Dreamworld attendance improves while revenue remains steady and unprecedented discounting continues
The Gold Coast theme park has seen a slight improvement in attendance for June with no corresponding uptick in revenues. Heavily discounted passes might see further improvements in visitation but devalues the theme park industry as a whole.
While visitation for June 2017 was down 30.5 per cent on June 2016 – a mild improvement on the 35 per cent for March to May – revenue for the same period has not improved.
Revenue for June 2017 was $4.4 million, down 35.3 per cent on 2016. This is consistent with the May 2017 figure that was 35.4 per cent down on the prior year.
Heavily discounted events like the one-off Park After Dark in late June have likely helped drive visitation. Tickets were slashed from $39.99 to $10 in the days leading up to the event. It's good for visitation figures but not for revenue nor the long term perception of theme park value.
The uptick in attendance with no corresponding revenue boost can also be explained by the expiry of annual passes. Almost all pass holders will have seen their annual pass expire and a surge in attendance for the traditionally quiet first few weeks of June is a common phenonenom at all the Gold Coast parks.
With many annual passes reaching their expiry, Dreamworld inches back to square one with a smaller and smaller pool of pass holders to rely on for sustained business. These same pass holders have shown support with regular visits as Dreamworld struggled through the aftermath of the fatal accident in October last year. They're not typically the biggest spenders when it comes to merchandise or food and beverage, but it was perhaps enough to save face during a public relations crisis that focused on the park's dwindling attendance.
While some may renew, making the most of generous offers such the current adults at kids' prices offer that gives 12 months of access to the theme park for $74, it is plausible that plenty will give it a miss.
Some may be looking to competitors Village Roadshow Theme Parks who have the far stronger offering of new attractions for the year including the blockbuster roller coaster DC Rivals HyperCoaster at Warner Bros. Movie World as well as the rare birth of a polar bear at Sea World.
Others may decide that this just isn't the year for theme parks, understandably put off by the tragic accident of 2016.
Dreamworld is pressing ahead with plans to resurrect three classic attractions that will do little to sway all but the most commited Dreamworld fan. Vintage Cars and Rocky Hollow Log Ride closed after the accident on Thunder River Rapids and the park has signalled that they'll be up and running later this year. More ambitious plans are underway to open Eureka Mountain Mine Ride, a ride that has been defunct for over a decade. Wipeout has also been closed in recent months, undergoing extensive repairs in order to get it operational again. The 24 year old ride went through a major overhaul only three years ago.
The poor ending to the 2017 financial year may be just the start of the woes for Dreamworld as the real fight to win back the support of the public begins. Heavy discounting could bolster attendance numbers though it's a short-term solution that devalues Dreamworld – and the Gold Coast theme park industry as a whole – and won't put the damaged theme park back on the path to stability.
The $99 annual pass model was introduced amidst the global financial crisis by Village Roadshow Theme Parks and nearly a decade on these prices remain virtually unchanged across the board. It was the upending of a longstanding business model that no longer positioned theme parks as an occasional, premium activity. Further discounting at this point shaves off precious margin and makes price increases down the track – when these discounted pass holders need to be enticed into a renewal – that little bit harder.
Despite facing a similar revenue downturn as a result of Dreamworld's accident, competitors Village Roadshow Theme Parks are undergoing a period of intensive capital expenditure on core theme park attractions.