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15.08.2023 - Ausgabe: 4/2023

Play areas for leisure and tourism - based on the example of the aerial cableway of Jakobsbad-Kronberg (CH)

© Luftseilbahn Jakobsbad Kronberg AG

As play areas are the centre of attraction and an all-year-round offer for guests of all age groups, play and exercise areas have an important economic significance for tourism. Besides Kronberg in Jakobsbad, there are already numerous mountain tourism regions that have more guests in summer than in winter thanks to successful offers - and have thus completed the transformation process from a focus on winter tourism to an economic focus on summer tourism: Keyword "climate change".

A few decades ago, "playing for adults" was not an issue, but now it has gained social acceptance and thus the number of users of playgrounds in tourist regions has increased. In general, a changed mentality has led to a higher value for leisure time. In line with the "work-life balance" trend, free time with the family is experienced in a more conscious way. Families want to experience community on holidays and thus strengthen family cohesion. In order to make this possible, it is necessary to offer inviting opportunities for physical activity with a stimulating character as well as meeting zones and meeting points. Play areas can also help to take children and young people out of their everyday lives or away from their smartphones during joint excursions. Play opportunities close to nature are particularly suitable for this purpose as a counterbalance to everyday school and work life.

For a tourist region, a good playground thus represents both a highlight and an unmistakable attraction. Themed and individual playgrounds that incorporate materials and elements from the region are a "landmark" for the respective location and identification for guests and locals alike. In addition, tourism regions can use attractive play offers to control the flow of visitors: These attractive play offers can counteract too much visitor pressure in hotspots elsewhere.

Decades of experience of the playground equipment manufacturer OBRA Design (AT) with this customer group show that for the tourism sector, high demands on both aesthetics and durability have to be satisfied. It is also necessary to master the balancing act of creating an individual play offer on the one hand, - while on the other hand the playground simply has to function without much maintenance effort. Even with high play pressure from thousands of guests, the playground equipment must be perfectly playable and visually appealing. 

The customers from the tourism and leisure industry want to be closely accompanied by the manufacturer during the determination of requirements, installation, right up to maintenance and repair. In the end, it is all about leaving a lasting impression on both adults and children through the range of games and activities on offer, because in the meantime, when it comes to choosing future excursion destinations, the little ones also have a say.


An experience for young and old: the Märliwelt fairytale world

OBRA-Design was given the opportunity to demonstrate their skills in the field of playgrounds for the tourism and leisure industry for a cable car company in Switzerland: The valley station of the Jakobsbad-Kronberg aerial cableway (Canton Appenzell Innerhoden) is located directly behind the railway station Jakobsbad of the Appenzeller Bahnen and is at the same time starting point and access to the playground "Märliwelt". Surrounded by the sophisticated-looking Jakobsbad spa hotel, as well as a small Capuchin convent and the eastern Swiss mountain panorama with scattered individual farmsteads and small hamlets, this place, which, in keeping with its name, also has a stage stop on the Way of St. James, has been inviting visitors to linger for centuries.

In 2020, the playground was redesigned together with the motor skills park and the high ropes course. The play area was titled "Märliwelt (Fairytale World)" focusing on the motto of fairytales. Pronatour (AT) was responsible for the conceptual design and theming.

The playground is divided into several terraces on a slight slope, with an extensive water playground situated to the side. It consists of a pond, various water pumps and water conveyors as well as several watercourses with play functions and water barriers which lead into a common pool with seating options for footbaths. Catering and toilets are located right next to the playground. The play features are easily accessible via paths and bridges, even with prams or for those with limited mobility.

The play ferry is particularly popular among the age group 3 - 99. As a ferryman or ferrywoman, one can move the raft from one side of the pond to the other by pulling on the rope, which is fixed to the banks. Of course, it is even more fun in a group and strengthens the children's sense of community. As all participants are equally challenged when balancing, this play equipment promotes social competences and communication skills among each other. In addition to balance, physical phenomena such as the inertia and mass of the ferry during acceleration and deceleration can be experienced. From the playhouse in the shape of a crown, including a veranda, one can comfortably observe the ferry operation: for example, through the crown-shaped window to the pond. 

With the water-lifting spiral, the water can be taken out of the pond by means of the principle of an Archimedean screw and fed into a channel system of water tables in untreated larch. Afterwards, the water can continue to flow in a channel system made of boulders. Between the individual play stations, there are always opportunities to linger in the shade.

