Michael Gallinari
Mike is a US Travel and Leisure Reports Analyst at Mintel. Mike writes reports about consumer travel preferences as well as leisure market research.

Travel has seen a resurgence in 2022, as US consumers have been eager to get out of the house and head to the beach, visit family, and take longer trips. But theme parks have not seen the same level of resurgence as the rest of the travel sector.  According to Mintel research, just 34% of consumers say that a theme park vacation is among their top five vacation priorities in the coming year. To compete in the coming years, theme parks will have to innovate in order to make themselves more appealing to vacationers. 

These are three innovations undertaken by industry leaders that we may see in the coming years:

1. Video game IPs

Disneyland set the bar decades ago by creating a theme park centered around their movie and television properties, a model that has been repeated countless times since. In the 21st century, more cutting-edge parks will incorporate video game franchises into their offerings. Mintel research shows 39% of people considering a theme park vacation want to see more video game IP in parks, second only to movie IP. Universal Studios Hollywood is ahead of the game here, with their Super Nintendo World park opening in early 2023.

Source: Universal Studios

 

2. Modern dining sensibilities

Carnival-style food no longer satisfies the appetites of the modern theme park guest. Recent Mintel data shows that a majority of those considering a park vacation say that they want to see more restaurant-style eateries at parks, and menus that accommodate a variety of dietary options, such as vegan and gluten-free. Mealtime is seen as a respite from a busy day running around the park, so a sit-down restaurant experience has appeal as a way for parkgoers to catch their breath during a hectic visit.

3. Parks can help planners before they even arrive

About half of consumers consider a theme park vacation exhausting to plan, even as parks release more services like Disney’s Genie+ to schedule their trip. Instead of planning theme park vacations by themselves, 55% of potential parkgoers feel that a park’s fan community is helpful in planning a visit. By being more involved with their parks’ fan communities, park operators can leverage the knowledge of the group, and become a more valuable asset to those that feel overwhelmed when planning a trip. 

What we think 

Theme parks will continue to face stiff competition from other destinations as a vacation option in the near future. To increase their appeal among these potential high-dollar visitors, parks will need to innovate both within and outside of the gates in order to attract more modern travelers.

For more information on our travel and tourism market research, please click here.