraditionally a very busy month in the World of attraction tickets. This is my third post in my monthly series (is it a series?) where I take a retrospective look at how the previous month went, what we got up too and what has happened within the industry.

For us March was pretty busy, as we’ve now revealed we’d been working behind the scene’s to breathe some new life into an old brand, Theme Park Tickets Direct. TPTD is bit of a pet project of mine, it has connections to a very rich history which I explain more about in this post – Why we decided to buy theme park tickets direct

TPTD took up a lot of my time in March as we looked to re-launch  a brand with a different focus than Orlando Attraction Tickets, this site also represents our first attempt at a responsive design (works on all devices), I’m pretty proud of what the team has achieved and I’m looking forward to being able to offer more product to different destinations.

Orlando Attraction Tickets had a good steady March, no records broken this time but with a later April we always thought it was going to be difficult to outdo March 2013. We matched last year and as I’ve told the team I think thats a massive achievement. In the first quarter of 2014 we’re up in sales and revenue compared to the same time last year.

Reviews of our service continue to be strong and we’ve maintained our excellent 9.6 out of 10 based on 452 reviews. The reviews are collected independently by trustpilot and can be viewed online here. Delivery times remained slightly quicker than are published shipment rate at an impressive average of 5-7 days.

At the Theme Parks

March was all about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a couple of the guys here were lucky enough to be invited to Universal’s media evening where additional details including the length of the journey were revealed. I’m slightly bias of course, but I think our post about the event is pretty good, read it here and I defy you not to get excited about the prospect.

SeaWorld and Universal both released 2015 rates, which are live to book on Orlando Attraction Tickets.

Around the same time Universal confirmed Halloween Horror Nights will take place this year and confirmed dates and pricing. SeaWorld also put Dine with Shamu back on sale and this has been selling really well.

Disney confirmed that My Magic Plus was now available to guests staying off site and I’m really excited about hearing feedback from our customers about the whole experience. Just to note, all out Disney tickets are My Magic Plus enabled.

Busch Gardens confirmed some details about Pantopia mostly centered around a Bacon Pretzel Fury! Falcon’s Fury one of the most anticipated rides of 2014 is set to open on May 1st… I’ve been subtly begging Busch Gardens to be one of the first to ride it… they aren’t getting the hint 🙁

What about April

Well we’re only 4 days in but it feels like its going to be a busy one with a lot of last minute bookings. I think we’ve managed our stock well enough to be ready and willing to get our customers their tickets in time.

We’re working on a few things behind the scenes including some new product which I’m sure Jamie for OAT and Thomas for TPTD will keep you informed about.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next month,

Gavin

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February At Orlando Attraction Tickets

Good Morning Thrill Seekers,

Well as promised here’s my second blog post, many doubted I’d 1622845_758969190781533_1635812570_ncontinue (I’m looking at you Jamie) but following on from last months post its time to have a look at February here at Orlando Attraction Tickets.

At Orlando Attraction Tickets

February sales were up 13.1% year on year which I’m delighted about, obviously its always good to grow but I honestly wasn’t expecting to beat last years figures, as Feb 2013 was exceptionally busy. One of the major factors in this years growth was a fantastic self funded special offer we ran which for a limited time, offered a $10.00 Universal gift card with every Universal ticket.

February also saw us finally get Kennedy Space Center on Orlando Attraction Tickets, we were very keen to get a direct deal with them which is why the process took longer than we’d have liked. We could of had them onboard a lot quicker by working through one of their exsisting partners but I believe its better for us and our customers that our contracts are direct. Kennedy is already selling well and I’m delighted to have them on the site.

Our average standard delivery times in February, which as per our terms is noted as 7-10 working days, were actually 5-7 days which is really impressive. The structure we worked on in 2013 has certainly helped our team offer some impressive lead times, particularly as they managed more orders this year.

Reviews of our service have been particularly positive in February which has allowed us to continue an overall rating of 9.6 out of 10. The guys are desperate to raise this to 9.7. We use an independent review specialist Trustpilot to gather this information, all reviews regardless of rating are displayed on our dedicated page – Orlando Attraction Tickets reviews.

At the Theme Parks

The major news that just snuck in to February was the announcement that Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens Tampa would open on the 1st May. This amazing looking drop tower is one of 2014 major highlights, forget the fact that it makes SheiKra look tiny, its the face down ride position that has everyone talking… not sure I’m brave enough to ride this one.