 Another channel system made of natural larch can be supplied with water with the help of the water wheel. To enable even smaller children to play independently on the watercourses, there are platforms available to stand on, for example at some of the numerous water weirs, points or dam elements, where the water can be diverted, stopped, collected or allowed to flow again. With the water see-saw, the water can be redirected in a targeted manner, or it can be left to chance which of the other watercourses the water will choose. Creativity, motor skills and knowledge about the flow properties of water are encouraged and taught in an understandable way. These flow characteristics can be experienced particularly well at the water channel, which allows the water to flow in a meandering manner.

Via various ascent options made of robinia trunks, which require different motor skills, one reaches the next higher level, which is designed as a huge sand play area. A slide is available for the opposite direction.

Playing with sand is one of the most popular activities for children. There is plenty of room here for the sheer endless possibilities of shaping the sand on this large expanse of sand, setting it in motion, transporting it or destroying it again according to the player’s taste and mood. Little master builders can reach top form here and give free rein to their creativity.

The centre of this area is the hand-painted "Enzian" blossom house made from a robinia middle trunk, as well as platforms and panelling made from oak and larch. The playhouse is surrounded by dynamic equipment for physical activities: sitting, standing, lying down - alone or in a group, the turntable with floral foiling is made to rotate. Balance, strength and dynamics are required here. With this equipment, one can reach one’s own limits or learn to explore them together with others. Those who can still read despite feeling dizzy can learn a lot of interesting facts about mountain herbs from the turntable. On the other side of the hut, visitors are invited to jump like a grasshopper from one flower-designed hopping plate to another.

Swinging can be really relaxing in the fairytale world! Swinging relaxes one's mind and promotes a sense of balance - which is probably why swings have been around since the beginning of time. However, the swings are not only there for swinging, but are also a meeting place to simply sit and discuss new topics. The hammock swings are arranged together with the flower stands made of naturally grown robinia trunks, which serve as hangers, in a three-part ensemble similar to the bouncy flowers.

At the end, it's "getting back to the roots": fallen trees have always been used by children for balancing. At a small distance from the ground, first experiences with balancing can be gained. It is here where balancing is promoted. The use of a curved robinia bar increases the challenge. The triple arrangement of the balancing trees made of robinia allows for parallel balancing activities. The arena-like arrangement also offers other possibilities for sitting and relaxing, observing and lingering or communicating with others. 

"Here, the children can really enjoy themselves. Whether on the trampoline, by the water or in the sand, parents hardly get their little ones out of the fairytale world," says Felix Merz, managing director of the aerial cableway company Jakobsbad-Kronberg AG. "Together with the toboggan run, the aerial cableway and the climbing park, we thus have a unique mix of offers for both young and old."



At the renowned 2020 Summer Award of the International Skiareatest, the Kronberg and its new offers "Zipline Park" and "Märliwelt" were awarded gold medals in several categories.

The testers of the International Skiareatest were on the road in 2020 and carried out the anonymous quality check according to the Skiareatest categories. The Skiareatest team evaluates tourism destinations with criteria such as know-how, objectivity, seriousness and experience in tourism destinations in summer and winter. The International Skiareatest has meanwhile developed into a premium brand and is used for the constant further development of quality, safety and offers in Alpine tourism.

Investment in new offerings pays off: In the late summer of 2020, two new offers were opened at Kronberg: On the one hand, the "Zipline Park", a unique concept in Switzerland that combines a classic rope park with 25 ziplines for flying. On the other hand, the "Märliwelt", a play paradise especially for children with giant sand heaps, a water world and a twelve-metre-high climbing crown.

Thanks to these two offers in combination with the existing bobsleigh run, Kronberg achieved several gold awards in the categories "Rising Star of the Year 2020", "Best Children's Offers", "Fun & Action" and "Ideas & Implementation". The "Ideas & Implementation" award was also presented to Pronatour, the showcase company for the development and implementation of adventure projects, which realised the "Märliwelt" and "Zipline Park" projects. "While you enjoy peace and views at the Kronberg summit, we offer action for the young and young-at-heart in the valley," promises Kronberg’s Managing Director Felix Merz. The Head of Skiareatest Klaus Hönigsberger praised: " In international comparison, the Kronberg offers a unique variety. A visitor hardly ever has so many varied opportunities for spending time at one single tourist destination."

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