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Waterparks
Splashing the cash

Consultant David Camp looks at the waterparks sector, how it can benefit the rest of the industry and how to make your waterpark venture a financial success.

By David Camp | Published in Attractions Management 2019 issue 1


There’s been a lot of interest in waterparks in the past couple of years. Both Six Flags and Parques Reunidos have been busy in the sector and Europa Park is set to open their Rulantica waterpark expansion later this year. So why is there so much interest in this attraction type and how does it fit into the rest of the visitor attractions sector?

The numbers
To start you need to take a look at the numbers. Waterparks are cheaper to develop than theme parks. Six Flags invested less than US$20m to refurbish a waterpark in Oaxtepec, Mexico, that had been closed for a few years. Contrast this to the US$700m budget for the planned Six Flags theme park in Dubai (currently on hold due to financial issues), or the US$50m that Six Flags invested in Walibi Holland when they rebranded the park in 2000 and the difference is obvious.

Another important factor is that waterparks can generate higher operating profits than theme parks. While a strong performing theme park may deliver a 30-40 per cent operating profit margin on an annual basis, a strong waterpark can generate profits of 50 per cent or more.

Absolute revenues are very different – theme parks can generate far higher total revenues than waterparks – but having a number of profitable waterparks within a portfolio can be very good for business.

Six Flags, for example, has seven waterparks among its 20 operations and Parques Reunidos has 20 within its total group of 60 units. The profits from these operations are important for the overall business returns on these investments.

Weather warning
The most obvious issue for waterpark operations is the weather. With many of these attractions only opening for 100 or so days a year, and with 40-50 per cent of annual visits coming during their busiest month, just a couple of weeks of bad weather in the peak summer period can wipe out any potential profits.

This has led to waterparks in more northerly climes being developed indoors, however, that hasn’t always been a wise move. While an indoor waterpark can open all year round, demand is still stronger in the summer months than in the winter.

Opening all year also requires significantly more staffing, heating and other operational costs than a seasonal business and there are few free-standing indoor waterparks that can operate without some form of financial support. In many countries, this support often comes from the public sector.

Water gains
One way to make an indoor venture successful is to combine it with other activities. Operations such as Center Parcs and Lalandia in Europe, along with Great Wolf and Kalahari Resorts in North America have utilised the appeal of a year-round indoor waterpark and created large scale resort operations with significant accommodation offers.

Center Parcs’ resorts can accommodate up to 3,000 guests at one time within the accommodation and the Kalahari Resort in Pocono has a 22,000sq m (237,000sq ft) waterpark, 1,000 bedrooms and a 4,000sq m (43,000sq ft) entertainment centre. In these destinations, the waterpark serves to differentiate the resort and attract guests to stay over, with the hotel able to charge stronger room rates than other accommodation in the local area due to the presence of the waterpark.

While the Kalahari is large it’s dwarfed by Tropical Islands, a waterpark just south of Berlin, Germany, which opened in 2004.

Created within a 70,000sq m (753,000sq ft) former zeppelin hanger, the owners rapidly realised that the only way to make money from the business was to add an accommodation option.

Although the development was slow at first, an ambitious masterplan was developed for the 6.4sq km (2.5sq mi) site. This led to approval being received in 2017 for a resort expansion that would allow for the development of up to 9,000 bedrooms. This expansion potential was a major factor in Parques Reunidos decision to pay €226m (US$256m) for the waterpark and its associated real estate in 2018.

Another important area of waterpark development is as a second gate.

The majority of Six Flags’ waterparks are located alongside their theme park operations, PortAventura has had a waterpark since 2002, and the Looping Group has been adding waterpark elements to its park operations in recent years.

Global developments
The opening of Universal’s Volcano Bay waterpark in Orlando was the big news of 2017. The immersive waterpark experience attracted 1.5 million guests in its first year to complement the ever-increasing visitor volumes at the company’s other two Orlando theme parks.

There have been other new park developments around the world, many of these opening in Asia. China is now home to the world’s most visited waterpark, Chimelong Waterpark in Guangzhou, which attracted 2.7 million visits in 2017.

The latest major European waterpark expansion is at Europa Park, which is investing an estimated €150m (US$170m) in the creation of a 33,000sq m (355,000sq ft) waterpark with hotel accommodation (see p60). Called Rulantica, this, says Europa Park, will complement the existing theme park and help build on the 5.6 million people that already visit the resort each year.

