Deon Wong, Visitor Attraction and Resort Management Student
On Wednesday 24th March 2021, Year 1 & 2 Fda Visitor Attraction and Resort Management Students (VARM) attended a virtual Q&A with extra special guest Francis Jackson (Alton Towers Resorts Operations Director). The meeting enabled students to ask Francis on all things Alton Towers, specifically his journey, COVID impacts, new role and advice on how to be successful within the industry. I (Deon Wong), one of the VARM students, was given the opportunity to become the master of ceremonies and lead the Q&A.
Francis Jackson began the Q&A by giving us a brief background history into his experience, from working at Australia’s Falls Creek Ski Lifts as the Director of Snowsports to being the beloved Operations Director at Alton Towers. He has a solid belief in transferring his knowledge gained and sharing them with his team to make them bigger and better. Francis expressed his huge heart towards Alton Towers and how he enjoys the customer focus moments, where he has built relationships to improve the customer journey. He regrets not having time to be out there with the customers and staff due to his administrative role.
Moving into the 2021 season, ATR aims to deliver a ‘thrilliant’ season of celebrations and fun. With an increase in footfall, new safety regulations are introduced to adhere to the safety guidelines. Francis mentioned various new additions to accompany guests’ safety and capacity, from utilising the lawn space, new ride openings, temporary flat rides, and monorail adjustments. Maintaining a ‘fantabulous’ presentation and customer journey is a massive priority for Francis. From ensuring cigarettes and chewing gum are picked up to repainting areas. Francis states it’s all about the “pursuit of guest excellence for the guest journey “- (Francis Jackson, 2021).
Francis Jackson discussed his new role as general manager. With over 30 years of experience in the leisure industry, he’s driven to make the customer journey and experience better. He understands change is always good, as businesses can’t stay static. They have to adapt, change and constantly move forwards to progress. He’s a firm believer in achieving an outstanding organisation by refocusing on corporate social responsibility, diversity and inclusion. Within his new role as general manager, he’s accountable for all things COVID related, capacity and having the final say in difficult decisions.
Lastly, Francis Jackson passed on specific advice on how to be successful within the leisure industry. From knowing your product, listening to guest feedback and continuously pushing the product your offering to entice guests. One advice he advises is for people to be authentic and be true to themselves; once you divert and create a fake facade, issues will arise. It’s important to feel confident and ensure you have questions to ask, as It’s constantly a lesson of growth and development.