Are the Olympics affecting theme park attendance?
By Robert NilesNBC's broadcast of the Olympic Games is drawing huge ratings, as millions of Americans stay home to watch the games on TV. Does that mean fewer people are visiting theme parks during the games? I talked with representatives of several theme parks to find out.
Published: August 14, 2008 at 11:03 AM
At Busch theme parks, including SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, attendance is actually up over expectations, parks reps report. "We are doing very well since the Olympics started," Joe Couceiro, Vice President for Marketing at the Busch Entertainment Corp., told me yesterday. Coucerio said that NBC's prime-time TV schedule is not keeping people from making daytime visits to his company's parks. "Maybe they go back and watch in a hotel lounge or in their hotel rooms, but I don't think the games are affecting people visiting the parks."
Other parks reported similar results. "We're above budget on a daily basis," wrote Julie Estrada of Legoland California. Spokespersons for Disney and Universal declined to comment on their daily attendance, citing corporate policies, though a spokesperson for Universal Studios Hollywood did write that "we're doing fine." (No rep for Six Flags has responded yet.)
Can parks use Olympic tie-ins to boost attendance? Hong Kong Disneyland is hosting nightly sports-themed parades, including in-park airing of video highlights from the day's Olympic events. Hong Kong, which is now controlled by Olympic host China, is site of the equestrian events at this year's games.
Busch's Couceiro said that tie-ins can help bring attention to the park, if they are held before or during the games. He pointed out that SeaWorld has hosted send-off events for U.S. Olympians in the past, though it did not this year. "Once the Olympics is over," he said, "the excitement really dissipates."
Couceiro said that most popular televised events, such as the Olympics and Super Bowl, have little effect on park attendance. There is one potential exception, though, especially for parks that draw a large number of Europeans visitors.
"The World Cup may have an impact, especially from International visitors," Couceiro said. "The passion that fans have for following their country's team certainly can impact their travel plans" toward Cup matches and away from theme parks, he said.
What are you seeing? Tell us, in the comments, how the attendance appears at the parks you've visited during the games. And if you are staying home to watch instead of visiting a theme park, let us know that, too.
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