While helping the team at Europa Park to plan this expansion, we examined a number of theme park and waterpark destinations around the world.

We discovered that waterparks built near to theme parks are typically able to achieve attendance levels of between 10-20 per cent of the associated theme park visitor numbers, and often the admission prices for the waterpark are not far below those of the theme park. This is a significant additional volume of visitors and revenues that can make a major contribution to the finances of a resort.

Technological leaps
As with theme parks, there’s a need for waterparks to invest regularly in their rides and activities to keep visitors returning, and there have been some exciting advances in waterpark rides in recent years.

The Master Blaster’s development in 1996 was a major advance as it allowed riders to be pushed uphill, creating a rollercoaster-style water attraction. This has been further developed with HydroMagnetic and Zip Coasters that create theme park-style thrills within waterparks.

In recent years, waterpark ride manufacturers have increased the size and impact of bowl rides, funnel rides and halfpipe slides. Whitewater West has also developed a looping waterpark ride.

Surfing technology has also rapidly improved through the years, with a range of different rides now available that allow guests to safely experience the thrill of surfing within either a waterpark environment or on a surfing lagoon.

Final thoughts
While the world is becoming ever more digital and virtual, family water play still has a refreshingly enduring appeal. This, combined with the exciting new rides and attractions that being developed each year, will serve to continue the industry well and drive more developments in the future.

More than 30 million people visited the world’s top 20 waterparks in 2017
Due to its seasonality, the European attractions market offers a mix of indoor and outdoor waterpark facilities
More and more often, waterparks are being used to boost the profits of an already existing successful venture, such as a theme park
COMPANY PROFILES
RMA Ltd

RMA Ltd is a one-stop global company that can design, build and produce from a greenfield site upw [more...]
Simworx Ltd

The company was initially established in 1997. Terry Monkton and Andrew Roberts are the key stakeh [more...]
DJW

David & Lynn Willrich started the Company over thirty years ago, from the Audio Visual Department [more...]
IDEATTACK

IDEATTACK is a full-service planning and design company with headquarters in Los Angeles. [more...]
+ More profiles  
FEATURED SUPPLIER

Attractions industry to reunite this September at IAAPA Expo Europe in London
For the first time in more than a decade, industry leaders from across the global attractions industry will once again gather in London as part of the annual IAAPA Expo Europe, the sector’s premier international event. [more...]
VIDEO GALLERY

Red Raion Showreel 2022
Last year was a blast! Find out more...
More videos:
Keynote | Moby Dick - Friends to the rescue! – Red Raion
ProSlide's all-in-one waterplay entertainment center – Proslide Tech Inc
Testimonial Richard Needham - SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment – Red Raion
+ More videos  

CATALOGUE GALLERY
 

+ More catalogues  
DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

05-06 Mar 2023

CryoCON 2023

Renaissance at Plano Legacy West Hotel, Dallas, United States
10-12 May 2023

Asia Pool & Spa Expo

China Import & Export Fair Complex, China
+ More diary  
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©Cybertrek 2023
Jobs    News   Products   Magazine
Waterparks
Splashing the cash

Consultant David Camp looks at the waterparks sector, how it can benefit the rest of the industry and how to make your waterpark venture a financial success.

By David Camp | Published in Attractions Management 2019 issue 1


There’s been a lot of interest in waterparks in the past couple of years. Both Six Flags and Parques Reunidos have been busy in the sector and Europa Park is set to open their Rulantica waterpark expansion later this year. So why is there so much interest in this attraction type and how does it fit into the rest of the visitor attractions sector?

The numbers
To start you need to take a look at the numbers. Waterparks are cheaper to develop than theme parks. Six Flags invested less than US$20m to refurbish a waterpark in Oaxtepec, Mexico, that had been closed for a few years. Contrast this to the US$700m budget for the planned Six Flags theme park in Dubai (currently on hold due to financial issues), or the US$50m that Six Flags invested in Walibi Holland when they rebranded the park in 2000 and the difference is obvious.

Another important factor is that waterparks can generate higher operating profits than theme parks. While a strong performing theme park may deliver a 30-40 per cent operating profit margin on an annual basis, a strong waterpark can generate profits of 50 per cent or more.

