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Amusement parks, evolving destinations - Part 2

The year 2022 promises to be full of celebrations for amusements parks, with Disneyland Paris turning 30, Puy du Fou reaching 45 and Efteling celebrating 70 years. A sector that is reaching a certain maturity in different parts of the world, but which nevertheless continues to evolve and reinvent itself to continue to amaze young and old alike. New attractions, new equipment, new shows and new hotels are all major items of expenditure for the parks. In the meantime, the health crisis has hit the sector hard, forcing these major amusement destinations to close their doors for many months. How is the sector faring after two up-and-down years? Which parks have proved to be the most resilient and have continued despite everything to develop? What changes have been made to cope with increased competition and to meet the new expectations of visitors?

Find here the link to the first part of this analysis on amusement parks. 

A competitive market that is constantly evolving

With such a concentration of players in one market, competition is becoming increasingly fierce. This is why parks are constantly investing in new products. On the one hand, they must stand out from their competitors, but they must also arouse the interest of visitors by refreshing themselves as regularly as possible. This is a very costly necessity for the parks, in fact the Banque des territoires estimates the amount of annual investments by the parks at between €300 and €400 million. And the price of attractions can sometimes approach or even exceed €1 billion. It is estimated that parks open a major new attraction every two years.

The parks' development plans are all being maintained despite the consequences of the health crisis on the sector. Europa Park is continuing its expansion with the development of a new zone dedicated to Croatia. The creation of this future zone has been planned for several years and was recently made official, but for the moment very little information has been revealed. Visitors should be able to discover this new area by 2023, and a large-scale roller coaster will form the heart of this future zone. This expansion, the largest since the opening of the Rulantica water park, should enable Europa Park to pass the 6 million annual visitor mark. To pique visitors’ interest, the park has just renovated its area dedicated to Austria, with a new attraction that immerses them in the world of Sissi – The Young Empress.

In the Netherlands, Efteling is also planning to expand with the construction of a new 17,000 m² theme area by 2024. Work on this new area, estimated at 25 million euros, will begin this year on the occasion of its 70th birthday. The park explains that this theme area, which is described as "scarier than ever", will replace the current Spookslot Haunted Castle, which will close in the summer of 2022. In the new zone, visitors will have access to an attraction, two food outlets, a shop and assorted entertainment. The new attraction, called 'Danse Macabre’, will be a Haunted Mansion 2.0. The arrival of this new area will increase the park's capacity.

Further north in Europe, in Sweden, Liseberg is also unveiling big plans as it approaches its centenary with the opening of a new theme area called Luna Park. This area, which will open this year, will host two new family attractions: Turbo and Tempus. But the new roll-outs don't stop there. In 2023, Luna Park's flagship attraction will arrive to celebrate the centenary of Liseberg: Luna. A boomerang-shaped roller coaster that will reach speeds of 68 km/h and has a height of 33.5 metres.

The Spanish park PortAventura World is also continuing its development with the opening of a new large-scale attraction in 2023, which will be located in the Far West area of PortAventura Park. The park will also invest 150 million euros in "The Beat Challenge", its new expansion project, which will culminate in the opening of a fourth theme park based on football. The choice of this theme is the result of a joint venture signed with LaLiga, the Spanish football league. This new park, specially designed for football fans, will be the fourth in the tourist complex, along with PortAventura Park, Caribe Aquatic Park and Ferrari Land, which opened in April 2017.

The French parks are just as dynamic, like Disneyland Paris. The park will inaugurate Avengers Campus, the future Marvel land, on 20th July. Just a photo of the progress of the work was revealed in November 2021, but a new promotional spot reveals the attraction in place of the former Rock'n'Roller Coaster: Avengers Assemble: Flight Force. This area will also include a new attraction "Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure", two restaurants and a shop. For the other zones announced by the park, we will just have to be patient and wait. The Frozen zone is expected to open in 2024-2025, and the Star Wars land has no projected date yet. Disney California Adventures has already opened its own land dedicated to Marvel superheroes. The construction of these new zones is part of the development and expansion plan of Disneyland Paris announced by The Walt Disney Company, which is injecting €2 billion for this purpose.

Compagnie des Alpes, which groups together 12 amusement parks, is announcing many new features to come in its various parks. Walibi Rhône-Alpes is preparing to inaugurate Exotic Island in June, a new themed area, which will include the family attraction Tiki Academy, two water play areas and a restaurant. This is just the beginning of the park's expansion plans, as other new attractions will be added between now and 2025, including a thrill ride that will open in 2024 to mark the park's 45th birthday. Management has planned an investment of around €3.5 million to cover the construction of all these new attractions.

The group's two largest parks, Parc Astérix and Futuroscope, are also starting the 2022 season with a number of new attractions. The Gaulish park has just unveiled Tonnerre 2 Zeus, an update of its famous Tonnerre de Zeus attraction. This new version benefits from a new course with more thrills in store. In 2023, the park will welcome Toutatis, a new thrill ride that was originally planned for 2021. The €28 million attraction represents the largest investment the park has ever made and demonstrates a desire to capture the European market.

