Amusement parks: after the rain, the good weather - Part 1

9 min reading time

Published on 13/04/23 - Updated on 14/04/23

Parcs de loisirs

The reopening of the amusement parks marks the launch of a new season for these places dedicated to fun and sensations. Places that were deserted during the health crisis are now returning to their usual levels of attendance and are not hesitating to invest and innovate in order to attract even more visitors. These investments and innovations are also aimed at increasing visitor spending and the length of their visit. In this respect, the accommodation part of amusement parks is becoming increasingly important and diversified to offer unique experiences to visitors.

A more than satisfying attendance record

Visitors have indeed returned to the amusement parks based on their performance last year. The Walt Disney Corporation's theme park division generated $7.42 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2022, a record for the division and a 36% increase over the same period last year. Quarterly operating income for Disney Parks of $1.5 billion more than doubled compared to 2021.

Furthermore, Disneyland Paris has recorded revenues of €1,849 million for the 2022 financial year, representing a significant increase on the previous year's revenues of €509 million.  161 million, compared with a loss of €465 million in 2021. 47 million, compared with a loss of '579 million in the previous year.

PortAventura World closed the year 2022 with 5.1 million visitors and record revenues according to David García, general manager of the Spanish park. In addition, the park is targeting 5.3 million visitors this year, hoping to continue the park's growth. In addition, the pre-season has seen an increase in staffing levels, generating up to half a thousand new hires, reaching a peak of 3,800 active employees at key times of the season.

The year 2022 was also notable for Europa Park, which welcomed more than 6 million visitors, a first for the German park in its 50-year history. "We see this record as a huge vote of confidence from our visitors. And this in a difficult year, where war, supply problems, inflation and the energy crisis have put us all to the test," says park owner Roland Mack.

Last year was also a very good year for Compagnie des Alpes, and it is noteworthy that the contribution of the amusement parks was greater than that of the ski areas. In fact, the Compagnie recorded sales of around €958.5 million, of which €468.5 million came from the amusement parks, i.e. an increase of 23.1% compared to 2018/2019. The group welcomed more than 10 million visitors to the dozen or so amusement parks it operates and noted a 17% increase in spending per visitor.

Some of the company's parks also broke attendance records, such as Parc Astérix, which welcomed 2.6 million visitors over the year as a whole. The previous record was set in 2019, with 2.3 million visitors. Guy Vassel, the deputy general manager of the Gaulish park also confirms the increase in spending in the park's restaurants and various shops.

The Puy du Fou is also pleased with the past season, with more than 2.3 million visitors, a growth of about 2% compared to 2019. The park thus beats its own attendance record, which dates back to the pre-Covid period. A new balance sheet that confirms the rebound of the amusement park sector despite a complex context.

Nigloland also set a new attendance record, attracting 763,000 visitors on its 35th anniversary. The theme park located in the Aube region of France thus passed the symbolic 700,000 visitor mark for the first time. The same is true of the Mer de Sable, which saw more than 400,000 visitors pass through its aisles, recording an increase of 21% compared to 2019. These good figures are reflected in the turnover, which has increased by 32% compared to 2019. As for the Beauval ZooPark, it has broken all records by welcoming 2 million visitors, an increase of 43% compared to 2021.

A new season begins

Winter is officially over, with the arrival of spring marking the reopening of amusement parks around the world. On a European scale, the Spanish park PortAventura World opened its doors to its first visitors of the year on 17 February, thus inaugurating the longest season in its history. Its German competitor Europa Park reopened its doors on 25 March, inaugurating its 49th season.

In France, Futuroscope launched the season on Saturday 4 February, beginning its 36th season. As Rodolphe Bouin, Chairman of the park's Management Board, points out, "Futuroscope is one of only two French theme parks open in February, offering an alternative to snow holidays. Two months later, it is PAL's turn to welcome back the public by celebrating a significant anniversary, its 50th.

Meanwhile, Shanghai Disneyland finally reopened last year after months of closure due to the health crisis that was still going strong in Asia. However, visitors will have to meet a number of conditions to gain entry, and those who have left the city in the last five days will not be allowed to enter. Searches for the park following the announcement of its reopening jumped by almost 300% on 8 December.

However, the new season is likely to be marked by the inflationary context, initially impacting attraction operators. According to a study conducted by Convious, in September 2022, 21% of pass holders were less likely to renew than in 2021. Economic uncertainty could prevent a number of repeat visitors from visiting the parks this year or reduce the number of trips.

This inflation is also reflected in the prices of entrance tickets and hotels in the parks, to enable the operators to cope with the increased costs. This inflation is also explained by the loss of turnover during the many months of closure in 2020 and 2021. Nevertheless, Disney CEO Bob Iger has acknowledged that the company has "perhaps been a little too aggressive on some of its pricing" of late. It remains to be seen whether this statement presages a real drop in prices at the parks.

A sector that recruits more than ever

While the 2023 season has just begun and looks promising for the vast majority of the parks in view of last season's performance, some are getting new personalities to accompany their development.

