If you’re in the theme park business, you’ll know only too well that it costs a great deal of money to run a successful and profitable park. It’s not unusual for theme parks to spend tens of millions – if not hundreds of millions – each year to create engaging worlds and new, high-tech attractions that visitors crave.
To give you an idea of the sort of money we’re talking about, Michael Nathanson, a longtime media analyst, was quoted in The New York Times and estimated that Disney would spend $24 billion on new attractions, hotels, and ships between 2018 and 2023, and it’s $500 million Avatar Theme Park opened in June 2019. In May 2019, Dollywood reportedly unveiled a $37 million theme park expansion, and Blackpool Central is said to be investing $300 million in what’s said to the be the latest thing – Flying Theaters.
Why do theme parks often close over the winter?
Looking at these eye-watering investment figures, it seems counter-intuitive that many theme parks across the United States and Europe close their doors after the summer or perhaps after Halloween if the park is in an area where Halloween events give rise to weekend operating hours in autumn. The reason so many parks close is because of the weather. This is particularly relevant for theme parks with large outdoor areas designed to take advantage of hot and long summers. Running high-speed and high-tech attractions in the bitterly cold can be dangerous, many park buildings aren’t designed to be enjoyed in the cold, and frankly, attracting visitors in the winter months when children are back at school is a challenge.
That leaves theme parks with the problem that they can only be profitable for two-thirds of the year if they’re lucky. But what if there was a way to make theme parks profitable all year round?
Year-round opening hours make theme parks more profitable
Becoming a year-round attraction is difficult but it’s not impossible and it’s certainly a wise move. After all, by making a park profitable in the winter season, annual profits go up and that’s a good thing when you consider that running a theme park isn’t cheap.
The question is: how can a theme park do this?
For starters, they need to think creatively about what they can and can’t offer (for example, no 100km per hour rollercoasters in the snow). This may seem like it’s limiting the park’s opportunities, but in actual fact, this exercise creates space to think about creating seasonal attractions like ice rinks, grottoes, or markets.
Which brings us on to the program: when a theme park stops thinking about summer and starts thinking about winter, all sorts of winter entertainment springs to mind. Outdoor shows, light parks, photo points, winter cinemas, marshmallow toasting competitions, and simulated snowball fights are some of the items that could form part of a winter program that visitors would love to try.
Ultimately, it’s all about being creative and investing in the right mix of experiences and attractions that will make the park attractive. Aside from activities and experiences, a core part of making a theme park shine in the winter months is, unsurprisingly, light.
If you’re curious to see where we’re going with this, keep an eye out for part 2 of this article, where we’ll go into more detail about lighting up theme parks and give you concrete examples about how light can help theme parks become more profitable by staying open throughout the winter.
Fancy a chat?
If you can’t wait for the next installment, let’s arrange a time to speak. We’re full of good ideas to help you harness the power of light, and because our MK Themed Attractions division works almost exclusively with theme parks, we can help you combine traditional theming and light to create an unforgettable experience that visitors will love.