How Long Will Theme Parks Be Regarded as Viable Entertainment
Overhead costs. Investment in plane tickets, hotels, transportation. How long will the party last?
Walt Disney World's payroll is (according to their own press) something like 60,000. How long before people become bored? How long before the economics undermine the show?
Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.
So often, this discussion board wonders about what theme park x should do. Or what films franchise should be accessed as a new attraction. But attractions require labor. Back of house facilities require expansion and renovation. Hotel resorts need maintenance. From a perspective of pure economics ... How long can this go on?
Till the end of time it only gets better from here.
From Tony Duda
Posted August 19, 2013 at 1:51 PM
There will be a day in the future when all of Earth will be an empty wasteland and the theme parks will be unrecognizable piles of rust. But not now. Let's have fun and enjoy everything as much as we can.
As for near future economics, theme parks will rise and fall based on free market forces. After 9/11, Disney World closed down/stopped building resorts for years until the economy picked up again.
From AJ Hummel
Posted August 19, 2013 at 2:21 PM
As long as the admission price is low enough that attendance increases each year, theme parks will remain viable. I do think the frequency of new attractions (or at least massive E-ticket attractions) could decrease if they stop resulting in large attendance increases, but I doubt theme parks will go away completely in the near future. That being said, several major parks appear close to pricing themselves out of the primary market, so it will be interesting to see if significant attendance drops occur in the next few years (at least for parks with nothing new) and how said parks react.
From Tony Duda
Posted August 19, 2013 at 9:59 PM
I had a totally unscientific assessment along these lines recently when at Busch Gardens Tampa. I had the impression that BGT is becoming a casualty of the recent attraction wars at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando and the associated ticket and hotel room price increases. It seemed like if vacationers were looking for a way to reduce costs on a week or so visit, then BGT is getting omitted from the itinerary. A trip to Tampa is very easy to skip especially when the 5th or 6th day of a ticket to WDW is only $11 a day or an Orlando flex-pass is quite affordable.
Well TH – if we knew when Theme Parks will become out of favor with the Public, wouldn’t we also be able to predict the future stock market. In turn we would all be rich….
Plus many Theme Park companies also do movies…. So are you also assuming the movie theaters will also be empty?
I will say, not in the near future… Theme Parks are getting more popular…
From Rob P
Posted August 28, 2013 at 7:07 AM
Another thought provoking question from TH and one that has made me return to posting a comment on TPI after a long absence.
It's certainly something that I'd never given much thought to.....but realise that I should have.
I've always taken it for granted that Theme Parks, particularly the big ones, would simply evolve and develop to keep bringing those crowds in. I'd never considered the possibility that other, unseen, economic issues could possibly bring about their demise. So what do I think ? I believe that there's a very real danger that the rising costs of travel could seriously impact on the industry. I also think that the escalating costs of providing the leisure service itself will also result in much higher entrance fees. Ones that could make the Parks available only to the more affluent among us. Much more than ever before we're seeing people holidaying locally on economic grounds. ( Staycations as they're called here in the UK ).
It's sad to think that the Marketeers could become far more important than the Imagineers but that's business.
I'm hopeful that together they will find a way to maintain Park standards while keeping ticket prices affordable. But those outside market forces may yet prevail one day and leave us without the excellent entertainment we take for granted.
Theme parks require a personal investment beyond the financial commitment. In a world where the internet makes the planet accessible, flat screens, Netflix and on-demand reduce the requirement to leave the house. Video entertainment (games, etc.) also provide entertainment -- and serve as a harbinger of how such entertainment will only get better.
There are alternatives to the parks. And they are only going to get better.
There are alternatives, but what is better, getting a face fill of water from Splash Mountain or sitting on my Fat Butt watching Netflix…
How about watching Harry potter movie compared to going to Universal to experience WWOHP. Well, actually both of these are great…
As long as the Theme parks keep delivering – we will keep going…
I do understand that a vacation in Orlando or say Japan is very expensive and we as a society keep getting squeezed as the middle class, along with the richer getting richer…. (The obvious has been stated now). So maybe someday these parks will only have wealthy folks attending?
The Theme parks will have to find a way to keep the cost down… If attendance declines for a few years, then prices will have to come down, instead of going up every year… Isn’t $6.00 for a Hotdog and $7.00 for a beer enough…? How much of margins go they need….? Oops Sorry I digressed… Ballerina you must have seen her dancing in the sand..
I remember a business person who once compared running a theme park to running an airlines. The operation costs continue to incrementally grow. And while the initial impact propagated by a marquee, gate crasher attraction results in increased attendance and revenue, the sustainability of that investment is at best uncertain.
I'm pretty sure that we will still have theme parks in 100 years. New technologies will allow new possibilites - maybe some kind of hologram-animated roller coasters. That's what I think of for the future :)
I imagine park managers having this sort of conversation 60 years ago, when a combination of new technology (TV), cultural, and economic factors were handing them a beating. It seems strange to think now that once upon a time, the industry was rotting away and nearly dead. Had it not been for a few people reinventing the model and showing success, the whole thing might have slipped into obscurity. People will always want to be entertained, either by the physical motion of a coaster, or the sensory storytelling of a themed ride, and they will always want true escape. As long as parks can provide those two things and keep it fresh, they will be ok. Back then they had to evolve, and one day they will have to again. The question becomes one of maintaining the standards set, and thats where the money comes in. I agree with you TH that there is an economic tipping point to all of this, and I would argue that the Orlando parks that charge $100 a ticket and mark everything up several thousand percent just to maintain are walking very close to it. They've managed to stay on the right side of it for now because of their product and reputation, but people are funny, and these days, so is the economy. It's hard for people to conceive of it, but history has a way of repeating itself if lessons aren't learned.
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