Leisure trends the world over are influenced by culture, disposable income and local infrastructure, which of course, vary widely. But there are three trends in theme parks which I’m seeing consistently across all markets, and which I’m confident are set to continue for the foreseeable future.

1.   Smaller parks are growing faster (proportionally) than big ones – While both large and small parks attract local and tourist audiences, the local audience for a small park is proportionately larger, and more likely to visit regularly as part of its portfolio of leisure activities. While larger parks will continue to attract big – and big spending – audiences looking for a big day out, they will also continue to be subjected to the very high peaks driven by holiday periods. Smaller parks, on the other hand, because of a greater reliance on regular local trade, are better placed to manage traffic flows, thereby consistently enhancing the visitor experience and creating a loyal following.

2.   Reinvestment repays in spades – Payback on reinvestment is immediate and positive, and promotes faster-than-market growth both in visitor numbers and on site revenues. Both in emerging markets and in developed economies just emerging from prolonged recession, price sensitivity in this sector is remarkably low, while tolerance of tired attractions is even lower.And that brings me neatly on to my final global trend…

3.   Worldwide demand for ever higher standards – Consumers, even in relatively undeveloped markets, are becoming ever more sophisticated in their demands, both in terms of the levels of innovation and excitement they crave from the attractions themselves, and of the service and overall visitor experience they expect. Creativity in design, professionalism in delivery, and operational excellence are all equally mandatory in the conceptualisation and operation of theme parks therefore, raising the bar for operators, imagineers, planners and all their advisors.

It’s all lining up to make the next decade in theme park development and operation challenging, fascinating and rewarding. And that’s just the way I like it.

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