Category Archives: Sea World

How technology can improve theme park resorts

Large theme park resorts are often quick to boast about expensive new attractions that pack-in a host of unique and advanced technology. Yet their customers experience whilst visiting the parks and staying in on-site hotels is often made less enjoyable by reluctance from the resorts to move in to the 21st century.


To be fair to many resorts, including Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris, they have made huge leaps online in order to ensure every part of booking your trip is quick and easy. Guests can now book their tickets, hotel and transportation all in one place and, in some resorts, make all their dining reservations for the trip from the comfort of their own home.

But once the resorts have your money the technology-based offerings seem to come to an end, leaving guests stressed on a trip which they planned on taking in order to get some rest and relaxation.

Disneyland Paris is notorious for this. As soon as guests get to the check-in desk they are bombarded with an abundance of leaflets, tickets and key cards which allow them to take advantage of a number of services offered around the resort.

At an ideal resort the majority of this should be condensed into one key card. The technology is available to put a guest’s room key and park tickets all on one key-card, yet many resorts seem reluctant to roll out a system which would make life infinitely easier for its customers.

Many places also allow you to charge purchases to your room on the very same key-card, a godsend for visitors looking to take a trip on a water ride, yet some resorts still fail to offer this service which forces guests to either take cash or a credit card, something which may force guests to bring along a wallet or purse when they don’t really need to.

Combining all these features in to one card may come at a cost for the resorts, but it will no doubt make a guest’s trip more enjoyable and may lead to repeat visits as well as visitors spreading a positive image of the resort to friends and family – in essence free advertising.

Speaking of free advertising, social media is another thing many resorts fail to utilise, despite the fact it’s a direct route straight to the computers and mobile devices of their target market.

Most if not all theme park resorts have some kind of social media account. Walt Disney World has a Facebook page, Twitter account and shares the Disney Parks Blog with Disneyland Resort over on the West Coast.

For the most part Walt Disney World often uses its social media accounts in order to promote new attractions, link to news articles on its main website or offer helpful tips to the people who read the various accounts.

Whilst this is all well and good potential customers now expect more of large organisations on social media sites. The key word is social and theme park resorts should be ready to interact with their visitors and potential customers rather than just offering a one-way communication system as so many resorts currently do.

Answering reasonable questions from guests via services such as Twitter is a great way in which to do this. By answering specific questions a theme park resort will create an image that they care about their visitors and want to help them, an image which may persuade a consumer to chose that resort as opposed to a competitor.

Sea World Parks and Entertainment have been particularly successful in this area with their @Shamu Twitter account, which offers a host of free giveaways and interacts with followers in a non-serious manner – giving the potential customers an idea of just how fun the parks will be.

Guests should also expect a similar level of interaction once they get to the resort. A Twitter account for wait time information would be a godsend at many resorts, replacing the increasingly outdated tip boards which force guests to walk in the opposite direction from where they want to go simply in order to check the wait time at an attraction.

It may seem like a service that would be hard to keep up with but it is certainly possible, as proven by London Heathrow Airport, whose Twitter account will quickly answer any questions which one of its 66 million passengers over the course of a year may ask.

Even better would be if the parks offered a wait times application for their parks in a similar style to Lines by Touring Plans, which offers incredibly accurate wait times, park hours and other useful information directly to your mobile device.

Of course checking park hours online can be a problem if you don’t have access to the internet at your hotel, a service which is becoming increasingly common at hotels around the world but many theme park resorts have yet to catch up with their counterparts.

Many guests now carry electronic devices on vacation with them, whether that be a laptop, mobile phone or another system which has internet connectivity. Anyone who caries such a devices will tell you how much they appreciate free or cheap Wi-Fi and how tempted they will be to return to the resort if such a service is offered.

There are many more features which could be added to resorts which would make guests trip much easier, but these are some of the more basic things which guests would enjoy and, if theme park resorts value their customers, should start looking into in the near-future.

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Filed under British parks, Disneyland Paris, Planning, Sea World, Walt Disney World

Orlando hotels witness increase in occupancy

Hotel industry figures collected for June 2010 have shown that occupancy in the Orlando-area has increased by 4.2% compared to the same month last year.

