How the Colorado Division of Parks & Wildlife went from soggy dollar bills to $3 million in credit card revenue
Colorado Division of Parks & Wildlife (CPW) is a nationally recognized leader in conservation, outdoor recreation and wildlife management. The agency manages 41 state parks, more than 350 state wildlife areas and a host of recreational programs. Visitors flock to parks across the state for a variety of recreational activities including hiking, biking, fishing, camping and more.
In 2017, CPW evaluated options to modernize park admissions to provide more convenience to end-users, add more security, and allow park staff to focus on other critical tasks. Flowbird was chosen to implement a new automated fee payment system.
In 2018, 15 self-service pay stations were installed for fee collection. The pay stations were installed across 9 parks to better serve customers looking to quickly pay with a cashless option. The pay stations, officially named the, “Strada,” replaced the older ‘honor system,’ requiring customers to place exact amounts of cash into envelopes when staff weren’t available to sell park passes. Utilizing wireless communications, all data from the Stradas are sent in real-time to Flowbird’s back-office system for reporting and analysis.
An outdated entry pass system
Colorado State Parks offer a variety of recreational amenities. Daily or Annual passes could be purchased at the entry gate during staffed hours, but options were limited after-hours or during the slow season. Visitors could use honor boxes to purchase their pass, but would need exactly $7 in cash to place in the provided envelopes.
Each day, staff would need to drive out to each honor box and collect cash; some filled with coins, others with just $5 bills, and hope that there wasn’t rain the night before. The cash would be hand-counted, a laborious task for revenue managers who had other jobs to perform before the day was done.
Flexibility and Automation
In June of 2018, 15 Flowbird Strada self-service pay stations were installed to better service visitors of the CPW parks. The Strada machines accept credit cards, making it more convenient for customers who are not carrying the exact amount of cash. Additionally, the solution is much more weather-resistant than the envelope system.
The pay stations are also solar-powered, allowing for operation without AC power throughout the parks. Constructed of heavy steel and engineered for security, the Strada interacts with customers after-hours, stands up to inclement weather, and provides peace-of-mind for CPW officials when staff are not available.
The flexible software running on the Strada allows CPW to sell a variety of passes including a daily vehicle pass, annual pass, family annual pass, and an individual walk-in pass. Park donations are also accepted on the Strada.
After installation of the new pay stations, the CPW gained better control of revenues along with a higher customer satisfaction rate. Though the honor boxes are still available for those who wish to pay in precise amounts of cash, staff has minimized their collection time, from once daily, to every 3 days. Payments collected by the pay stations are tracked through Flowbird’s back-office system, allowing CPW staff to better track parks visitation.
“All of that staff time has been saved,” said CPW Statewide Business Operations Coordinator Kirk Teklits, “That doesn’t mean we decrease staff, we just have time for more meaningful things, like serving customers and our parks.”
During peak season, the pay stations create a 2-lane system using both staff and kiosk. If a line is building up at the entry gate, staff can direct customers to the kiosk to purchase a pass quickly and assist the next customer. According to Teklits, customer satisfaction increased immensely with the self-serve addition, many of which already expect the credit card option to be there with today’s technology.
The Strada pay stations also comply and assist in the CPW’s stance on sustainability and green energy. With each machine running on advanced solar power, there was no need to build out infrastructure to have power, saving time and money to dedicate to the parks.
Additional phases of the project were performed in 2019 and 2020. Now, CPW utilizes 54 Strada Pay Stations across 26 parks statewide.
At the end of 2020, an additional payment option – contactless payments – was put into test mode. This functionality allows park visitors to pay with a contactless bank card or with a mobile wallet such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Over 200,000 transactions were performed in 2020 generating close to $3 million in revenue for Colorado Parks & Wildlife to help keep the parks well maintained and help park staff provide an enjoyable experience to their visitors.