Absolute revenues are very different – theme parks can generate far higher total revenues than waterparks – but having a number of profitable waterparks within a portfolio can be very good for business.

Six Flags, for example, has seven waterparks among its 20 operations and Parques Reunidos has 20 within its total group of 60 units. The profits from these operations are important for the overall business returns on these investments.

Weather warning
The most obvious issue for waterpark operations is the weather. With many of these attractions only opening for 100 or so days a year, and with 40-50 per cent of annual visits coming during their busiest month, just a couple of weeks of bad weather in the peak summer period can wipe out any potential profits.

This has led to waterparks in more northerly climes being developed indoors, however, that hasn’t always been a wise move. While an indoor waterpark can open all year round, demand is still stronger in the summer months than in the winter.

Opening all year also requires significantly more staffing, heating and other operational costs than a seasonal business and there are few free-standing indoor waterparks that can operate without some form of financial support. In many countries, this support often comes from the public sector.

Water gains
One way to make an indoor venture successful is to combine it with other activities. Operations such as Center Parcs and Lalandia in Europe, along with Great Wolf and Kalahari Resorts in North America have utilised the appeal of a year-round indoor waterpark and created large scale resort operations with significant accommodation offers.

Center Parcs’ resorts can accommodate up to 3,000 guests at one time within the accommodation and the Kalahari Resort in Pocono has a 22,000sq m (237,000sq ft) waterpark, 1,000 bedrooms and a 4,000sq m (43,000sq ft) entertainment centre. In these destinations, the waterpark serves to differentiate the resort and attract guests to stay over, with the hotel able to charge stronger room rates than other accommodation in the local area due to the presence of the waterpark.

While the Kalahari is large it’s dwarfed by Tropical Islands, a waterpark just south of Berlin, Germany, which opened in 2004.

Created within a 70,000sq m (753,000sq ft) former zeppelin hanger, the owners rapidly realised that the only way to make money from the business was to add an accommodation option.

Although the development was slow at first, an ambitious masterplan was developed for the 6.4sq km (2.5sq mi) site. This led to approval being received in 2017 for a resort expansion that would allow for the development of up to 9,000 bedrooms. This expansion potential was a major factor in Parques Reunidos decision to pay €226m (US$256m) for the waterpark and its associated real estate in 2018.

Another important area of waterpark development is as a second gate.

The majority of Six Flags’ waterparks are located alongside their theme park operations, PortAventura has had a waterpark since 2002, and the Looping Group has been adding waterpark elements to its park operations in recent years.

Global developments
The opening of Universal’s Volcano Bay waterpark in Orlando was the big news of 2017. The immersive waterpark experience attracted 1.5 million guests in its first year to complement the ever-increasing visitor volumes at the company’s other two Orlando theme parks.

There have been other new park developments around the world, many of these opening in Asia. China is now home to the world’s most visited waterpark, Chimelong Waterpark in Guangzhou, which attracted 2.7 million visits in 2017.

The latest major European waterpark expansion is at Europa Park, which is investing an estimated €150m (US$170m) in the creation of a 33,000sq m (355,000sq ft) waterpark with hotel accommodation (see p60). Called Rulantica, this, says Europa Park, will complement the existing theme park and help build on the 5.6 million people that already visit the resort each year.

While helping the team at Europa Park to plan this expansion, we examined a number of theme park and waterpark destinations around the world.

We discovered that waterparks built near to theme parks are typically able to achieve attendance levels of between 10-20 per cent of the associated theme park visitor numbers, and often the admission prices for the waterpark are not far below those of the theme park. This is a significant additional volume of visitors and revenues that can make a major contribution to the finances of a resort.

Technological leaps
As with theme parks, there’s a need for waterparks to invest regularly in their rides and activities to keep visitors returning, and there have been some exciting advances in waterpark rides in recent years.

The Master Blaster’s development in 1996 was a major advance as it allowed riders to be pushed uphill, creating a rollercoaster-style water attraction. This has been further developed with HydroMagnetic and Zip Coasters that create theme park-style thrills within waterparks.

In recent years, waterpark ride manufacturers have increased the size and impact of bowl rides, funnel rides and halfpipe slides. Whitewater West has also developed a looping waterpark ride.

