Teen theme park visitation on the decline

August 19, 2013


Chicago (August 19, 2013) — As a new school year looms on the horizon, many American households might be trying to squeeze in one last trip to the amusement park before it’s time to hit the books. But when it comes to theme parks, new research from Mintel reveals that while teens are still the most prolific visitors, teen visitation has dropped over the past five years with 67% of those aged 12-17 having visited a park in the last year compared with 76% five years ago. In contrast, visits from adults have remained steady at 22-23%.

It seems price may be a factor in the decline of teen visits, as Mintel’s research found during the four years 2007-10, per diem expenses hovered around $150, but by 2012 the per diem increased to $170+. While other leisure sectors have struggled to regain footing lost during the recession, the American theme parks market is poised to reach a record-breaking $14.4 billion in 2013.

Fiona O’Donnell, Lifestyle and Leisure analyst at Mintel said:

“The theme park business has recovered from the recession much faster than some other leisure markets. A record number of visitors passed through the turnstiles in 2012, drawn by elaborate new attractions and assorted pricing schemes to suit a variety of budgets. Major operators continue to upgrade their parks and 2013 is shaping up to be another record-breaking year. However, theme parks can grow revenues further by incorporating other forms of leisure entertainment—namely, gaming and the Internet—into their offering. Theme parks also can improve guest satisfaction by alleviating wait times through technology and providing a more pleasant experience while waiting.”

Indeed, it seems technology plays an important part in connecting theme parks with their visitors – with consumers feeling more of it could be used to improve their experience. Some 76% of theme park visitors think theme parks should use technology to manage wait times so that no one has to spend extra time waiting in line. Furthermore – one in five (22%) theme park goers claim to have visited Disney Parks’ website, Facebook page or Twitter account before coming, 15% report the same for Six Flags, while 14% report visiting the social media sites for both Sea World and Universal Studios prior to their arrival. Meanwhile, 12% report doing so for Busch Gardens and 19% who visited Cedar Point.

“Theme parks are using social media in some of the most diverse and active ways as seen across all categories analyzed by Mintel. Social media has proven to be a key medium for brands looking to reach potential visitors and as a way to keep fans engaged long after they’ve left the park,” says Gabi Lieberman, social media analyst at Mintel.  “For theme parks such as Cedar Point, Six Flags and Busch Gardens, which have shorter seasons than year-round parks Sea World and Disney Parks, using social media to keep people excited and talking about the brand is crucial.”

“Blogs have become the leading social media platform utilized by theme park brands to connect the various social media channels under one platform to help facilitate deeper discussion and bring together passionate brand fans,” Gabi Lieberman adds.
Today, over one third (36%) of theme park goers consider themselves “avid” visitors. But it is not just younger consumers being thrilled by theme parks – Mintel’s research shows that over one in five (23%) over 55 year olds consider themselves a avid theme park goer. The top five purchases while in theme parks are: 1. Food (with 83% of theme park visitors claiming to buy this while there), 2. Beverages (74%), 3. Souvenirs for family or friends (45%), 4. Souvenirs for myself (33%) and 5. Photographs (26%).

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