While Bob Iger has taken over as CEO of Disney, replacing Bob Chapek, Josh D'Amaro, President of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, is expected to become the next CEO of The Walt Disney Company.

On the Spanish side, PortAventura Business & Events has announced the appointment of Malin Nilsson as Divisional Director. With more than 22 years of experience in management positions in national and international companies in the MICE sector, her objective is to continue to drive innovation and success in the park's convention centre. With this appointment, PortAventura Business & Events is strengthening its international projection to offer companies one of the most successful convention centres in Europe.

A change of management at Vulcania, the volcano theme park, has appointed Sophie Rognon as its new director. A native of the region and a graduate of the ESC Clermont Business School, her mission "is clear: to develop the park so that it contributes ever more strongly to the tourist appeal of the Auvergne". At the same time, the Auvergne park is looking for about a hundred seasonal workers to support the park's activity throughout the season.

Walibi Rhône-Alpes is also launching its first recruitment sessions of the year in anticipation of the coming season, which promises to be dynamic. 400 seasonal positions in a multitude of professions are to be filled to reinforce the 45 permanent employees of the park. With this in mind, the park is once again partnering with Pôle Emploi, AFDAS and AFPA to offer 15 jobseekers the opportunity to follow a training course and obtain a Professional Skills Certificate as a Leisure Agent. It is also pursuing its apprenticeship policy by supporting a class of 10 alternating students in the framework of the "Tourist Reception Officer" training in partnership with the CCI Nord-Isère.

Ever greener parks

This new season is also in line with the trend towards sustainable development, with park operators fully committed to this approach. PortAventura World is one of the pioneers and has been committed to environmental protection for many years. The park is committed to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals through various initiatives such as the construction of a photovoltaic plant, the installation of 150 electric vehicle charging points and the attention paid to the well-being of its employees.

More concrete actions also take place in the daily management of the park, for example Emma Descrot, market manager for France explains that "this year for Halloween, we redistributed the thousands of squash used in nearby farms to feed animals" or that after Christmas "the Christmas trees will be reusable and recycled and all the lighting incorporates low-energy LED bulbs".

While the environmental aspect is of paramount importance for the Spanish park, the social aspect is just as important. With this in mind, in 2011 the park created a foundation whose ambition is to "contribute to improving the lives of people, especially children and young people" through actions and events in support of associations. The foundation has also launched the Port Aventura Dreams project, which aims to welcome, free of charge, more than 200 families with children or teenagers in vulnerable situations who are suffering from a serious illness.

PortAventura World is not stopping there, as the park has joined the Green & Human consortium with the aim of continuing to implement and develop sustainable and social projects in an efficient and responsible manner. According to Choni Fernández, Director of Sustainability at PortAventura World, "the tourism sector can and should play a leading role in the sustainable development of the country. Thanks to Green & Human, we have an excellent opportunity to continue making progress in the sustainable transformation of our company and the sector and to set real objectives and commitments".

Europa Park's commitment to the environment is just as serious as its desire to make the transition to renewable energy in its own hands by building a photovoltaic installation covering more than 20 hectares in collaboration with the automotive logistics company Mosolf. About half of the new plant's area, or about ten hectares, is intended to supply Europa-Park. This also includes the park's six hotels and the newly opened Eatrenalin restaurant.

The plant is expected to be commissioned in 2024. Europa Park will take a considerable share of the energy produced and will be able to supply itself with renewable electricity in the long term, largely independently of other energy sources, especially during the peak summer months. This will be an important step towards renewable energy production. 

Roland Mack, owner of Europa Park

The German park already operates photovoltaic installations, hydroelectric power stations and cogeneration plants. According to the park's owner, the new facility opens up a whole new dimension in the company's supply of renewable energy. For the future, Europa-Park is counting on efficient storage solutions that will enable even greater use of solar energy in the medium term.

Across the Atlantic, many amusement parks have special offers and services for families with children with special needs. For example, all Disney parks offer disabled access, and Universal offers an assistive pass to attractions in Florida and also at Universal Studios Hollywood. In addition, Legoland became the first theme resort to be certified as an Autism Center, while the Peppa Pig theme park was certified as autism-friendly and also includes a wheelchair-friendly ride.

French parks are equally committed, such as Disneyland Paris, which is currently completing work on the construction of Europe's largest shaded photovoltaic power plant, deployed above the park's gigantic car park. Once completed, it will save 900 tonnes of carbon every year. "This project is in line with our environmental objectives: to have 100% renewable electricity by 2030, to reduce heat islands... The car park was one of the most important," emphasises Damien Audric, Director of Development and Environment at Disneyland Paris. The park is also already supplied by a geothermal network that provides 18% of the site's needs and a wastewater treatment plant.

This sustainable commitment is also reflected in a partnership with the Beyond Meat brand to offer vegetarian options to visitors at every meal of the day. This partnership was launched as part of the 30th anniversary of Disneyland Paris, in order to meet the "growing need of visitors to have access to more sustainable options" according to Laure Albouy, Vice President Business Integration and Strategy of Disneyland® Paris.



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