Dreamworld reports growing slumps in attendance and revenue

Theme park owners Ardent Leisure have reported a slowed recovery to visitation and revenue figures as the theme park struggles to rebound.

Image: Parkz. Dreamworld's steady return to normal trading has eased off. Early this year the theme park opened the popular Lego Store.

Following the fatal accident in October 2016 that saw the theme park closed for the month of November, Dreamworld reported visitation slumps of 51.3% for December 2016, 39.6% for January 2017 and 29% for February 2017 – a slow but steady improvement month to month.

Come March however the positive trend reversed. For the combined months of March and April 2017, visitation was down 36.7 per cent and revenue down 38.9 per cent against the same months in 2016. Ardent Leisure attribute this downturn to weather conditions.

[V]isitation and revenue was negatively impacted during the Easter long weekend and broader school holiday trading period in April as a number of customers either cancelled or deferred travel plans to the region on the back of flooding and damage caused by the East coast cyclone that impacted the region in late March.

Ardent Leisure, 9 May 2017 theme parks  update

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The company expects Dreamworld to end the financial year with a EDITDA loss of $2-4 million. Last financial year Dreamworld delivered EBITDA profit of nearly $37 million.

Ardent Leisure stated once again their commitment to the recovery of Dreamworld, amid speculation of the theme park's sale. This time Chinese developers Songcheng Group are reported to be in discussions with Ardent Leisure. The company owns a parcel of land at Nerang that they had earmarked for a theme park, and are also in talks to purchase some 6,000 hectares of farmland between Brisbane and the Gold Coast to build what they describe as a city.

Last month it was announced that Ardent Leisure CEO Deborah Thomas will be demoted to the position of chief customer officer and chief operating officer of their Australasian businesses with new CEO Simon Kelly taking over in July.

In this week's trading update, Ardent Leisure cited numerous investment strategies that they hope will aid in recovery of Dreamworld. The investment includes discounted ticketing as well as increases in operating expenditure, marketing/advertising and envertainment offerings.

Recently competitors Village Roadshow Theme Parks – who were also impacted by the accident at Dreamworld – announced that they expect the pathway back to normal attendance and returns will rely on marketing strategies and the introduction of new attractions. Warner Bros. Movie World, located 6km from Dreamworld, is currently building Australia's largest ever roller coaster. It is expected to open in September.

There has been no indication from Ardent Leisure that they plan to spend capital expenditure on new big-ticket rides and attractions. The incident at Dreamworld saw Thunder River Rapids permanetly close, while Rocky Hollow Log Ride remains closed with no clear indication of a reopening date.

Dreamworld has opened two new retail stores in recent months: a widely publicised Lego Store and smaller Jelly Belly store. Tiger Island has undergone a $7 million transformation in the past year.

In recent weeks Tower of Terror II was closed for unscheduled maintenance. Its originally advertised reopening date of May 15 has been removed from Dreamworld's website. The park is currently advertising no reopening date for the iconic thrill ride.

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