Welcome to the United States of Theme Park Fans
As we reported earlier
, Matt Ouimet is stepping down as the CEO of Cedar Fair, the amusement park chain that owns Cedar Point, Knot's Berry Farm, Kings Island, and other regional theme parks. Cedar Fair executive Richard Zimmerman is replacing him and the Cleveland Plain Dealer recently interviewed the two
about the current state and future plans of Cedar Point and the rest of the company.
There's lot of good stuff there for Cedar Point fans, but the line that stood out most to me was this: "For the first time, according to Ouimet, the park will market itself beyond its core base of Ohio and Michigan, trying to pull guests from Chicago and beyond."
Wait a minute — Cedar Point wasn't advertising itself throughout the Midwest? Heck, a park that calls itself "America's Roller Coast" wasn't bragging about its amazing line-up of roller coasters throughout the entire country? Why not? Talk about leaving money on the table.
Sometimes we forget, as a community of theme park fans from around the world, that many parks continue to see themselves as regional businesses, drawing fans primarily from their local market. Heck, even the Disneyland Resort — home to two of the 11 most-visited theme parks in the world — draws the vast majority of its guests from the Southern California market. Tokyo Disney has two of the world's top five parks and its visitors are almost exclusively from Japan. The Walt Disney World Resort, with its global reach and appeal, is the anomaly in this business — not the standard.
But I think that's a missed opportunity for this industry. Forget about me and all the roadtrips I've taken across the country to visit theme parks. This is my job, after all. But many of you have done the same, too. Theme Park Insider readers have driven, flown, or found some other way to visit pretty much every major, mid-market, and even minor theme park around the world — often traveling thousands of miles from their homes. We book hotel rooms, eat at restaurants, and drop money that supports hundreds of theme parks' home communities.
Look, I get it. Advertising campaigns can be expensive. (Less so when advertising online, of course... not that I have an interest in that or anything....) The vast majority of a regional theme park's visitors are always going to come from, well, its region. But there is real demand out there, beyond its local community, for any park that is doing something interesting.
Cedar Point certainly qualifies. So does Holiday World, Dollywood, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Efteling, or any other non-Disney, non-Universal theme park that we advocated here on Theme Park Insider over the years. The more that parks do to make it easier for people outside their core market to visit, the more of those potential visitors they can entice to come.
One major park chain has been running an ad campaign playing off the old saying "go big or go home." So why do so many parks choose to just stay home with their marketing, instead of going big? Even a little reaching out can deliver big returns, for not much cost. Does a park's website list local hotels and transportation options? Are ticket deals available to people outside the local market? Don't fall into the trap of limiting your market targeting to location and demographics. People far outside a park's traditional market can become customers if they share a lifestyle affinity for long-distance travel and going to parks. That information is available to parks and their ad agencies. Why not use it?
In short, here's the message to theme parks around the world: We want you to take our money. No, we don't want to be ripped off, and we're not going to fly or drive out of way to see a park that isn't offering us something fresh. But we like traveling, and we love new experiences, and we will go out of our way to support parks that offer them.
It's become media cliche these days to talk about how divided society has become. My newspaper colleagues complain all the time how it's become impossible to reach a mass audience anymore. We are divided by political party, geography, education level, religion, race, and ethnicity — reading and watching only the news sources that others in our same group do.
But that's not true — and we here at Theme Park Insider are the proof. I am amazed and humbled by the diversity of the readers I see here... and the diversity of fans I have met in parks across the country and around the world. Politics, geography, education, religion, race, and ethnicity do not divide theme park fans. (Okay, maybe screen-based rides and dining plans do, but let's just take the win in front of us for now, okay?) We are not just willing, but thrilled, to travel across borders and social divides to hang out with and enjoy rides, shows, parades, and fireworks with other people who love theme parks.
We are the United States — and the United Nations — of theme park fans. We are not just a marketing opportunity for theme parks that want to make the jump up to the next level... we are the common ground that this world needs. If parks can bring us together, maybe other institutions can, too. They just need to reach out and offer us access to the community that we crave.
And that goes for a lot of people who aren't yet theme park fans, too. Don't give up before you even try. Show us the good stuff, and people you might not even imagined would be interested will find their way to your door.
