With a brand new theme park unveiled over the summer, Gold Coast theme parks have never looked better. Attendance at all but one theme park on the Gold Coast is up, with Wet'n'Wild Water World and Sea World showing the greatest growth.
As Macquarie Leisure Trust prepared WhiteWater World for opening in December, the other parks prepared for what would be one of the most publicised seasons in Australian theme park history.
Dreamworld took the year off with no major additions since 2005's Wiggles World, allowing the operators to focus on promotion of the new separate gate water park. This resulted in a 2 per cent decrease in attendance for the six month period. Meanwhile, competitor Warner Village Theme Parks were up for an explosive summer with more blockbuster attractions than ever before across their three major theme parks.
Sea World opened its first major addition since 2004's Shark Bay in the form of the Sea World Eye, a temporary 60m tall Observation Wheel that is due for removal in May. Coupled with the park's extensive annual pass promotions, the public responded favourably with a 17 per cent jump in attendance.
Warner Bros. Movie World has seen another set of strong results. Attendance is up 4.3 per cent, a year on from the introduction of Shrek 4D and Superman Escape. December's Batwing Spaceshot solidified the park's position as current market leader.
With the completed H2O Zone in action at Wet'n'Wild Water World, including Australia's first Tornado slide, plus a myriad of promotions and events at the park across the summer, Wet'n'Wild took the lead in growth, with attendance up by an unprecedented 22 per cent. Rival water park WhiteWater World got off to a slow start, with poor weather conditions for the critical month of January cited by the company.
Advertising presence was up on previous year with both parks pulling out everything. Macquarie Leisure Trust CEO Greg Shaw commented at a recent investor's presentation that the Group didn't necessarily see the competitive advertising as a negative for the fledgling water park. "I think that there was a lot of activity, and a lot of competitive response. Our view was that wasn't always that negative because it definitely grew the market and I think we saw both the competitors and ourselves seeing many more people going to water parks than traditionally anyone would be in south-east Queensland.
Warner Village Theme parks took the new park on the offense, dominating the market in terms of adverting presence. Mr Shaw commented, "One thing we didn't do is try and match our competitors [in marketing expenditure]," believing that the competitive environment will settle down in the future. "We might go to more normalised levels in terms of marketing spend."
Warner Village Theme Parks don't release attendance specifics, though it is believed that Sea World's 17 per cent increase saw the largest growth in terms of actual patronage. Increasing awareness of annual passes has seen the park go through its the summer period with total annual pass holder numbers sitting at around 100,000.
The parks don't look like they'll be settling down and riding out their successes anytime soon. Wet'n'Wild is in early stages of construction of a Half-pipe roller coaster, while Dreamworld is building a unique motorcycle-style roller coaster due to be unveiled later this year. Both are built by Swiss ride manufacturer Intamin AG. What 2007 will bring Warner Bros. Movie World is unknown at this stage; the park has installed three major attractions in just 18 months.
By Richard Wilson.
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