Tag Archives: Theme Parks

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 can we expect for Walt Disney World’s 50th?

Disney so far has remained tight-lipped on its plans for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary, but all indicators suggest it’s going to be a huge year for the Central Florida destination.

(photo provided by Jordi Gomara)

Word coming from high-ranking Disney officials would suggest that following the overhaul at DCA on the West Coast and the Fantasyland expansion new additions to the United States Disney Parks are going to be few and far between of the course of the decade.

Whilst this may leave park enthusiasts disappointed at the thought of little to no additions for around six years it does make good business sense for the company in what will be vital and unpredictable years for the tourism industry.

With so little action coming over the next decade at theme Disney Parks & Resorts it can be expected that – so long as the industry is stable – the Walt Disney Company will be looking to add more in 2020 and beyond, just in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary.

If the many rumours circulating the Disney fan community are to be believed then there’s hundreds upon hundreds of new attractions set to be added to Walt Disney World ready for its half-century celebrations, though obviously this isn’t going to be the case.

What Disney need to do, and what Disney Park officials are certain to realise, is that plans for the 50th anniversary shouldn’t add to the resort simply for the sake of adding but should rather add in order to improve what is currently on offer.

Walk with the animals…

The Animal Kingdom must be looked at as a starting point for Disney’s plans, with the park failing to live up to what is on offer at the rest of the resort. Whilst Expedition Everest greatly improved the park it simply wasn’t enough, with lines now becoming unmanageable during peak times at the parks E-Ticket attractions.

Disney now needs to look at what needs to be spent at Animal Kingdom in order to make it into a ‘full-day park’ which can be enjoyed by the whole family. This will undoubtedly have to come in the form of at least three attractions, though not all will have to be E-Tickets it’s important to ensure the quality is consistent throughout.

This could come in the form of a new land, perhaps a rehashed version of the originally planned Beastly Kingdom? Personally I’d like to see a complete overhaul of Dinoland USA, with Dinosaur being the only remaining attraction of the current line-up.

Other parks will no doubt benefit from some much-needed attention, though it’s hard to predict what Disney has in mind for the three other theme park offerings in Central Florida.

Meet me down on Main Street…

It’s unlikely the Magic Kingdom will see any sort of major change, after all the Fantasyland Expansion will still be a major crowd-bringer for Walt Disney World’s first park and the need to add anything else to the already sprawling park will be minimal.

Many would argue that Tomorrowland could benefit from some attention. It’s been a number of years since the land had a major refurbishment and whilst the Space Mountain update was a fantastic move by Disney the external facade’s of the land still look dated and in need of some love.

It’s quite ironic that the Magic Kingdom is the least likely park to have something new to boast as a result of the 50th anniversary celebrations but fans can take comfort in the fact that the paint on the new Fantasyland expansion will still be fresh and the new section of the iconic land is set to be incredible.

New horizons…

It’s hard to say what we can expect from EPCOT in the build-up to the 50th anniversary, though some reports have suggest Imagineers have been playing with the idea of adding more nations to the World Showcase.

How reliable these reports are is questionable, but it would be far from a bad option to add more countries to the World Showcase and potentially some all-new attractions to go with them. Egypt, Australia or Spain anyone?

What about Future World? What should be added in this fast expanse of innovation? It’s fair to say that the Imagination Pavilion is most in need of something new to draw crowds. Journey to the Imagination is far from a fan favourite, could we see a replacement?

Captain EO is also only set for a temporary run before the return of Honey I shrunk the audience, could we see a replacement for the now dated show ready for the 50th anniversary?

Pixar is the place to be…

Whilst Disney’s Hollywood Studios is set to get an all-new version of Star Tours next year there’s surely going to be some additions in time for the 50th anniversary.

The expansion of Pixar Place seems to be the most likely option for the movie-themed park with the animation studio continuing to release hit movie after hit movie.

With the release of Monsters Inc 2 on the cards maybe we may finally see the ‘door-themed’ coaster which has been the centre of speculation for DHS for a number of years?

Outside of Pixar Place something could be done with the Backlot Tour, which has been seen as outdated and a tad boring by Disney fans for a number of years.

Disney could look to do a total overhaul of the attraction but even then there’s no guarantee that guests will take to it. The whole concept of a studio tour in a non-functioning studio seems to lack the appeal to attract the masses like it used to.

The land currently occupied by the tour could be considered for a new attraction. Some have suggested a clone of DCA’s new Cars attraction but I’d personally prefer the attraction to stay unique to the West Coast and I have an inkling Disney officials would agree with me.

The attraction does take up a lot of space and there’s no doubt a lot could be done with the land but Disney will have to thing long and hard before making any major changes. The park could do with a new E-Ticket attraction simply to draw crowds away from Midway Mania on a morning bit as always it’s incredibly hard to predict what Disney have planned.

All of this, of course, is mere speculation. It’s hard to tell what Disney will do and I certainly wouldn’t like to go down on record saying I believe something will happen when I simply don’t know.

We all know how much Disneyland benefited from their 50th celebrations; let’s hope Disney pull out all the stops and make WDW’s half century just as fantastic.

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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.


Filed under Sea World, Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World

Star Tours II 3D set for May reopening at Walt Disney World

The new version of Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been given an unofficial Spring opening date.

(photo by Brian Hammond)

The attraction is set to be reopened on the 11th of May 2011 though this date has not yet been made official and is subject to change.

