Despite a turbulent economic downturn and the threat of a double-dip recession spending at theme parks has risen, at least with some guests.
A report compiled by American Express Business Insights shows a 32% rise in spending inside theme parks by its “ultra-affluent” cardholders, considerably more than the tiny 1% increase among the rest of its customers over the course of the last year.
Abe Pizam, dean of the University of Central Florida’s College of Hospitality and Management, gave the Orlando Sentinel an insight into why spending among the super-rich has increased.
“I think these people didn’t spend a lot before not because they couldn’t afford to, but because it was not socially acceptable,” Pizam said. “Now it is not so shameful as it was.”
The news comes shortly after Disney began pre-sales for homes inside their Golden Oak residential development, a collection of properties inside Walt Disney World which will be aimed at the super-wealthy and will cost a minimum of $1.5 million and a maximum of $8 million.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment have also been preparing for a similar shift in the market, announcing the expansion of its Discovery Cove Park in Orlando, where packages cost around $199 per person.
With the travel and tourism industry still facing troubles despite the improvement in the economy over the past year it’s likely other such plans may be put into action by major organisations in the theme park industry.
Disney and, to a lesser extent, Universal frequently use hard-ticket events surrounding major holidays in order to gain additional revenue outside of standard park operating hours.
Should both operators see it as profitable then hard-ticket events may become more common place over the course of the operational calendar, with increased numbers of exclusive events where ticket prices far exceed the standard park entrance fee.
On the West Coast Disney has long profited from it’s ultra-exclusive Club 33 in Disneyland and the data provided by the report will be incredibly positive for senior management over at Disneyland Resort.
Should spending by the ultra-affluent continue to rise within theme parks Disney, and other operators, may consider adding similar hospitality areas to their parks and resorts, aiming memberships at rich individuals as opposed to business clients and commercial partners.
With decreased revenues from sponsorships (see Test Track and GM) hitting park operators hard the increased spending by the rich may be seen as a potential new revenue stream for theme parks, with increasing products and services provided at a premium price.
Whatever the result of the findings it’s certainly good news for the theme park industry, now all park operators need is for all tourists to follow in the footsteps of those on high-incomes.