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Can you see world of color without virtual queue?

As technology advances, virtual queues are becoming increasingly common at theme parks, museums, and other busy tourist destinations. Virtual queuing systems allow guests to reserve ride times or entry times in advance rather than waiting in long standby queues. This can greatly reduce wait times and allow guests to better plan their day. However, some argue that virtual queues take away some of the theme park experience. So is it really possible to fully experience the colorful world of theme parks without virtual queues?

The Rise of Virtual Queues

Virtual queuing systems have been around for over two decades, but their usage has dramatically increased in recent years. Disney first introduced their FastPass system at Disneyland in 1999, which allowed guests to reserve return times for popular rides. This early version of virtual queuing spread to Disney World and other theme parks in the early 2000s.

Some key factors driving the rise of virtual queues include:

  • Increasing park attendance – More guests means longer regular wait times.
  • Guest experience focus – Parks want to reduce guest frustration over long waits.
  • Technology improvements – Better apps and data analytics to manage virtual queue systems.

The COVID-19 pandemic also accelerated the adoption of virtual queuing. Capacity restrictions forced parks to manage attendance and staggering guest experiences through timed reservations. Guests have generally provided positive feedback on virtual queuing, appreciating the time savings and flexibility. However, some critics argue virtual queuing discriminates against guests without smartphones or technical skills. Despite this criticism, virtual queuing appears to be the future with no signs of slowing down.

Benefits of Virtual Queues

There are certainly many benefits to virtual queuing systems for both theme parks and guests:

  • Reduced Wait Times – By spreading out guest demand, virtual queues can dramatically cut average wait times.
  • Improved Experience – With less time spent waiting in line, guests can experience more attractions.
  • Time Savings – Guests can use their time more flexibly instead of standing in one line.
  • Reduced Congestion – Virtual queues spread guests throughout the park reducing bottlenecks.
  • Ride Accessibility – Popular rides with long waits become more accessible.
  • Park Operations – Smoother guest flow improves safety and operations.

Studies have shown virtual queuing can reduce wait times by 30-50%. That translates into hours of saved time that can be used for other fun activities.

Downsides of Virtual Queues

Virtual queuing also comes with some downsides and challenges:

  • Lost Spontaneity – Some guests dislike having to plan their days in advance vs. going with the flow.
  • Technical Issues – App crashes or glitches can ruin plans and cause frustration.
  • Learning Curve – Younger guests and infrequent visitors struggle to understand the systems.
  • Same-Day Limitations – Popular rides may fully book up early in the day.
  • Staffing Dependence – Still requires staff to manage ride queues and entry merge points.
  • Limited Flexibility – Changing plans can be complex with booked time slots.

While time savings are substantial, virtual queues do require more planning and limit spontaneity. Some guests may miss aspects of the traditional queue experience.

Traditional Queuing Experiences

One of the biggest criticisms against virtual queuing is it diminishes some of the theme park “experience” around standing in line. Traditional queues have some underappreciated benefits:

  • Sense of Anticipation – Moving toward an exciting attraction builds anticipation.
  • Immersive Theming – Intricately decorated and themed queues add to immersion.
  • Social Experience – Bonding time with family/friends difficult to replicate elsewhere.
  • Captive Audience – Parks leverage long queues to entertain guests.
  • Exercise – Walking through snaking queues provides steps.
  • No Devices – Provides a break from constant technology immersion.

Virtual queues may negatively impact guest satisfaction by changing this queue experience. However, not all traditional queues are created equal regarding theming and guest entertainment. Poorly designed queues have far less immersive benefits.

Hybrid Queuing Solutions

Given the pros and cons, some parks implement hybrid approaches balancing traditional standby queues with virtual queue options:

  • Parallel Virtual Queue – A standby queue operates alongside a paid virtual queue for the same ride.
  • Partial Standby – Only a portion of ride capacity is reserved for standby guests.
  • Timed Overlay Queue – Guests wait in a unthemed standby queue that merges into final themed queue portion.
  • Standby Queue Only During Peak Times – Removes standby queue during slow hours to improve flow.

Hybrid models allow parks to dynamically adjust and find the right balance between convenience and experience. During peak spring break or summer weekends, emphasizing virtual queues may make sense. But virtual queues could be reduced during low season to encourage immersive queuing. Hybrid approaches also allow guests to choose based on their preferences.

Survey Data on Guest Preferences

Recent surveys reveal guest preferences when it comes to virtual vs. standby queues:

Guest Feedback Percentage
Prefers virtual queue over standby queue 68%
Enjoys themed standby queues 57%
Values spontaneity over planning 44%
Frustrated by virtual queue technical issues 39%
Willing to pay extra for virtual queue access 29%

The data shows most guests prefer virtual queues, but many still enjoy immersive standby queues. Technical issues remain a pain point for virtual queue users. Only 29% are willing to pay extra for virtual queue access suggesting current pricing models are near optimal levels.

Can Theme Parks exist without Virtual Queues?

Looking ahead, it’s unlikely leading theme parks could efficiently operate without leveraging virtual queuing given rising attendance levels. However, that doesn’t mean traditional standby queues will disappear either. Maintaining standby queue access, at least during off-peak times, provides important queue theming and experiences certain guest segments desire. Completely eliminating standby access would also receive significant public backlash given equity concerns. The optimal solution differs park by park based on peak crowd levels, ride portfolio, and theming investments in queues. Here are some predictions on the future role of virtual queues:

  • Disney/Universal – Will maintain a mix of standby and virtual queues across peak and low seasons.
  • Regional Parks – Can likely operate with standby only queues during off-peak periods.
  • Smaller Parks – These parks will stick with traditional standby queue only models.
  • Water Parks – Low ride counts and repeat riders make these ideal for heavy virtual queue usage.

Maintaining an optimal balance between virtual and standby queues will continue to evolve. Recent innovations like mobile ordering and pay have shown guest receptiveness to use technology to improve park experiences. However, theming and storytelling will still differentiate leading operators. Technology should aim to complement immersion and spontaneity rather than take away from it.


Virtual queuing has clear operational benefits that will ensure continued usage and expansion across the theme park industry. However, traditional standby queues still play an important role particularly during off-peak periods to maintain theming immersion and nostalgic queue experiences. Leading parks will strike the right balance leveraging a hybrid approach. While virtual queues provide time savings, theme park magic relies on storytelling, world building, and memorable shared experiences that technology can only complement, not replace entirely. With smart integration, guests can continue to enjoy the colors of theme park worlds with or without virtual queues.