The all-new version of the fan favourite motion simulator ride will feature 3D effects and updated scenes which will feature elements of the most recent movies in the Star Wars franchise.

The attraction in its current form is set to close on September 12th to being the eight month upgrade.

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Disney release World of Color viewing tips

With the debut of World of Color at Disney’s California Adventure just around the corner the Disney Parks Blog has released some viewing tips for the all new nighttime spectacular.

According to the blog the best way to secure a good viewing spot for the show is to either grab a Fastpass for a reserved viewing area, order a special picnic basket or book a special dinner which affords great views of the all-new show.

Photo from Loren Javier

  • “World of Color” Disney’s FASTPASS Ticket – FASTPASS tickets for “World of Color” will be available each morning at the Grizzly River Run FASTPASS terminals. Guests can insert their park tickets into the terminal to obtain a FASTPASS ticket to see “World of Color” from the reserved viewing area in Paradise Park. As with other FASTPASS attractions, there will be a limited number of FASTPASS tickets available for the show. Note: guests will not be able to pick a specific show time. FASTPASS tickets will first be distributed for the earlier show, and after those have been distributed, FASTPASS tickets will then be distributed for the later show. When all of the day’s “World of Color” FASTPASS tickets have been distributed, Grizzly River Run terminals will convert back to distributing Grizzly River Run FASTPASS tickets.
    • Tip: If you would like to see the show on the day of its premiere, June 11, here are a few things you should know about getting a “World of Color” FASTPASS ticket. If you arrive before park opening, you may park in the Pumbaa parking lot on Disney Way and, beginning at 7 a.m., gather at the Main Entrance to Disney California Adventure park. When Disney California Adventure park opens to the public, guests lined up for FASTPASS will be walked into the park and over to the FASTPASS terminals. As always, theme park admission will be required to enter the park to obtain a FASTPASS ticket and to view the show.
  • “World of Color” Picnic Meals – You can also secure reserved viewing by ordering a special boxed picnic meal. Beginning June 11 (date subject to change), Picnic meals may be ordered online –www.disneyland.com – or by walk-up purchase, subject to availability, at the Sonoma Terrace, Golden Vine Winery. Picnic meals purchased online will include reserved viewing for the first show and walk up picnics will include reserved viewing for the second show. They are not available for order via the (714) 781-DINE line.
    • Picnic meals be picked up at the Sonoma Terrace from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Picnic meal options include four selections for adults: “The All American” (cold honey-stung fried chicken), “The Taste of Asia” (chilled miso-glazed salmon), “The European Antipasto” (cured meats, regional cheeses, artichoke heart, sun-dried tomato) and “The Mediterranean Vegetarian” (marinated grilled vegetables in a whole wheat wrap with roasted garlic hummus). Kids’ options for children ages 3-9 include “The Junior All American” (chicken), “The Lunchbox Classic” (peanut butter and jelly) and “The Little Squirt’s Box” (apple wedges, string cheese).
    • All online picnic meals with “World of Color” Reserved Viewing are priced at $14.99 and must be redeemed for the designated reserved show date and time. No refunds, exchanges or other discounts.
    • Each guest entering Paradise Park must present reserved viewing area admission. Guests may only enter the viewing area during designated times, which is specified on their ticket. Separate theme park admission is required.
  • Prix Fixe “World of Color” Dinners – Prix fixe meals with “World of Color” Preferred Viewing are available at both the newly redesigned Wine Country Trattoria and Ariel’s Grotto restaurants. Guests may order from a selection of Italian cuisine at Wine Country Trattoria (current prices are $39.99 for adults and $18.99 for children ages 3-9), or a varied menu of seafood, meat and vegetarian options at Ariel’s Grotto (current prices for inside seating are $36.99 for adults and $20.99 for children ages 3-9). Both restaurants offer Preferred Viewing for “World of Color.” Reservations: (714) 781-DINE. Seatings are at specified times and space is limited. No refunds, exchanges or other discounts. Separate theme park admission is required.

You can also see the show without a reserved spot. There is ample space all around the perimeter of Paradise Bay that provides great views of the show. The views from these locations are certainly different, but the choreography of the fountains, bright bursts of color and music can be enjoyed from all around Paradise Bay.


Filed under Disney's California Adventure

Walt Disney World Food and Wine Festival details announced

The plans for the 2010 Food and Wine Festival at Epcot have been announced today, with the event set to take place from October 1st to November 14th.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the festival which is set to include two new tasting marketplaces from Belgium and South Korea as well as updated menus for Singapore, Argentina, Chile, Poland, South Africa, Australia, Spain and the USA.

The ‘Eat to the beat!’ concert stage will once again take its place in the American Gardens Theatre, with acts such as Sugar Ray, Air Supply, Howard Jones, 38 Special, Roger Hodgson, Hanson and Rick Springfield all performing over the course of the event.

It won’t just be famous musicians making an appearance either, a number of celebrity chefs will also be showing what they can do at the festival with culinary masters such as Warren Brown, Cat Cora, Todd English, Gale Gand, Robert Irvine, Art Smith and Andrew Zimmern all set to take part.

Samples (tapas sized) at the various stalls around the World Showcase will be priced from around $3-$8 with special Disney gift card available which can be recharged at various points around the lagoon.

Authentic Taste seminars and Authors Without Borders programs with special book signings at the Festival Center, Eat to the Beat! concerts, cultural adventures, Marketplace Discovery Passport and all attractions and park entertainment are included with regular Epcot admission.

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