Renaming Dreamworld would be a token and ultimately ineffective fix for the theme park's woes
Calls to rename Dreamworld so that they can start afresh are pointless without a real strategy to rebuild a damaged theme park.
Dreamworld doesn't need a new name. They need a real vision and investment that boldly reclaims what was lost over two decades of mismanagement.
There's absolutely no question that the Dreamworld brand is in tatters. When the theme park's Thunder River Rapids claimed four lives in October 2016 it dealt a blow that decimated Dreamworld's long-time profitability and sent shock waves through the wider theme park industry.
Over the course of the past 18 months, owners Ardent Leisure have set about trying to repair a destroyed reputation through unprecedented discounting, a stubborn business-as-usual attitude and contractually-mandated appearances from the likes of The Wiggles.
It hasn't worked. Despite banking on a two year recovery, Dreamworld is still unprofitable 22 months later after the Thunder River Rapids incident.
As talk emerges of Dreamworld needing to drastically re-brand in order to course-correct, there's one sticking point: though the Dreamworld brand is in ruins, the physical theme park behind it is just as dire, and the paying public is not stupid enough to fall for a cheap re-skinning.
A shiny new name for Dreamworld doesn't change the fact that their competitors offer a vastly better product for every key demographic. There is simply no comparison – and it has little to do with the aftermath of the Thunder River Rapids incident.
During the five year period from 2012 to 2016, competitors Village Roadshow Theme Parks spent $4.50 on capital expenditure for every $1 that Ardent Leisure spent – $211.7 million across their three major theme parks (Sea World, Warner Bros. Movie World and Wet'n'Wild Gold Coast) compared with $46.6 million at Ardent's two (Dreamworld and WhiteWater World). Village Roadshow attracted 2.6 times as many guests in this same period – 26 million guests compared with Ardent's 10 million.
In real terms, for every guest through the front gates, Ardent Leisure have spent half as much maintaining and upgrading Dreamworld as Village Roadshow Theme Parks in recent years. And it shows with Dreamworld's hodgepodge collection of outdated and lacklustre attractions.
There's little by way of benchmark for what it would take to "fix" an expansive and ageing theme park like Dreamworld, which has suffered at the hands of owners who failed to spend what was needed to maintain and grow the theme park.
Kentucky Kingdom in the United States was by and large run into the ground by former owners Six Flags before its closure 2009. When it was resurrected in 2014, the new owners committed USD$50 million to be spent rejuvenating the park. The regional theme park in Louisville, KY attracts around a million visitors a year during its April to September season.
Dreamworld's Major rides are unreliable, uninspiring and embarrassingly old technology. Several of the park's major thrill rides are at the end of their lifespan and will need to be removed or replaced in the near future.
The park has a dearth of true family attractions – experiences that an entire family unit can enjoy together. Their once outstanding native animal exhibits are tired and depressing. Perennial classics like the park's vintage steam train and log flume have been inexplicably butchered in recent years.
The adjoining water park WhiteWater World is little more than a faded and filthy collection of run-of-the-mill water slides.
Perhaps Dreamworld's only shining light is its sheer quantity of attractions built around their DreamWorks and ABC Kids agreements, aimed at young children. But overwhelmingly, the offering at Dreamworld simply doesn't stack up to Village Roadshow's diverse, modern and captivating collection of rides, shows, attractions and entertainment across their three theme parks.
Dreamworld is a sinking Titanic and giving it a new name at this point would be like rearranging the deckchairs. Without tens – perhaps hundreds – of millions committed to proper rejuvenation, Ardent Leisure will never win back the public who have rightly turned on Dreamworld in its current state.