(Photo provided by DB King)

The figures, collected by Smith Travel Research, showed that hotel occupancy stood at 66.1% in June, rising from 63.4% in the same month last year.

Average daily room rates have also risen by 2.1% over the same period, increasing from $89.20 to $91.07.

Another major indicator of industry health – revenue per available room – has also risen by 6.4%, from$ 56.59 to $60.22.

The first six months of 2010 saw a 3% increase in hotel occupancy from the same period last year, though the average room rate dropped by 5.9%, decreasing from $101.62 in 2009 to $95.59 in 2009.

Revenue per available room also dropped over the comparable periods by 3.1%, from $64.25 in 2009 to $62.23 in 2010.

The increase in occupancy in June, considered to be a busy month in Orlando, will provided a much needed boost the Orlando hoteliers who have suffered a torrid time since the economic crisis hit the tourism industry.

The drop in performance between the comparable six month periods of January to June can be partly attributed to the large number of incentives offered during 2009 in order to attract guests o book stays and extend already planned trips in the Orlando area.

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Theme park spending increases among the “ultra-affluent”

Despite a turbulent economic downturn and the threat of a double-dip recession spending at theme parks has risen, at least with some guests.

(photo provided by Steev)

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.

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What does the future hold for the theme park industry?

The financial crisis has forced the theme park industry to re-evaluate the way they operate in order to ensure they survive the recession. The question is, how much will this crisis change the way in which theme parks are run in the future?

(photo by Diana)

Before the current recession many theme park operators aimed to produce the biggest and the best parks in the world. Universal opened Islands of Adventure in 1999 to critical acclaim whilst Disney opened the $4 billion Tokyo DisneySea in 2001, a record cost for any theme park in the world.

Theme parks were in with tourists, as proven by the ever-increasing number of visitors hitting Central Florida each and every year to take in Walt Disney World, Universal, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.

The popularity of parks led to a number of destinations looking to add theme parks to their offerings to potential visitors. The most notable plan for a themed entertainment destination was Dubailand, a huge destination set just outside the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

The recession put an end to many of the expansive projects planned around the world. Dubailand dates have been put back considerably or halted altogether whilst a number of the major theme park operators have kept very tight-lipped about their plans for the future that hadn’t already been announced pre-financial crisis.

But whilst Tatweer are struggling with finance for their entertainment super-destination in Dubai another project in the same city has been a huge success.

Sega Republic, a small indoor theme park in Dubai Mall, represents a new age of themed entertainment which puts quality over quantity. I was personally incredibly impressed by the number of highly-themed attractions in the park which kept me wanting to ride over and over again.

Despite its great selection of well-themed, quality attractions there’s no doubt the price to build Sega Republic will be considerably less than even the smallest parks produced by the major operators in the industry.

This begs the question is, are theme park operators ready to rethink their future plans in order to ensure they are safe from external shocks?

Whilst Sega Republic is only one small park in a huge industry there is other signs that major operators are trying to bring some of their theme park magic in a more compact style around the world.

Recently the Walt Disney Company started a huge refurbishment project for their stores around the world, which included adding a number of high-end, interactive, experiences which are aimed at keeping guests in their stores for longer.

Whilst the store refurbishments are by no means fully-fledged mini theme parks what they do represent is Disney shifting their operations strategy after the recession in order to bring some of the Disney Park ‘magic’ to customers rather than them having to travel to one of the five international resorts themselves.

There’s no doubt it has become incredibly hard for developers to obtain the credit needed in order to build new large-scale parks and this could well mean we see more and more of these smaller outlets coupled with further expansion of the already established major destinations, with a prime example being the major expansion of Disney’s California Adventure.

Of course once credit markets loosen up we could see a return to the more traditional style of theme park development, but until then we could be looking at an all-new way in which the theme park industry is run.