Absolutely. I'm convinced that 90% or more of Six Flags passholders have absolutely no idea they can go to any SF park in North America with their pass. Most of the SF parks send out monthly newsletters touting features of their passholders' home parks, but would be smart highlighting unique attractions at other parks in the chain that might inspire guests to take a visit to another SF park while on a business trip or vacation. Heck, even Six Flags' normal Season Dining Plan "travels" (they have introduced a slightly cheaper "lunch only" plan that is only good at your home park for 2018), and can be used seamlessly at parks around the country at no extra cost, a feature that's listed at the very bottom of their pamphlet.
Merlin do their VIP passes to get into all of their propertiesin the UK, but it only gives you a discount to non UK properties. It would be nice to see that restriction removed.
@Jeff - We actually almost visited the downtown Denver park in September, but didn't want to pay full price for a half-day since we wouldn't have made it back to Denver from Ft. Collins until after 2 PM. If the park was part of Cedar Fair, Six Flags, or Sea World, we would a gone in, even if only for an hour or 2. If the park offered a twilight admission or a more heavily discounted off-season admission price, we would have also spent some time there. Instead, we roamed around downtown visiting the Capital, Federal Reserve, and 16th Street before going to a Rockies game.
Well, in Chicago, Six Flags Great America is a pretty dominant place in terms of advertising so Cedar Point trying to lure folks in is a bit of a reach. True, their rides are great but most are content with SFGA instead. That said, SFGA themselves don't advertise as much in Indiana or other neighboring states as much as they could and thus miss some folks there. The 'regional thinking" is a great point and some parks can change but there's the fact many are content with their loyal local base than pulling from around the country.
The big downside of Disney World being a once in a lifetime international experience is that I see a lot of bored faces on rides which shouldn't have three hour queues.
I live in San Diego. I see more TV ads for Universal Orlando than I do for any park in California. I have never seen any advertising for Six Flags Magic Mountain. As far as Disney park ads go, I see lots of "Disney Parks" and now "Disney Vacations" ads but always feel like the quality and quantity of ads for Disneyland is far less than it should be seeing as I live 90 minutes from it. I'm just amazed at how little arts and entertainment advertisement San Diego gets being such a close neighbor to Los Angeles. My guess is there are SO many residents in LA, why do they need to reach out to us when there is enough to draw from up there.
It's interesting that you mention WDW as the international exception. In Australia we see advertising for DLR but very little for any other international theme parks (i can't remember seeing any universal advertising, but I may have seen something for Singapore).
I’m a Dorney Park season pass holder. It does surprise me a little that they don’t try at all to sell me on the idea of going to a platinum pass and visiting other parks. I’m only a day’s drive from Carowinds, Kings Dominion and Cedar Point. Actually, this year when I went to renew, I asked about upgrading my renewal to a platinum, because I do plan a trip to probably Carowinds and Kings Dominion next year. They couldn’t figure out for me if I could just upgrade and still do it as a renewal or how to do it. You’d think if they were going to get me to move up, they’d do this and save me the $6 difference on a new pass vs. renewal.
To follow up with Grant... in the UK we see ads for DLP and WDW. I do remember a few years back seeing Busch Gardens and wondering "What the heck is that?", but the only other ads I see involving theme parks here seems to be by the USA Tourism board which features Universal and Sea World in more or less equal measure.
Bite your tongue, Court! I worked for the Rocky Mountain News. (RIP)
The only park i've never understood why they don't market themselves as a destination is SFMM. With it being in LA and the "thrill capital of the world" you think they would want to tap into LA's 50 million tourists, seems like a missed opportunity. I think much of this thinking came from SF's corporate marketing doing a 1 size fits all approach to all of their parks. By finally deciding to be open every day maybe now they are making that first step into becoming a destination park.
I would like to stand in defense of Lakeside Amusement Park in the Denver area. It absolutely needs some TLC but it could easily shine again as a pinnacle of traditional amusement parks.
Cedar fair needs to take better care of words of fun in Kansas city.!! What a great park and so much potential. They could add and do so much more to it and draw from a bigger area than they already do.
So having just got back from Six Flags Great America today (open in November that's right) let me tell you what my Dad and I were talking about.
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