Story by Sandra Williams-Herve
TORONTO, ONTARIO — Why would a well-known Canadian film and TV production company venture into the realm of travel? The answer is simple, if grandiose: It aims to disrupt and invigorate the Canadian tourism industry.
“When we founded Marble Media 14 years ago in Toronto, we founded the company on the principal of it being a next-generation content company, and really creating both television and digital content,” says Mark Bishop, co-CEO at marbleLIVE.
Since Marble Media’s inception, the company’s goal has been to chart out different ways to connect with audiences. Over the years, Marble Media has explored a number of technologies that engage and educate audiences of all ages.
“For us, well, for me personally, there has always been a real desire and passion to expand that storytelling experience into the real world,” Bishop says during a phone conversation with me. This years-long quest has led to the start of a $60-million mega-project designed to give visitors and locals 365 days of summer. After a brutal winter in Toronto, such a marketing pitch is sure to attract attention.
A Plan to Boost Tourism in Canada
According to the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), the number of foreign visitors has declined, particularly from countries such as Brazil (down 11% in 2013) and Japan (down 12% in 2013). And Canadians aren’t helping the situation either. The CTC found that Canadians headed afar in droves, making 2.4 million trips abroad in in October 2013 lone. That represents a 1% increase over the same month in 2012. With numbers like these, the marbleLIVE developers see the need to encourage both visitors and citizens to travel around Canada and to extend their stay.
After the success of Ripley’s Aquarium, the creators of this theme park (slated to open in the fall of 2016) believe their timing couldn’t be better and sense a market opportunity in the Greater Toronto Area. “There simply isn’t enough to do in the GTA,” says Toronto entrepreneur and managing partner of marbleLIVE John Barrack. “This is the perfect time to build on the success of Ripley’s and expand on that tourism infrastructure in the GTA and build out what we hope will be the first of many destination attractions, not just in the GTA but the right across Canada.”
Delivering 365 Days of Summer in Toronto
The smart use of glass and natural light allow even the coldest of days to feel bright and balmy inside, Barrack says. “We have a fully retractable roof,” he points out. “That means that in the summer and winter you’ll get a constant temperature of 28 [Celsius] degrees all year.”
Bishop and Barrack are hopeful that the 9,300-square-metre theme park outfitted with beaches, wave pools, cabanas, restaurants, slow-moving rivers and live entertainment will have a tremendously positive impact on Canadian tourism.
“We’re trying to give visitors to Toronto more to do, allow them to extend their stay and enhance the experience they are having in the GTA on a year-round basis,” says Bishop.
Sun, Sand and All Things Digital
MarbleLIVE is the first company to attempt the construction of a purpose-built digital theme park experience. In the past, other theme parks have struggled to retrofit existing technology into their aging infrastructure. “From the ground up we’re conceiving all the possible ways that we can significantly enhance the guest experience,” says Bishop.
MarbleLIVE envisions this $60-million project as a next-generation theme park. The creators will be embedding the digital media technology into almost every customer touch-point at the park.
Visitors should expect a customized experience. Children who are familiar with the Marble Media brand, for example, will be welcomed by an avatar onscreen. These avatars will be created online before their visit. Plus, anyone going on the waterslide will be able to customize the music that is played as they swirl down the ride and can then share their experiences on social media, without the need to bring a mobile device.
“We’re working on an interesting social media angle that will be integrated across the park that will give guests an opportunity to share some of the highlights from their day in a really seamless manner,” says Bishop.
The groundbreaking for this unnamed park is slated for the spring of 2015, although the location is still to be announced.