Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

The US economy and the leisure market

by Dr Jack Samuels

I intended to start this piece on another topic, but in light of everything that is going on here in the US, decided perhaps it would be better to reflect on the economy and how its is affecting the industry on a global scale.

Obviously, the devaluation of the dollar has far-reaching implications for those in the leisure business as we head into the all important summer season. It impacts the industry positively on a domestic basis but negatively for travel abroad and it is likely that there will be a softening of international travel from the United States.
Cruise bookings seem to be more competitively priced and the airlines are running sales on tickets, even in the upper classes and even with the fuel hikes. All this indicates people are seeking value.
Increased promotional efforts in local markets as well as regional markets abroad would be advised to compensate for any fall in international travel particularly for any attraction that is frequented by American tourists. The question is how much of that travel can be replaced by Europeans and other nations where the currencies are growing in strength?
“Retail tourism” is also on the rise as foreigners flock to the US to take advantage of the exchange rates. Outlet malls are expanding in key tourist areas to sometimes twice their original size. There has been rapid expansion and redevelopment in both Orlando and in Las Vegas, to mentionjust two key American sites. Just follow a few Londoners around a place like the Woodbury Commons in Central Valley, New York, and you will see it’s like putting Brits in a candy store!
Here’s a few things to consider in light of the current economic environment:
Admission prices. We must always remember that our industry competes with people buying goods for themselves as well as all things in the leisure and entertainment areas. Six Flags ran a one-day sale earlier this year on season passes that was reportedly very successful in capturing people early before any further economic changes.
Alliances. Teaming up with other attractions in your region and offering value pricing schemes and even season passes between venues should be explored more rigorously. For example, the Hunter Mountain ski area in New York State and Mountain Creek in New Jersey, which are about 2 1/2 hours away from each other, have been co-operating on such ventures in recent years.
Amenities. Attractions need to improve the perceived values of food and merchandise by offering packages or discounts for certain levels of spending. In a difficult economy people will not spend as much inside the attraction without a “deal.”
Have a great season and, despite the forecasts, hopefully the economies of the globe will be kind to our industry.

Dr Samuels provides diverse consulting services in marketing, facility development, customer service, safety, event management, plus promotional activities such as birthday parties.

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