Another water park has confirmed a new attraction, this time its Wet N’ Wild. Aqua Drag Racer a four lane racing slide will open in the summer and is set to add a touch of friendly competition to the park.

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Disney have confirmed that they are adding some enhancements to Magic Kingdom’s Central Plaza area including sculpted gardens, additional pathways, expanded restaurant seating and even a special viewing area for fireworks and other performances.

What about March?

March is traditionally a very busy month and we’re expecting this years to be no different. We’re looking for Universal to increase their campaign to promote the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley and maybe even confirm an opening date.

March may also include a launch with a twist…

Smiles included…

Gavin

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What Happened in January For Orlando Attraction Tickets?

Hey Thrill Seekers,

January was a particularly busy one for us here at Orlando smiles includedAttraction Tickets, year on year we were 45% up in overall sales and with certain suppliers we exceed our estimated targets by some distance. We launched a couple of new products including the Orlando Park Hopper and we went live with our added value offering, Smile Alerts, these are items that come free when you book with OAT. We were delighted to be able to launch with some great deals like our tie up with Planet Hollywood. We’ll continue to try and add quality products to our Smile Alerts.

Late in January we became one of the first UK companies to confirm a tie up with Orlando’s only homegrown amusement park, Fun Spot who are now live on the site.

We tiptoed ever closer to getting Kennedy Space Center on the site after some very constructive chats with the guys in the U.S., I’m hoping we’ll have them up by the end of Feb. Apologies for anyone waiting but these types of contracts can sometimes take time to get over the finishing line.

On the theme park side, we all huddled around our computers to watch Universal’s webcast hoping for more details about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley, our guys here covered the event live via our facebook page and also  posted the highlights on the blog, you can read about it in detail here. For me the two biggest pieces of information to come from the webcast were, the name of the new ride, “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts” and the very quick look inside the Hogwarts Express, the level of detail definitely looks up to the standard we have come to expect.

Disney confirmed a few details about Avatar Land and began testing out My Magic Plus at Magic Kingdom. Disney are reporting that their new system helped 30k additional people visit and enjoy their parks over the Christmas period how it will do in the long run is anyones guess although the idea of a personalised visit is an appealing idea. If you’re not aware of Disney’s new fastpass system take a look at this excellent post from Jamie, What is Disney’s My Magic Plus and How Does It Work?

Busch Gardens continued to build their unique drop ride. Pictures of Falcon’s Fury have been all over social media. I guess though, at 335 feet tall its pretty hard to miss. In a year when everyone is waiting for Potter I think Falcon’s Fury could be the dark horse attraction of the year.

February has started pretty swiftly, Disney have introduced a special offer to the UK market, 9 days for the price of 7 ticket which has lead us to introduce a brand new ticket the Disney Universal Park Hopper, which offers 9 days entry into the Disney park’s over 14 days plus 14 days unlimited access to the Universal parks.

The major thing to remember which hasn’t been explained very well by our competitors is that the 9 days tickets has not replaced the 14 day ticket, this option still exists and is still available via our traditional combo tickets.

How long this special offer will last is anyones guess, I think it will depend upon uptake at the moment though it does offer an interesting alternative that can save the consumer quite a bit of cash.

I believe thats about it, I’ll try a write another post in March to update you on how February went.

Smiles included…

Gavin

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Interview With Gavin Boswell CEO – Orlando Attraction Tickets

Afternoon Thrill Seekers,

My second interviewee in our series of 2013/2014 reviews is Gavinoat-smile-green Boswell, CEO and Co-Founder of Orlando Attraction Tickets, quite a busy man as you can probably imagine I managed to catch 20 mins with him early last week.

Name: Gavin Boswell

Who do you work for?: CEO of Orlando Attraction Tickets

What was 2013 like?: From a business standpoint 2013 was hugely successful. We smashed year on year targets by up to as much as 250%. Much of this success we pin heavily on the redesigned website and increased marketing spend, we also worked very hard on getting the correlation between our car rental customers (Gavin founded www.usrentacar.co.uk when he was 24) and ticket customers right, this helped both brands.

With regards to the parks we’ve had new products from Universal including the new Simpsons area and Transformers the Ride. We’ve had Disney building and testing My Magic+ and changing the tickets from a cardboard style to the RFID plastic cards. SeaWorld opened Antarctica Empire of the Penguins their largest expansion in Orlando ever. LEGOLAND Florida revealed the World of Chima which has been very popular but its 2014 that has me most excited. All the major parks look like they’ll be launching something new which is great for the consumer.

