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20 Jan 2018 Attractions Management Handbook
 

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Attractions Management Handbook - Riding High

Theme Park Insight

Riding High


US theme parks are riding high, but it’s a bumpy ride for teen visits, reports Fiona O’Donnell of the Mintel Group

Fiona O’Donnell, Multicultural, Lifestyles
Riding High shutterstock.com

Ulike many other leisure markets that are just beginning to recover from the steep revenue declines experienced during the recession of 2008-09, the US theme park industry has proven far more resilient.

Despite a sluggish economy, revenues are estimated to have increased 17 per cent between 2007 and 2012 – and are forecast to grow a further 7.1 per cent annually until 2017, to reach US$17.95bn (£10.71bn, €13.19bn).

ATTENDANCE
Consumers’ increased confidence in the economy, major parks’ investment in new themed areas or renovations of existing parks, as well as a plethora of new rides and attractions are drawing visitors in record numbers, which is driving revenue growth for the industry.

Despite the recession adult attendance has also remained steady – even during difficult times, theme parks are perceived as offering good value for money and remain a draw for many Americans.

Fierce industry competition is driving theme parks to new heights in immersive entertainment and innovative attractions to lure vacationers through their gates.

While consumers continue to enjoy theme parks, in the face of rising costs they’re focused on looking for ways to save money during their visit. Though admis- sions account for the largest portion of theme park revenues, a majority of theme park goers buy discounted admission tickets, which means ancillary purchases will become an increasingly important com- ponent of total revenues. Beyond upscale food and drink and new merchandise tied to popular attractions, additional fees that eliminate or substantially reduce lines appear to have the most promise.

DEMOGRAPHICS
About one in five adults have visited a?theme park in the past 12 months. These adults tend to be in their “family” years (aged 18-44) and comprise the mid- to upper-level household income (US$75,000+, £44,800+, €55,100+). Married adults?with children at home are key theme park goers. The combination of being white, younger than 55, married, with four plus people at home (including under 18s), and a household income of at least US$100,000 (£59,700, €73,500) creates the most likely adult theme park visitor profile.

From 2006 to 2012, the number of adults who visited a theme park within the last 12 months remained relatively flat. While teens aged 12-17 are more than three times as likely as the average adult to have visited a theme park (67 per cent vs. 22 per cent), teen visitation has dropped over the past five years with 67 per cent of those aged 12-17 having visited a park in the last year compared with 76 per cent five years ago. In contrast, visits from adults have remained steady at 22-23 per cent. And it seems price may be a factor in the decline of teen visits, as our research found that from 2007 to 2010, per diem expenses hovered around US$150 (£90, €110), but by 2012 this had increased to more than US$170 (£102, €125). Today, over one third (36 per visitors. And it’s not just younger consumers being thrilled by theme parks – our research shows that more than one in five (23 per cent) over 55-year-olds consider themselves as avid theme park goers.

TECHNOLOGY
The report also highlights the value of technology and its importance in connect- ing theme parks with visitors – consumers feel more technology could be used to im- prove their experience. Some 76 per cent of theme park visitors think parks should use technology to manage and shorten wait times, and one in five (22 per cent) claim to have visited Disney Parks’ web- site, Facebook or Twitter before coming – 15 per cent report the same for Six Flags, while 14 per cent visit social media sites before arriving at Sea World and Universal Studios, 12 per cent for Busch Gardens and 19 per cent for Cedar Point.

FUTURE GROWTH
The theme park industry is healthy and growth is forecast due to increasing attendance numbers and per diem expenditures in park. Revenues can grow further by incorporating gaming and the internet into the offering, while guest satisfaction can be improved by alleviating wait times via technology.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Fiona O’Donnell is the category manager of Multicultural, Lifestyles, Leisure, Travel and Retail at the London branch of the Mintel Group: an award- winning provider of market research. For more data see Theme Parks US – June 2013 at www.mintel.com

Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2014 issue 1

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