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Filed under Disney's California Adventure, Disneyland Paris, Sea World, Tokyo Disneyland, Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World

Why the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is good for Walt Disney World

There is somewhat of a myth surrounding Disney’s relationship with Universal on the East Coast, with many believing the two theme park operators are fierce rivals in the Central Florida area.

(Photo by Ricky Brigante)

Of course this couldn’t be further from the truth, in fact rather than the two being competitors they are actually partners in Orlando-area tourism industry and if one were to shut up shop then there’s no doubt the other would suffer as a consequence.

This summer is set to be a prime example of just how linked the two resorts are after Universal recently opened the ‘Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ at their Islands of Adventure Park.

Although the Wizarding World is just one new land in a resort that can boast two world-class theme parks thanks to the strength of the Harry Potter brand the new area is drawing in visitors from all over the world who are looking to enjoy the magic of the Potter universe.

Even if the new Potter land is based at a ‘rival’ park its success is still fantastic for Walt Disney World, SeaWorld and the Orlando tourism industry as a whole as the boy wizard has successfully managed to rejuvenate tourist’s interest in Central Florida at a time when the travel industry has been on its knees.

Many people who regularly visited Walt Disney World felt the need to cut back on their trips due to the recession, not to mention the lucrative long-distance travellers who simply couldn’t afford the increasingly expensive cost of air travel into Orlando.

What The Wizarding World did was give those travellers a reason to return to Central Florida for the first time since the banking crisis which started in 2007. Many who may never have thought about planning an Orlando vacation found it justifiable because of the new Harry Potter land.

Whilst Universal took the credit those around them reaped, and will continue to reap, the rewards.

Despite the new attractions being located on Universal property Disney will no doubt feel the benefits, with many guests who have been lured to Orlando by the Wizarding World booking resort stays on Disney property so they can also visit the mouse whilst on vacation, not to mention the increased numbers walking through the turnstiles.

Disney’s size gives it an advantage in the fact that many will feel a trip to Universal simply isn’t enough for a whole vacation and will instead decide to spend a large amount of time over in the World whilst taking a few days to hop over to Universal, meaning Disney gain huge financial rewards without spending incredible amounts.

Local hoteliers will also benefit from ‘Potter-mania’ as Universal simply doesn’t have the capacity at their resort hotels to deal with the kind of numbers heading to see Harry and the gang. Many will chose to stay at hotels on International Drive, the 192 and other locations around the Orlando area – giving a much-needed boost to the smaller players in the industry.

When Universal Studios first opened Disney took out an ad in the Orlando Sentinel stating ‘Welcome Universal Studios Florida – What’s good for tourism and entertainment is good for Central Florida’ and The Wizarding World is a prime example.

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Sea World Orlando set for action packed summer

With the Wizarding World of Harry Potter dominating the theme park news this summer it’s easy to see why SeaWorld is seldom mentioned. But one of the smallest parks in Orlando may be gearing up for a big summer.


Last summer saw Walt Disney World discount heavily in order to keep attendance figures high, even if it did hit their profit margins hard. This year SeaWorld are discounting on both tickets and accommodations packages, as well as offering a host of unique opportunities at the park this summer.

The best discount SeaWorld have to offer this year is the ‘SeaWorld Cares’ promotion, which allows guest to buy one kids ticket for $5.00 when an adult admission is purchased. Not only is this great value but also the $5.00 is donated directly to wildlife conservation charity of your choice – hence the promotion name.

Secondly there’s the  ‘buy three nights get two free’ offer which does exactly what it says. Not only can you get two free nights when you book with Marriot (SeaWorld preferred partner) you also, for a limited time, get Sea World, Aquatica and Busch Gardens in a three parks for the price of two combo ticket.

But it’s not just discounts that will attract visitors to SeaWorld this summer, night time entertainment at SeaWorld is being cranked up a notch, with Shamu Rocks, Sea Lions Tonight and the Reflections fireworks show making a comeback whist VIP tours and extended opening hours for Kraken and Manta are being added.

Last summer was a clear indication that consumers respond well to heavy discounting during times of economic uncertainty and SeaWorld have taken that into account when planning their strategy for the upcoming busy season and I expect all the planning to pay off.

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