Surfing technology has also rapidly improved through the years, with a range of different rides now available that allow guests to safely experience the thrill of surfing within either a waterpark environment or on a surfing lagoon.

Final thoughts
While the world is becoming ever more digital and virtual, family water play still has a refreshingly enduring appeal. This, combined with the exciting new rides and attractions that being developed each year, will serve to continue the industry well and drive more developments in the future.

More than 30 million people visited the world’s top 20 waterparks in 2017
Due to its seasonality, the European attractions market offers a mix of indoor and outdoor waterpark facilities
More and more often, waterparks are being used to boost the profits of an already existing successful venture, such as a theme park
LATEST NEWS
Carowinds expands to year-round opening, confirms Aeronautica opening for 2023
Carowinds theme park in North Carolina, US, has launched year-round operations this month (January 2023).
Disney hints at new gate for Walt Disney World as part of Lake Nona campus development
Disney has filed a planning application that kickstarts the group's plans to create a future regional campus and HQ in Florida, US.
London's Natural History Museum works with Thoughtworks and Amazon Web Services on Urban Nature project
Natural History Museum has embarked on a project which will turn the iconic museum's London location into a biologically diverse green space.
London to get its own "Garden in the sky", as Camden Highline gets green light
Planning approval has been granted for Camden Highline, a project to transform a section of disused railway into a new elevated urban park for London.
Continuum Attractions takes over Loch Ness attraction and pledge £1.5m investment
Continuum Attractions has acquired The Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition near Inverness, Scotland, UK.
Esbjerg’s landmark maritime center, designed by WERK Arkitekter and Snøhetta, opens to the public
A new landmark maritime centre has opened to the public in Esbjerg, Denmark.
SEVEN to open world’s first indoor Discovery Adventures centres in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Entertainment Ventures (SEVEN) has signed an exclusive partnership agreement with Warner Bros. Discovery to bring purpose-built indoor adventures centres to the Kingdom.
Eden Project Morecambe secures £50m Levelling Up investment
Plans to create a new Eden Project North attraction in Morecambe, UK, have been given a major boost after the central government pledged to support the scheme with £50m worth of funding.
David Willrich takes the baton from Terry Monkton as chair of Experience UK
David Willrich has been appointed chair of Experience UK, replacing the outgoing Terry Monkton, who has steered the organisation over the past two years.
Universal to launch two new attraction concepts – one in Texas and another in Las Vegas
Universal Parks & Resorts has revealed plans to launch two entirely new visitor attractions concepts – a family-focused theme park and resort in Texas and a year-round horror experience in Las Vegas.
SeaWorld's Arctic Coaster to raise awareness of devastation of climate change
SeaWorld will open a new Arctic Rescue coaster at its San Diego theme park in early 2023.
Super Nintendo World opening at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2023
The highly-anticipated Super Nintendo World will open to visitors at Universal Studios Hollywood on 17 February 2023.
+ More news   
 
COMPANY PROFILES
RMA Ltd

RMA Ltd is a one-stop global company that can design, build and produce from a greenfield site upw [more...]
Simworx Ltd

The company was initially established in 1997. Terry Monkton and Andrew Roberts are the key stakeh [more...]
DJW

David & Lynn Willrich started the Company over thirty years ago, from the Audio Visual Department [more...]
IDEATTACK

IDEATTACK is a full-service planning and design company with headquarters in Los Angeles. [more...]
+ More profiles  
FEATURED SUPPLIER

Attractions industry to reunite this September at IAAPA Expo Europe in London
For the first time in more than a decade, industry leaders from across the global attractions industry will once again gather in London as part of the annual IAAPA Expo Europe, the sector’s premier international event. [more...]
VIDEO GALLERY

Red Raion Showreel 2022
Last year was a blast! Find out more...
More videos:
Keynote | Moby Dick - Friends to the rescue! – Red Raion
ProSlide's all-in-one waterplay entertainment center – Proslide Tech Inc
Testimonial Richard Needham - SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment – Red Raion
+ More videos  

CATALOGUE GALLERY
+ More catalogues  
DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

05-06 Mar 2023

CryoCON 2023

Renaissance at Plano Legacy West Hotel, Dallas, United States
10-12 May 2023

Asia Pool & Spa Expo

China Import & Export Fair Complex, China
+ More diary  
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2023

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT NEWS
ATTRACTIONS HANDBOOK
PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS