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Park Operations
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BUILD
IT
AND
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WILL
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…but
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or the majority of parks across the globe, the 2009 season is rapidly park’s new attractions on that attendance. It’s actually a fairly simple
approaching. A number of operators will be putting the finishing touches process.
to a new attraction. The installation is nearly done, the inspection bodies We all understand that a new attraction’s effect does not only depend
have carried out their thorough tests, and the marketing team is, at this very on the quality of the attraction itself, but on variables such as price
moment, executing a brilliant campaign based around the new attraction. elasticity, marketing spending, weather, price of fuel and many other
The cost of all this will be familiar to you as a park operator, and it is highly factors. When you discuss these factors with a park’s management team,
likely that you have set strict attendance targets that have to be met in order to it doesn’t take long to produce a list with over 50 variables. It is then
get a proper return on that investment. But how do you measure the effect of merely a case of mapping these variables as far back in time as possible
your new attraction on attendance? How do you know whether you have on a daily basis.
achieved a satisfactory return? Let me attempt to explain. This means that you will have to know what the temperature was in your
Take a look at Chart 1. Simply comparing attendance from one season to area on, for instance, April 17, 1997, what the price of a litre of petrol
another may lead to inaccurate results. Consider, for instance, the 2002 was at the time, what the park’s entrance fee was etc, etc. To uncover all
attraction. Is it realistic to assume that the new attraction actually lead to a of that information requires some time in the archives, but almost every
visitor decrease of 17%? Or could it be closer to the truth that the decline in park can unearth this information if they try. The most essential piece of
attendance was caused by alternative factors, such as a rainy summer, the information is the daily visitor numbers. After that, it is our challenge to
opening of a competing facility nearby or a global decline in tourism following unveil the underlying relations between all of these variables.
the 9/11 attacks? It is commonly accepted both within the academic world as To do so, I use a precise and advanced econometric model to look at the
well as within the amusement industry that several factors can have a negative variance in data. For Adventureland this model turned out to be 99%
influence on park attendance. This causes one to wonder whether or not these accurate in determining the attendance levels for a particular year based
various factors can have a positive influence as well. on all variables.
As I learned during my tenure as a research and strategy director at the Now take a look at Chart 2. The effect of each new attraction opened at
Efteling in Holland, there is a very apparent lack of knowledge in the industry Adventureland during the span of the research project was calculated
regarding the true impact of new attractions. Even though millions are spent individually (Model A), compared against a situation where no new
each year, my discussions with several major European theme parks reveal that attraction would have opened in that particular year (Model B). The
the true impact and return on investment (ROI) regarding new attractions is subsequent calculation of difference in attendance between Model A and
largely unknown and primarily based on ‘guesstimates.’ Several other Model B offers an insight into the effect of the new attraction that was
questions remained unanswered, such as: What factors influence the effect of a
new attraction on attendance? How can we best calculate the ROI of a new
attraction? Can we predict a future new attraction’s ROI/effect on attendance?
CHART 1
What is the ideal investment strategy for our current situation; and should we
invest every single year or at multi-year intervals?
Effect of 2002 Attraction on Theme Park’s Attendance
In this article I intend to present my findings from “Adventureland,” one of
several European parks I have worked with as part of my PhD on the subject. It
2001 Attendance = 1,200,000
should be noted that Adventureland is a fictitious name in order to conceal the
2002 Attendance = 1,000,000
real park’s identity. I have performed similar research projects at over 10 other
European parks, and while Adventureland wishes to remain anonymous, it may
2002 Attraction Effect = -200,000
be stated that this theme park is located in the southern part of Europe and
annually welcomes over one million visitors.
Effect of 2008 Attraction on Theme Park’s Attendance
Case Study – Adventureland
2007 Attendance = 1,200,000
In co-operation with Adventureland’s management, a large-scale research
2008 Attendance = 1,300,000
project was set up in order to identify and gain an in-depth insight into the
various factors influencing attendance and quantify the real effect of the
2008 Attraction Effect = 100,000
34 MARCH 2009
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