One month anniversary of Dreamworld's indefinite closure

Today sees Dreamworld's sudden, indefinite closure enter its second month. On October 25 the park's Thunder River Rapids killed four in a tragic incident.

Image: Parkz. Dreamworld remains closed a month on from the fatal incident on Thunder River Rapids.

The extended closure is unchartered territory in Australian theme park history and an indication as to just how rough the road ahead might be for the theme park that celebrates 35 years on December 15.

More misses than hits for Ardent Leisure

The month has seen intense scrutiny from the media, and Dreamworld and owners Ardent Leisure rarely came out on top.

  • Early plans to reopen the park the same week were thwarted by police and officials overseeing an investigation at the park into the accident.
  • CEO Deborah Thomas was criticised for misrepresenting the company's contact with the victims' families, and for the timing and handling of her $167,500 cash bonus for the previous financial year.
  • Ardent Leisure voted to rename to Main Event Entertainment.
  • Workplace Health and Safety Queensland publicly disputed Dreamworld's claims about the operating procedures of the Cyclone/Hot Wheels Side Winder roller coaster 
  • The park was cleared by Workplace Health and Safety just yesterday, though it was reported that the park was issued with three prohibition notices and a further seven improvement notices.
  • The permanent closure of Thunder River Rapids was announced, seeing the removal of one of the theme park's highest capacity and most popular rides.

The incident quickly wiped around 20 per cent off Ardent Leisure's market value in the Australian Stock Exchange; the company is yet to recover.  Credible analysis of the company suggests that the market is valuing Ardent Leisure on the basis that Dreamworld will permanently close, a scenario that Parkz hypothesised in the week after the incident. 

Lost trading opportunities

Though the lead-up to the summer holiday period is generally fairly quiet, the closure has seen Dreamworld and WhiteWater World miss out on two fairly significant trading periods: end of school trips and Schoolies.

End-of-school trips to theme parks are a staple of schools in south-east Queensland and Dreamworld and WhiteWater World would surely have been on the calendar for many.

The last month has also seen summer weather well and truly hit, with WhiteWater World missing out on traffic from locals looking to cool down.

Inconsistencies for Village Roadshow Theme Parks

Village Roadshow Theme Parks – who own and operate Sea World, Warner Bros. Movie World and Wet'n'Wild –  haven't spoken much of their performance since their rival was shuttered, but they did cite inconsistent trading in the fallout. It's unclear whether this means that their numbers are up, by virtue of no direct competition, or down as a result of a general anti-theme park sentiment in the wider community.

One thing that VRTP have been unable to do is promote or advertise significantly, seemingly due to a self-imposed silence. Save for pre-incident billboards and bus advertisements for Doomsday Destroyer that opened only weeks prior, Warner Bros. Movie World in particular have been unable to capitalise on their major addition for 2016.

The future for Dreamworld

It's a certainty that Dreamworld will reopen. Yesterday's results of the Worplace Health and Safety audit is one of the final stepping stones before the park can resume trading. The park will presumably be open in the next few weeks; in time for the peak summer season, which traditionally kicks off December 26.

How the incident will affect the long-term viability of Dreamworld is yet to be seen. Erosion of profits could make Ardent Leisure look to sell the park to another operator or to land developers.

Like the incident that caused it, a month of closure for a Gold Coast theme park is without precedent and throws much ongoing uncertainty towards Dreamworld and the Gold Coast's theme park industry as a whole.

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