Hello everyone… Happy Easter and Happy Passover this morning. I am about to go out and hide the eggs for my three grandchildren to hunt. I buy plastic Easter Eggs and put IOU’s in them for such things as a trip to the bookstore from the educated bunny a sleepover at our house with a pancake breakfast from the breakfast bunny. The kids keep these IOU’s and turn them in during the year…..Tons of fun! Don’t worry, we have taught them the real meaning of Easter and of Passover.
I just returned from a wonderful trip to the Netherlands where I was doing some consulting for Efteling Theme Park and Hotels. The park opened in 1952 and is a wonderful park based upon fairy tales. This is a very large park just 75 minutes outside of Amsterdam. The park for the last 57 years has been open only seasonally but as of a few days ago on April 1 they became a year round park which will never close again. Since they don’t have hurricanes in the Netherlands it is unlikely that they will have to close.
The park and hotels are very well done. I stayed in the Efteling Hotel for a few days in a themed suite that was themed to a theater. It was supplied with cotton candy, popcorn and a very large screen TV in the theater room and even a bar with coffee and hot chocolate. I also stayed in one of their new properites which are villa’s that sleep 4-8 complete with a childrens room with bunk beds and a full kitchen and best of all a sauna out on the deck overlooking the water.
The park has a wonderful balance of attractions and shows that are appropriate for any age. They are currently in the final stages of building a giant wooden coaster which will open in July. The coasters theme is the battle between water and fire, complete with a two story fire breathing dragon.
I saw my old friends Sleeping Beauty and the Seven Dwarfs ( I even spotted the poison apple with one bite taken out of it). Cinderella and the prince were there too and I witnessed Cinderella puting on the glass slipper. Many other fairy tale friends were also present and working hard to “Create Fantasy” for their guests.
The real upside for Efteling is the staff which are all called hosts whether they are front line or management. The service levels and hospitality of the hosts is really exceptional. They are all proud of Efteling. I observed this in their performance. I would have to say that I witnessed some of the best attitude’s in friendliness, caring and genuine hospitality that I have seen anywhere in the world in any theme park or hotel. The food everywhere was excellent. Every meal I had was perfect unlike many theme parks and hotels…..great job chefs.
The other big advantage this operation has is that there is great leadership in place at every level. They all understand the importance of continual learning and are working hard to get better in their technical, management, technological and leadership competence for everyone…..They understand the importance of role in the show and that they are all onstage or backstage to create a perfect experience, day in and day out for every guest. Even the board took time to have dinner with me one evening and they are very busy people.
On opening day April 1st I was there with Coen Bertens who leads park operations. It was raining and sleeting and it was windy and cold. There was no sun outside until we stepped into the park where magically everyone was smiling and having the time of their life. It immediately felt like the sun was shining and the rain and sleet turned from cold to a warm refreshing environment. This is what smiling friendly smiles do for guests in any organization.
Efteling leadership really believes with their hearts and minds that everyone is important. They realize that this philosphy is the foundation for excellence. They also keep their guests central to all of their decisions.
To the Coen brothers and their fantasy sister Elly and all of my new friends in the Netherlands and especially at Efteling, thank you for a wonderful week. I hope I was able to inspire you as much as you inspired me. Good luck with your opening and best wishes for a record year of creating fantasy for your guests of every age….I hope to come back next year so my family can experience the fantasy with me….Thank you all for making me feel special all week long…….Lee “Creating Magic” Cockerell
PS: Margot (11) and Tristan (9) just got up. Our next goal is to get Jullian (14) out of bed. Teenagers are the same everywhere in the world. They like to sleep late.