By: Dennis Speigel
Founder & CEO - ITPS (International Theme Park Services, Inc.)
As a veteran in this great industry and as one who has sat in the General Manager’s chair, I have learned over the years that always making the right decisions is challenging yet critical. One never knows the issues that could be faced each and every day.
However, there are certain intensities that we experience pretty regularly in our industry. I always tell entrepreneurs, suppliers, developers, and individuals new to our industry that if they can recognize these intensities and continually adjust and fine tune, they can face issues and make decisions with a clearer mindset. These can apply no matter the industry segment.
So, to those of you who are new (and a reminder to those of you who have been around for awhile), be sure to keep these five intensities (shown below) in mind at all times.
Our industry requires regular capital investments to keep our facilities fresh and general repeat visitation. Capital to grow is expensive, but it is a must and has to be properly allocated.
Our facilities require large numbers of employees to operate. With changes in family schedules and school calendars, I believe labor will continue to be one of the biggest challenges we face. It is the largest expense, often accounting for 50% or more of annual budgets.
We have to continue to deal with the weather anomalies that create attendance challenges, which is often difficult to recoup. As an industry, we have to plan our budgets to account for these unforeseen attendance patterns and transitions.
Rising energy costs affects us both at the front gate and inside our facilities. Oil prices, gas prices, and the like cause our guests to alter their travel plans. This can be positive or negative for our facilities. Facility managers and marketing teams have to react quickly and accordingly.
It is a well-known fact that our industry thrives on discounts. These are required to help drive attendance during problematic times. While these discounts are sometimes helpful in increasing attendance or shifting attendance patterns, sometimes they are detrimental if the discounting is too much or at the wrong time. This has happened in recent years with heavy discounting season passes. While discounting is an integral part of our business, it must be closely monitored and properly managed to ensure maximum return.
The above 5 intensities are those that any leisure developer and operator must keep in mind and adapt to at all times. However, I would be remiss if I did not mention a new impact to these intensities that our industry now faces, and that is impact from the Coronavirus global pandemic. While we all trust this impact will be temporary, we have come to understand that we must meet these impacts and challenges head on for some time to come. These impacts have led operators to modify their capital spending, their staffing levels, their internal capacities, their labor and staffing practices, and their pricing. Operators have also had to implement new protocols for guest interaction, such as masks, social distancing, and sanitization measures. These create increased and unforeseen expenses. Fortunately, our industry is resilient and adapts as needed to meet demands and unusual circumstances.
Whether you are in management, sales, marketing, or maintenance, or whether you are a supplier, developer, or operator, you will face these intensities – and unexpected ones like Covid-19, on an ongoing basis. Be ready to adapt your strategies so that the end result is positive.
Feasibility Analysis - Design / Masterplanning - Pre-Opening Operations Planning - Management