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The BLOGFlume—Massive

The effects of Hurricane Katrina, Goliath is born, and the theme park ticket black market.

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: September 4, 2005 at 9:15 PM

Devastation
Theme Park Review 8/30/05

It has become readily apparent from television news reports and pictures from all across the Gulf Coast, there is severe destruction. The question you’re probably asking is, what does that have to do with theme parks? First and foremost, Six Flags New Orleans is completely underwater, similar to how Six Flags Over Georgia was earlier this year. The park is currently shut down, and it is likely that it will remain so for the remainder of the season. Something tells me that even if the city were to be able to open back up to residents in the next month, most of them would probably not feel like going to an amusement park. Not only that, there have been long reaching effects of Hurricane Katrina. As some may have noticed, this disaster has caused a dramatic increase in gasoline prices. Some sections of Atlanta, Georgia (not even supplied by the Gulf Region) had fuel stations charging upwards of $5.00 per gallon for 87-octane gasoline, and people were paying it. There seem to have been fuel scares all across the country with people spreading false rumors about government shutdowns or stations running completely out of supply. Still, it looks like the prices will stabilize over the next week or two, but nationwide, the effect of this disaster will result in prices nearly $1.00 over what they were in the middle of August. These dramatically increased gas prices have already started to cause people to rethink their vacations over the next few months. It is still very popular for families to drive to Disney World, and a 30% increase in gasoline prices could force people to either reduce or even cancel a planned fall vacation to Orlando. Families that were already on a tight budget, and were making the drive to Florida to try to save a little bit of money, may find the long drive is not going to save much money at all. I can understand why people would reconsider making a big trip, but those traveling within the next four weeks would have to cancel their reservations and lose their deposits. It is possible that Disney may refund deposits in light of the disaster, but guests cannot expect that. Those guests who are traveling in November or later need to think a little more optimistically and hope that gas prices moderate. As with any disaster that has nationwide implications, we not only need to give whatever we can to those in need, but we need to keep the country moving. Life goes on, and while it may take years or even decades for New Orleans to recover, we, as a country, will be stronger and more resilient than ever.

Goliath
Six Flags 9/1/05

On Thursday, Six Flags Over Georgia announced plans regarding its next roller coaster. As predicted, the coaster will be a B&M hypercoaster, and will have a layout unlike any other coaster on the planet. One of the most unique features of the coaster will be its lack of a mid-course brake run (MCBR). Goliath will tower at just over 200 feet, and is billed as so big, that it has to go outside the park. The new coaster will dwarf the 107-foot tall Georgia Scorcher as it passes overhead the B&M stand-up coaster. The coaster will maximize airtime with 775 feet of drops, feature a 540-degree helix that will likely make your feet tingle with high g’s, and 180-degree horseshoe turn. Goliath is not going to break any records, but looks to be a solid addition to a park that already has a great collection of coasters. It’s name and color scheme are rather unoriginal, but Goliath could easily eclipse the popularity and success of its California namesake.

Fakeout
St. Petersburg Times 9/3/05

Those who frequent sporting events and concerts know that buying tickets from a scalper or ticket agent can be a dicey transaction. Ticket scalping is usually more lucrative on events that are sold out, but it seems that ticket scalping is no longer limited to one-time events. Theme park tickets, in particular Disney tickets, have surged in popularity on the black market. That’s right, the black market. A number of illegal organizations have been linked to selling theme park tickets purchased with fake or stolen credit cards. As ticket prices have increased over the past few years, the market for ticket resale has increased, as families try to make the most out of their vacation dollars. Many families have no idea that they are purchasing these illegally appropriated tickets since they are often sold at hotel lobbies, souvenir shops, and even some travel agencies. Universal, Sea World, and Busch Gardens are also seeing their tickets sold illegally, but Disney is currently the only company trying to fight back. Disney now requires biometric data on even the least expensive ticket, and does not allow guests to determine how many days are left on a pass without walking up to a Disney resort or ticket gate. Also, when guests book their hotel reservations through Disney, they cannot pick up their accompanying theme park tickets until they check into their resort. The proliferation of tickets on Ebay is ridiculous, with 194 items listed when I just performed a search. I understand how many people are looking to save some money on their theme park tickets, but guests need to be very careful when purchasing tickets from anyone other than the theme park. Not only are the people selling the illegal tickets breaking the law, but those who knowingly purchase them are also subject to prosecution. After reading about the burgeoning black market for theme park tickets, I’m reassured knowing that my tickets for my vacation in November are coming straight from the source.

