Amusement park attendance outlook good for 2011

Springwood is making a play for hotels in Hershey, PA, where the primary leisure traveler is visiting Hersheypark.  This article gives some interesting insights into the current state of the amusement park industry:

By John Seewer, Associated Press   (Edited to about half-size by Dave Hogg)

TOLEDO, Ohio – America’s amusement parks thrown for a loop by the slumping economy over the last few years are starting to rebound, drawing bigger crowds over the past year and spending more money on new attractions and shows this season.

Crowds increased at many U.S. parks in 2010, with some seeing record attendance. Profits were up as families sought out fun and began traveling again. Better weather helped, too.

Those within the amusement industry are optimistic this year will be even better…

Amusement parks are often thought to be recession-proof because they offer a relatively affordable full day of entertainment, with daily adult tickets normally ranging from $35-$50. But that didn’t hold true in 2008 and 2009, as attendance and revenues at many big parks flattened out or fell, and several companies made moves to sell parks in order to pay off huge debt.

Six Flags, which has 19 parks in North America, brought in 24.3 million visitors, an attendance jump of just under 1 million, because of the growth of its Halloween and Christmas events. Just over half of its attendance increase came during the last three months of the year…

And parks are spending more on new rides and attractions this year than the previous season, said Gary Slade, editor and publisher of Amusement Today, a trade publication.

“Everybody is beyond positive,” said Slade…

The emphasis now is on adding family attractions, such as water rides that seat four people rather than big roller coasters that appeal more to teens and young adults.

There was a roller coaster building boom in recent years so most parks have the thrill rides, Slade said. And family rides cost a lot less to install than big coasters, which can top $10 million.

“Parks are watching their bottom line closer,” Slade said. “They’re being more disciplined with how they spend their money.”…

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