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Observation Experiences

Dutch Wheels’ Asiatique Sky in Bangkok

LOVE THE VIEW! Observation experiences engage global audiences

More than 10 years after the London Eye sparked a Ferris Wheel renaissance, new rides continue to open as standalone tourist attractions around the world. Climbing high for a bird’s eye view of the surroundings is nothing new, but today there are ever more ways to do that, whether it’s a rooftop bar, an observation deck or a moving ride. Here a bunch of ride manufacturers give us their opinions on what makes an observation wheel different to a Ferris Wheel, while over the page we highlight the various models employed by operator Merlin Entertainments (including the Eye) and on page 44 we examine the premium positioning of new skyscraper observation decks around the world. Enjoy the views of our experts!

Our panel includes Chance Rides president Mike Chance (MC), US Thrill Rides founder Bill Kitchen (BK), Fabbri Group/Giant Wheel president Enrico Fabbri (EF), Marco Grigolo (MG) from the Italian ride manufacturer Technical Park, Dutch Wheels manager Pleun van Dalen (PvD) and Dr Vladimir Gnezdilov (VG), founder of the Pax Group, president of the Russian Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions and chairman of the ISO/TC254 standards committee.

At 165m the Singapore Flyer is currently the world’s tallest observation wheel

How much life is there left in the giant Ferris Wheel/Observation Wheel as a standalone tourist attraction? VG – The popularity of giant wheels has increased every year since the opening of the London Eye and they offer a colourful tourist attraction in any big city. Today, plans are known for new giant observation wheels of more than 185-metres in height in cities including New York and Las Vegas so it seems the race for the title of the world's highest panoramic wheel has only just started. MG – After the Eye, entrepreneurs realised that a Ferris Wheel could turn a profit as a standalone attraction. It could not fully be realised before that. Such rides attract attendance by virtue of their beauty. Although originally designed to be temporary structures, they became landmarks that local municipalities were not willing to renounce. EF – We think that this business will be good for another 50 years. Wheels are operating for a long time and, once installed on a great location, there is no limit to their success. PvD – We see two markets: for the permanent constructions over 100- metres, and then those smaller in size but relatively easy to assemble and dismantle. Dutch Wheels is focusing on the latter group and we see a bright future. The main reason is that the investment is significantly less for these attractions compared for instance to the London Eye, which cost well over $100 million. MC – These rides do best in areas that already naturally have a lot of tourist foot traffic. The wheels that we provide are an impulse opportunity for people in the area. The wheel doesn’t have to be the destination.

Do Observation Wheels offer a good return on investment, or are there other funding models available? EF – An observation wheel used as tourist attraction offers a good return, whether owned outright or rented to a third party. We think the best economical model is in the portable units, especially those of the 60m in height. There will be some special places for an 80m wheel, but not many. VG – An observation wheel of 100m or higher – in the right location (with a tourist flow of 1 million people a year) is one of the most

JUNE 2013 41

Left: Singapore Flyer

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