Readers' Opinions

From Jason Lester on September 5, 2005 at 12:13 AM
Over on themeparkreview.com there's some pictures on SFNO underwater. Very sad, but also incredible photos.
From Mark Hollamon on September 5, 2005 at 4:55 AM
The gas rise is a shock, but let's put it in perspective. Before the hurricane gas was about $2.50 per gal. Now it's $3 or up to $3.25 tops. On an 18 gal fill up that's $13.50 more.

I know that adds up in the long run, but on a tank of gas, that's not going to crush us.

Canadians come down here all the time and gas for them is over $1 per liter ($3.99/gal) ALL the time! That hasn't stopped them.

This is rough and going to get worse before it gets better, but if everybody cut's out just a little unnecessary driving per week they will be ok.

From Anthony Murphy on September 5, 2005 at 7:54 AM
Yeah, Disney is really cracking down on the tickets by requiring fingerprint anylasis on their tickets. I think they are trying to combat all the small places outside the grounds that sell the tickets ileagally. Also, I noticed the last time I was down there that Universal's tickets have gotten much more expensive. Maybe that is the problem!
From Jason Lester on September 5, 2005 at 4:29 PM
Ticket prices have gone up at every park. Disney and Universal are the worst offenders, but Cedar Fair is slowly raising them, not as drastically as Disney or Universal, but still noticeably.
From Anthony Murphy on September 5, 2005 at 5:18 PM
Yeah, my family used to get free tickets via the Vacation Club so they just bought tickets so they probably did not notice the price hike. Universal, on the other hand, we always got tickets. Why do you think they have gone up?
From Jason Lester on September 5, 2005 at 10:48 PM
IMO, parks get great attendance even with high ticket prices, so they think they can raise them even higher and make more money. Sure enough, people continue to fork out cash and the parks continue to get more and more cocky, raising the prices even higher. Until there's some kind of attendace drops the parks will continue to raise ticket prices. Obviously this doesn't explain DCA, a special case. Prices for the park continue to go up even as attendance coninues to go down.
From Jason Lester on September 5, 2005 at 10:51 PM
Sorry for the double post guys.
From Adriel Tjokrosaputro on September 6, 2005 at 8:04 AM
That's OK, Jason. Beside, Staff Columns never reach 50 responses.

I think Disney and Universal raised their ticket price too much.Last year I bought 4-Day Park Hopper for only below $250. Now, it's unbelieveable.

From Russell Meyer on September 6, 2005 at 8:54 AM
It's a basic rule of economics. You charge as high as the market will bear. The parks are still filling up, so guests have not reached their breaking point. I think they're close though, especially with increased gas prices, airline tickets, and hotel rates. Until their attendance numbers drop, the prices will keep going up. The prices are also reactionary as all of the theme parks in close proximity try to make their prices about the same. When Universal raises $3, Disney and Sea World usually quickly follow suit, and vice versa.
From Jason Lester on September 6, 2005 at 10:48 AM
Exactly what I said, although you said it better. LOL.

Yeah, with gas, airline, hotel, show, movie, and of course theme park tickets rising, I think we'll see a huge backlash sometime in the near future. It's inevitable.

From Marc-André Routhier on September 6, 2005 at 4:05 PM
Hi folks!

For your info, gas prices here in Montréal,Canada hit today the incredible : 4,24US$/US gallon or 5,30$can/US gallon. Complete nonsense. A lot of people are staying home instead of traveling this year.

MA Routhier

From Jason Lester on September 6, 2005 at 4:34 PM
Yeah, they're hitting record highs in the US too. It's awful.
From Chuck Campbell on September 7, 2005 at 4:51 AM
I drove from Williamsburg, Va., to the Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina to visit some friends over the Labor Day weekend. Traffic was fairly light, and the going rate for gas across the North Carolina Piedmont on I-40 was about $3.29 a gallon. When I returned yesterday, those prices had already dropped by ten to twenty cents, depending on the town and the gas station.
From Jason Moore on September 7, 2005 at 6:41 AM
Beware of filling up at Hess stations. Hopefully now that it's all over the media (around here anyway), they will change the way they handle things, but they've been charging $75 "preauthorization fees" to people's cards. Basically, they charge $75 just to make sure you have the money to pay for your gas. Then you only pump $10-$20 worth of gas. Now I could understand covering their own assets if that amount was automatically readjusted at the close of the transaction, but they've apparently been taking a couple of days to make the adjustment. People are putting $15 worth of gas in their cars and then having their cards declined at the grocery store because Hess is tying up an extra $60 that was never authorized to be taken. We first discovered it last night when my fiance noticed a negative balance in her acount, then I heard on the radio this morning that it's happening to a lot of people. Like I said, hopefully now that so many are drawing attention to the practice, hopefully they will be correcting it, but I wouldn't trust them.
From Jason Lester on September 8, 2005 at 12:23 AM
They haven't dropped here in LA.

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