Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

Why fun is a serious business

by Dennis Speigel

As a lifelong active member of the leisure industry, and supplier of services, I often have to wonder why there seems to be a never-ending stream of “slow-pay” clients.

Now don’t get me wrong – there are clients who are respectable, accounts-payable good guys who pay on time and in full. I’m referring to those clients who for some reason are entering our industry and have the idea that, because we are a “fun” industr’ (and we are), they do not need to pay on time, or sometimes not at all.

Recently, I was speaking with five industry colleagues, representing ride manufacturers, suppliers and a consultant. All of them were owed large sums of money – literally, hundreds of thousands of dollars. These outstanding monies represent ride hardware, software, design services, planning and managerial services. Just as in Las Vegas, if you want in the game, you should pay up on demand. Ours is a business just like any other.

Recently, in the Middle East, we have been involved in a project with five of the most respected management and operating companies in the industry under contract, and yet the owners have no idea of what is happening around them. It is sad to see a group go so far off course, particularly when they are being provided professional and experienced advice.

How can all this happen, you ask? A simple answer is that many outsiders are oblivious to this busines sector. Going right back to the early ‘60s, I have seen so many groups make foray into our industry without any knowledge, background or understanding of what it really takes to succeed. I’m talking about projects such as Freedomland, Busch Gardens California, Six Flags Atlantis in Hollywood, Marco Polo at Daytona Beach, Sydney Wonderland in Australia, Shanghai’s American Dream Park, Terra Encantada in Rio de Janeiro and of course Hard Rock Park/Freestyle Music Park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. There have been more.

So often we see what I call the “Walt Complex” with new people entering the industry. They think that because they have bought a ticket to a Disney park, they can be Walt Disney. Well, we all know this is not the case. The industry has evolved and developed based on ideas and contributions from many companies and individuals. The newcomers need to understand the consequences, as well as the rewards, when undertaking the development process.

This is actuallty a very sophisticated business. To anyone unfamilair with this industry, I strongly suggest you study it carefully before investing. You should have long-term goals and objectives, and find good consultants with proven track records. Once you have your team, draw on their knowledge, networks and expertise, and plan and execute wisely. And listen to your advisors; it will pay both short and long term dividends, and hopefully ensure success. That is when you can really start having fun.

Dennis Speigel is president of International Theme Park Services, based in Cincinnati, Ohio. ITPS is the industry’s leading, independent management/consulting firm, offering services including feasibility analysis, design/masterplanning, pre-opening operational planning, on-site management, sponsorship & marketing, executive search and business audits.

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