Futuroscope is being even more ambitious and investing €300 million over the next ten years, mainly before 2025, to "change its economic model". This investment is supported by the Banque des territoires, which is contributing €20 million. This desire is reflected in the inauguration this season of the Chausseurs de Tornades attraction. A budget of €21 million has been mobilised for this new attraction, which constitutes the biggest investment made in the park. However, the cornerstone of this plan is Aquascope, the park's future aquatic area, representing an investment of €104 million. It is scheduled to open in 2024 and should be able to accommodate up to 1,900 visitors simultaneously.

Puy du Fou wants to cross the pond. According to the specialised American website Screamscape, the Vendée-based group is considering buying a "large piece of land" that is still untouched to north of Daytona Beach, on the east coast of Florida. This is a very strategic location, as it is situated about a hundred kilometres from Orlando, the world capital of theme parks. Screamscape further report that Puy du Fou is also prospecting further north, in Tennessee near Knoxville. The park is not hiding its ambitions to export its concept internationally, after the opening of a park in Spain in 2021 and the development of another in China planned for 2025. By 2030, it aims to operate 5 parks worldwide, including its historic park in the Vendée.

Entertaining visitors besides the attractions

Although the parks invest a large portion of their budgets in their development, notably with new attractions and new zones, they do not forget about entertainment. Whether in the form of parades or shows, the parks do not lack imagination to amaze visitors. Special seasons such as Christmas or Halloween are very busy times in these destinations, which are dedicated to the entertainment of children and adults alike. It is therefore necessary to constantly renew the programme and the decorations in order to always surprise visitors, whether they are first-timers or regulars.

The year 2022 will be marked by the celebration of the 30th anniversary of Disneyland Paris. An anniversary that the park wanted to celebrate in style. The park's teams will unveil a new daytime show that will be performed in front of the famous Sleeping Beauty Castle. About thirty characters from all the Disney generations will perform for a new show created especially for the occasion. In the evening, another show will take place, with water jets, video, sound and lights, but also 200 drones. For the celebrations, a new parade will appear in the alleys of the park. The highlight of the show was a unique live sound and light show, specially created for the occasion last April, at the Eiffel Tower. The Iron Lady was lit up in the colours of the 30th anniversary of Disneyland Paris. This anniversary marks "the beginning of a new era" according to Natacha Rafalski, the park's president.

The Efteling Park is also celebrating a special date in 2022, as it has been open for 70 years. The park's avenues are decorated for the occasion and visitors are invited to celebrate with the park staff at 4pm each day. The programme includes the distribution of festive accessories and music created for the occasion by a group of Efteling employees. From 28 March to 3 October, the Efteling will also be hosting a temporary fairy tale on the Speelweide lawn. The theme of this 'Efteling Wonderland' is 'Alice in Wonderland' and visitors will be welcomed as guests of honour by the Mad Hatter and the March Hare for tea.

Entertainment and shows are at the heart of the Puy du Fou concept, which is full of new features to celebrate its 45th anniversary. On this occasion, the park is inaugurating a new version of the emblematic show "Le Signe du Triomphe". It will be brought to life in the Gallo-Roman Stadium, which is also getting a makeover. The spectators will experience the Circus Games up close, followed by the condemnation of the prisoners to a new trial, thus provoking the metamorphosis of the arena itself. More than 110 moving set elements will unfold to transform into a huge imperial galley that will fight the rafts of the Gallic prisoners. To celebrate its 45th anniversary in style, the park has also created two major events. The Nuit des Feux Follets will take place on 16 September, an evening dedicated to pyrotechnics. The Foulée des Géants will be held on 8 and 9 October, a night-time running race lit only by torchlight.

Christmas is a magical time of year and this magic is present in the amusement parks for a few weeks. Disneyland Paris, as always, does things in style at this time of year with the "Disney Enchanted Christmas". Every year, the park offers to experience the magic of Christmas from mid-November to the beginning of January with a parade dedicated to this period but also thematic shows. In addition, there are all the decorations, including a gigantic Christmas tree in the heart of Town Square. Europa Park is also decked out in Christmas decorations from November to January and each themed area has decorations typical of the country it represents. Visitors can enjoy an authentic Christmas market during this period. In addition, throughout the winter season, an "evening" ticket allows access to the park from 4pm to enjoy the illuminations at nightfall, as well as the entertainment, shows and of course the attractions. The Asterix park celebrates the Gaulish Christmas with ice rinks, toboggan runs and a Christmas market. A special feature of the park is that the fir trees have been replaced by Christmas menhirs.

Halloween is one of the most important periods, both in terms of attendance and turnover, especially for theme parks. PortAventura World offers six "horror rides" for the occasion, including Muerte Viva, which is the latest of these rides. At Disneyland Paris, the villains take over the park, where special parades, surprise appearances and character encounters will take place during the Disney Halloween Festival. The highlight of the Halloween Festival is the evening of 31 October, when the park will be open until 2am. Europa Park offers a variety of activities such as ice shows, monster parades, puppet shows, water shows and fireworks. In addition, there are the Horror Nights Traumatica, evenings reserved for the over 16s where actors dressed as monsters chase visitors around the park with the presence of 5 haunted houses. Each year, Parc Astérix hosts "Fear in the Park", an event punctuated by several haunted houses, with the holding of 4 night-time events during which the park closes its doors at 1am. At Futuroscope, the Halloween festivities are more child-friendly with activities designed for the whole family, including a fancy dress competition on 31 October.

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