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Exclusive: Australian market recovering, says Village Roadshow COO as operator addresses safety concerns
POSTED 12 Dec 2017 . BY Tom Anstey
Following a year of turmoil for Australia’s theme park sector, the Gold Coast market is finally starting to show signs of recovery, according to Village Roadshow Theme Parks COO Bob White.

In the wake of the Dreamworld tragedy in November 2016 – which claimed four lives when two rafts collided on the Ardent-operated park’s Thunder River rapids ride – a ripple effect was felt across the Australian theme park market, with visitor numbers and revenues down significantly across the board.

Financial results for Village Roadshow, which operates the Movie World, Wet'n'Wild, and Sea World parks, showed profits falling from AU$50.9m (US$38.5m, €32.7m, £28.9m) in 2016 to AU$23.6m (US$17.9m, €15.2m, £13.4m) in 2017. For the year, company profits are down by about 30 per cent, however, White said there are signs of improvement.

“In September we finally got back to being essentially flat, so there’s been significant recovery since that happened,” said White, speaking exclusively to AM2.

“Public safety awareness is the issue here and the work isn’t done. We have to keep working at it to make sure that people understand they’re safe on a ride. On top of that, we’re making major investments in our parks.”

Despite the fact the tragedy did not take place at a Village Roadshow park, media scrutiny on ride incidents in Australia dramatically increased to include less significant ride stoppages.

As a result, Village Roadshow created its own ride safety videos explaining why, for example, a rollercoaster might suddenly stop and why that is a safe procedure for visitors.



“We’re an overwhelmingly safe industry,” said White. “The traditional media and also some of the social media vehicles have their own interests. Context is so important and it has to be a context people understand.

“The big lesson we learned is you have to be direct and you have to be timely. You can’t wait around, do a statement and hope the problem goes away because, in the age of social media, it’s not really going to cut it.”

Included in its investment programme this year, Village Roadshow debuted the DC Rivals HyperCoaster at Movie World – a AU$30m (US$22.7m, €19.3m, £17m) purchase that opened to the public in September.

At 1,400m (4,593 ft) long and 61.6 m (202 ft) high, the Mack-manufactured ride reaches speeds of up to 115.1 kilometres per hour (71.5 mph), making it the longest, fastest and tallest hypercoaster in the Southern Hemisphere. Further investments are on the horizon.

“We know the theme park business so it’s a combination of imagining a ride we think will have an impact in the market and getting it at the right price point that makes sense for the business,” said White.

“The fundamental growth of the economy, the growth in Australia and the growth in the international marketplace around Australia tells us that this was a blip for sure.

“As long as we continue to do safe rides that are good experiences, and are well branded, then we’re going to do really well in the future.”

Bob White is optimistic about the state of Australia's theme park market Credit: Village Roadshow
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Jobs . News . Products . Magazine
NEWS
Exclusive: Australian market recovering, says Village Roadshow COO as operator addresses safety concerns
POSTED 12 Dec 2017 . BY Tom Anstey
Following a year of turmoil for Australia’s theme park sector, the Gold Coast market is finally starting to show signs of recovery, according to Village Roadshow Theme Parks COO Bob White.

In the wake of the Dreamworld tragedy in November 2016 – which claimed four lives when two rafts collided on the Ardent-operated park’s Thunder River rapids ride – a ripple effect was felt across the Australian theme park market, with visitor numbers and revenues down significantly across the board.

Financial results for Village Roadshow, which operates the Movie World, Wet'n'Wild, and Sea World parks, showed profits falling from AU$50.9m (US$38.5m, €32.7m, £28.9m) in 2016 to AU$23.6m (US$17.9m, €15.2m, £13.4m) in 2017. For the year, company profits are down by about 30 per cent, however, White said there are signs of improvement.

“In September we finally got back to being essentially flat, so there’s been significant recovery since that happened,” said White, speaking exclusively to AM2.

“Public safety awareness is the issue here and the work isn’t done. We have to keep working at it to make sure that people understand they’re safe on a ride. On top of that, we’re making major investments in our parks.”

Despite the fact the tragedy did not take place at a Village Roadshow park, media scrutiny on ride incidents in Australia dramatically increased to include less significant ride stoppages.

As a result, Village Roadshow created its own ride safety videos explaining why, for example, a rollercoaster might suddenly stop and why that is a safe procedure for visitors.



“We’re an overwhelmingly safe industry,” said White. “The traditional media and also some of the social media vehicles have their own interests. Context is so important and it has to be a context people understand.

“The big lesson we learned is you have to be direct and you have to be timely. You can’t wait around, do a statement and hope the problem goes away because, in the age of social media, it’s not really going to cut it.”

Included in its investment programme this year, Village Roadshow debuted the DC Rivals HyperCoaster at Movie World – a AU$30m (US$22.7m, €19.3m, £17m) purchase that opened to the public in September.

At 1,400m (4,593 ft) long and 61.6 m (202 ft) high, the Mack-manufactured ride reaches speeds of up to 115.1 kilometres per hour (71.5 mph), making it the longest, fastest and tallest hypercoaster in the Southern Hemisphere. Further investments are on the horizon.

“We know the theme park business so it’s a combination of imagining a ride we think will have an impact in the market and getting it at the right price point that makes sense for the business,” said White.

“The fundamental growth of the economy, the growth in Australia and the growth in the international marketplace around Australia tells us that this was a blip for sure.

“As long as we continue to do safe rides that are good experiences, and are well branded, then we’re going to do really well in the future.”

Bob White is optimistic about the state of Australia's theme park market Credit: Village Roadshow
RELATED STORIES
Ardent's Dreamworld operating at profit one year on from horror accident


Ardent Leisure, which has struggled since a tragedy at its Dreamworld park claimed four lives last year, says it has stemmed financial losses.
Dreamworld deaths affect Village Roadshow as operator announces AU$66.7m losses


Australian operator Village Roadshow is looking to bounce back after a tough twelve months, which has seen the company record full-year losses of AU$66.7m (US$52.8m, €44.8m, £41.2m).
Industrial manslaughter laws to be introduced following Dreamworld tragedy


Queensland’s state government is set introduce industrial manslaughter laws, with safety around theme park rides to also be tightened, following the deaths of four people at Dreamworld last year.
Ardent revenue plummets in wake of DreamWorld tragedy


Ardent Leisure has seen revenue fall by more than half following a fatal accident at its Dreamworld theme park on Australia’s Gold Coast last year.
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Groups Sales and Marketing Executive
Royal Horticultural Society
Salary: Circa £25k depending on experience
Job location: Wisley, Woking, UK
Head of Commercial Operations
The Silverstone Experience
Salary: £50,000- 55,000 pro-rata per annum + benefits
Job location: Northamptonshire, UK
Chief Operating Officer
Brooklands Museum Trust Ltd
Salary: £60,000
Job location: Weybridge, Surrey, UK
Commercial Leisure Manager - Coastal Attractions
Denbighshire County Council
Salary: £41,846 — £44,697 (plus up to £8,000 relocation allowance)
Job location: Rhyl, UK
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Salary: Competitive
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Fastrack and VIP Team Leader
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Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG5 1DJ Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

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