It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but multi-disciplinary integration in tourism attractions continues to roll forward as a newly emerging trend. Discussed before purely as the evolution of 'science-based institutions', this trend is finding its way into all forms of tourism destinations.
Consider Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas and Dubai. Not only are these places over the top resorts with beautiful beaches and luxurious appointments, but they've integrated a themed water park as well as an aquatic life park into their campuses. Aquariums are found throughout the properties, and not just typical ho-hum aquariums either; we're talking Aquarium! aquariums. Much like Discovery Cove, visitors can take part in swimming with dolphins as well as enjoying other animal attractions, such as a shark tank and jellies. They've taken a resort and integrated a science-based institution. However, Atlantis is not the focus of this post.
Recently, in my work, we've been spending a lot of time making fun and beautiful places without stepping back to realize what it is we're really doing; without taking time to truly translate our actions into theory from which everyone in our profession can learn. That is what this post is about. Refreshing our memories about multi-disciplinary integration.
Its happening all around us. Theme parks more seriously integrating conservation issues. Zoos incorporating science-center interactives which are about more than just the size of a polar bear's paw. Aquariums introducing land-based animal habitats. Subtle changes, yes, but all moving toward the ultimate in end goals...creating a one stop shop for science, education, AND entertainment. However, in the end, I do believe these institutions will filter out into two sects: those based on science and education (ie zoos and aquariums now), and those based on play (ie theme parks and children's museums now).
Some thoughts on what we'll see in the coming years:
Zoos (and possibly aquariums) utilizing gentle, family ride systems to introduce new ways to experience animals
More Atlantis-style resorts with focus on conservation and local habitats, including breathtaking animal habitats presented in ways not seen in zoos and aquariums
Science centers across the board becoming Life Science centers by including animal exhibits
Theme parks spending millions to incorporate Educational elements, either as stand alone attractions or as enhancements to rides and shows
Jacksonville Zoo recently opened a new attraction, Asian Bamboo Garden, being touted as a 'garden' first, and 'exhibit' second. The attraction features nearly 2.5 acres of Asian gardens, with a small Komodo dragon exhibit tucked away into one corner. The Zoo focused on botanicals for this project, rather than zoological. This is rather extraordinary, if you think about it. Concept design always begins with the question: What's marketable? Projects are built to get folks through the door. Jacksonville is saying with this project, gardens are profitable. Generally, to me, zoos that call themselves 'zoos and botanical gardens' do so simply because they have beautiful grounds, not because they ever intend to add new attractions based on gardens. However, Jacksonville Zoo and Botanical Garden has done just that, truly illustrating a multi-disciplinary integration in the direction of science.
And, finally, Columbus Zoo. Through a series of moves that appears to be an effort to shift almost 180 degrees from a science-based institution into a mini-resort, the Zoo has announced the initiation of a feasibility study on adding a hotel to the already massive complex. Recently, the zoo added a golf course and a water park (check out their fun website). Considering the Zoo is actually a zoo and an aquarium, the complex is quickly becoming a major multi-disciplinary destination, with the focus shifting from science to play. Columbus Zoo again illustrates the emergence of multi-disciplinary integration. I'm extremely confident that as we move forward in the evolution of science-based institutions, we'll see many, many more of these kinds of integrations.