Your highlight of 2013?: Getting bronze in the British Travel Awards, an amazing achievement for us and something I’m pretty proud of.

Your Best Park 2013?: Now you’re going to get me in trouble here as I’m going to annoy at least one of our suppliers. Can I say all of them? Ok fine!
I’ll pick Universal Studios, when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Islands of Adventure, Studios footfall fell and experts were saying the park couldn’t compete. Universal reversed this trend by opening Transformers the Ride and updating the Simpson area, footfall increased and that was even before they announced Diagon Alley was on its way! So for me they’ve been the star of 2013.

Your Best Attraction 2013?: SeaWorld’s Antarctic area, I was very lucky to be in attendance at the media opening. The whole area looks amazing and the ride is perfect for the family… but the real highlight are the Penguins. I’m pretty sure I’ve never been as close to a Penguin as I was at SeaWorld.

In regards to Theme Parks, what are you most looking forward to in 2014?: What am I not looking forward to!!! 2014 is packed with goodies!  As I mentioned earlier all the major parks are releasing something. Diagon Alley at Universal Studios, Hogwarts Express connecting Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. Disney’s Seven Dwarfs Mine Train but if pushed I guess I’m most looking forward to Falcons Fury at Busch Gardens, a 335 foot face first drop ride. You’ve got to be brave to ride that one.

Make a 2014 prediction…: Well I’m pretty sure 2014 will be a bumper year for theme parks but that’s hardly a prediction with so much going on. So I’ll make a business prediction, in 2014 we’ll release something that will get lots of people talking…

A very cryptic ending to the interview, but some great answers in there. The interview was quite rushed as Gavin was about to leave for Florida to chat pricing with suppliers but I’m pretty happy with how it came out.

You can read through my previous interview with Kelly Morris here. The next interview will be with someone outside of Orlando Attraction TIckets I promise.

Smiles included…

Jamie

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Orlando Attraction Tickets Through The Years

Hi Thrill Seekers,

Sometimes its nice to take a stroll through memory lane and sometimes it can be shocking…

Today I found myself looking through some historical images of Orlando Attraction Tickets website. Some of you may know that we were originally called BargainAttractions.com we offered attraction tickets for the whole World for a few years before deciding to specialise in Orlando and alter our name.

This is an image from our very first website, this screen shot is from 2004 but the actual site went live in late 2003.

OAT 2004I remember at the time that we were criticised slightly for the site being too vibrant. In the same year a certain well known late deals site was lauded for using a very similar colour to us! 🙂

At the time I loved this design, I thought it made us stand out from the crowd…. it definitely did that.

Once we realised that Orlando was the main core of our business we looked at redesigning the site under our new url www.orlandoattractiontickets.co.uk.

We relaunch in 2005 with this little beauty;

OAT 2005We buckled under the negative comments regarding our choice of colour and went for a calmer green against a vibrant yellow. It wasn’t my favourite design and we sacrificed a lot of our usual flair for what we hoped would be great SEO (google rankings). It worked for a bit.

In 2009 we looked to redesign again, a shift in the way google ranked sites made it an easy decision for us.

OAT 2009This reincarnation of the OAT site was not one of our finest moments. Whenever we look to redesign one of our sites we generally sit down and try to come up with something unique, something that would stand out from the crowd. With the 2009 version we went for a very basic shopping cart design…. exactly the same as every other boring attraction tickets site out there.

Although the site worked well and sales increased it never sat well with our design savvy CTO, Karl Hendrie. It got towards the end of 2011 when Karl decided enough was enough and the time was right to redesign the site again.

oat 2012This redesign took a long time to complete, it started with an amendment to our logo to the smiley face we use today, next up was a new tagline “smiles included”. With these two amendments in place we then took a look at all the other attraction ticket sites and decided we didn’t want to look like any of them… so we don’t

We decided we should add things that other don’t, so we did that with the likes of Wish Lists, ShareTheLove and our unique deposit scheme.

We took our time and finally launch in late 2012 and do you know what? Our sales increased massively… we learnt a very important lesson, not never deviate from our core values.

I wonder what our next redesign will look like?

Smiles included…

Gavin

CEO

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