Table of Contents
1.2. Socio- cultural aspects
1.3. Current market situation
2. Comparison Sea World, Orlando and Ocean Park, Hongkong
2.1. Sea World
2.1.1. General Information
2.1.3. Future planning
2.2. Ocean Park
2.2.1. General Information
2.2.3. Future planning
3. Future Development
3.1. General trends
3.2. Criticism and risks
A theme park is an amusement park in which all the settings and attractions have a central theme, such as the world of the future. So the question is how an amusement park is defined.
It is a commercially operated park offering various forms of entertainment, such as arcade games, carousels, roller coasters, and performers, as well as food, drink, and souvenirs. Amusement parks differ from circuses, carnivals, and world's fairs (see exposition) in that, parks are permanently located entertainment complexes, open either all year or seasonally every year. Some amusement parks, known as theme parks, are designed to evoke distant or imaginary locales and/or eras, such as the Wild West, an African safari, or medieval Europe. Theme parks usually charge a substantial admission fee, whereas traditional amusement parks, such as those at Coney Island, do not charge entrance to the midway; theme-park admission, however, typically includes the cost of the rides, which are paid for individually in a traditional amusement park (http://www.answers.com/topic/amusement-park).Amusement parks were the historical precursors to modern theme parks as well as the more traditional midway arcades and rides at county and state fairs (in the United States). Today, amusement parks have largely been replaced by theme parks, and the two terms are often used interchangeably (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amusement_park). In today’s theme parks more or less exotic worlds which do not exist in reality are staged on a delimited area as a setting for entertainment (cp. Stemshorn 2000, p.9). A huge number of leisure opportunities are packaged within a theme park and serve as a contrast to everyday life (cp. Opaschowski 1998, p.24 et seq.). They are characterized by following features:
- Sophisticated, extensive services for different target groups( families, children, disabled people, seniors);
- Extensive and differentiated gastronomic offers;
- all inclusive entertainment range (normally, an entrance fee enables the consumption of all offered services and their repeated usage, except the gastronomic offer);
- Continuity and change (rule of thumb: two third standard available capacity stay as they are, whereas one third of the range changes for creating a name and an identity as well as bringing variety for repeated consumption and get regular guests);
- Usage of marketing instruments like special prices or special offers, joint venture or special offers for target groups;
- Possibilities for overnight stays by integrated or nearby situated hotels;
- Perfection and professionalism as quality mark; intensive training of staff;
- Attractions: the general range of attractions includes rides with a lot of thrill, nostalgic carousels, clowns, shooting galleries and so on;
- Artists, stunt- shows, music- shows, parades, animal- shows, firework and more.
1.2. Social- cultural aspects
The idea of theme parks is to create an illusory world, a contrast to the reality which is often full of problems, worries, aggressions and conflicts. People are looking for an ideal world, a dream which shows only the beautiful sides of life. They want amusement, entertainment and recreation at the same time. Next to the wish to experience a perfect world with sunshine year round it seems to be a paradox that visitors want the artificial production to be as authentic as possible or even beat the reality.
Furthermore, the modern customer wants to be a part of the show not only a spectator. One wants to participate, to be involved and to get an intensive, sensual buzz from this adventure. Therefore theme parks must create a culture for touch. They try to cover nearly all needs of their customers to have a wider target group. Therefore they install a great variety of gastronomic highlights, rides, shows and other attractions. Today people search for as much experience as possible in less time. This phenomenon is called fast food style. It develops more and more addiction to impulse. It is not anymore the sustainability of life but the arrangement of it (cp. Zellmann 2000, p.29). It implements the new way of life. We are now living in a performance- oriented society and an experience society, how Schulze calls it in his book “Die Erlebnisgesellschaft”. Leisure time has become one of the most important parts of life. Effort and pleasure are no contrasts anymore. The young generation has got a new understanding of life. Values have changed. Emotions shall be integrated in everyday life. Above that, everything is adjusted to experiences and entertainment. In the modern society a central topic is not only preservation of life but also the design of life (cp. Stemshorn 2000, p.28 et seq.).
“Live, personnel, sensual and social: These are the four dimensions of the experience society” (Opaschowski 1998, p.28).
The visitors are not just yearning for amusement but also for education.
Another important aspect of the socio- culture is the demographical situation. Nowadays there are more elderly people than before so theme parks have to offer an incentive for them. They are important customers because they have enough time and money to travel but they must have the accessibility.
In addition one has to recognize the ethnic diversity and the increasing interest of people in environment and animal welfare as well as social responsibility.
It follows that all these aspects are the reason why theme parks are permanently developing. They have to implement new concepts in order to attune to the new lifestyles.
1.3. Current market situation
There are round about 190 larger theme parks worldwide today and their number increases. Theme parks have different catchment areas. Most attract up to 90% of visitors from within a 2-hour drive zone and many have populations of more than 15 million within this zone. Only a few attract visitors from a national or international catchment area, most have mainly regional appeal. The theme park market is highly seasonal with most parks only opening between Easter and October (cp. Swarbrooke, 1998, p. 75 et seq.). The most important factor is to have a growing market which is determined by the changing tastes of the consumers.
This is why the socio- cultural aspects listed above should be mentioned here again:
- more older people with disposable income as well as leisure time
- desire to learn a skill or gain knowledge
- become an active part in the attraction
- find attractions for children
- interest in green issues and healthy lifestyles
- interest in ‘leisure’, rather than utilitarian, shopping
The quality of the attraction product is as much important as the other aspects for guaranteeing a positive word-of-mouth recommendation. This is at least a relevant consideration of consumers whether to visit an attraction or not.
(cp., Swarbrooke, 1998, p.117)
Economic factors play an important role at the attraction market as well. Its success depends on the disposable income of the people and their willingness to spend, and leisure time. Actual disposable income is affected by the other calls such as accommodation and food. Therefore mortgage interest rates and inflation are important factors for attraction operators.
The aspect how the income is distributed throughout society as a whole is relevant, too.
The distribution of income is determined by several factors. The most important ones to be listed here are for example unemployment, taxation policy, relative wage levels, the differences between social classes, the number of people on pensions and social security benefits (cp., Swarbrooke, 1998, p. 87).
When talking about the market situation the financial structure of a theme park should be pointed out. Important for the new dimension of modern theme parks is the joint venture business. By this term we understand the cooperation of two companies to a new autonomous enterprise. Their sponsors often are multinational enterprises of different branches which try to benefit from advertisement by high financial investment. Revenues mainly arise from five fields: the entrance fee, the gastronomy, consumption products (souvenirs, media, clothing), integrated hotels and at least sponsoring and merchandising. Considering all these possibilities of creating revenue you can state that theme parks are really profitable. To underline this let us give you an example. The whole attraction industry of theme parks makes 4 billion $ per year in the USA by 235 million customers and an application of 275,000 employees. Furthermore the question of the owners and administrators is a quite interesting fact. The biggest theme parks are parts of chains like Six Flags, Kings or Disney. In some countries operators syndicated for example “The British Association Leisure Parks, Piers & Attractions”, the “International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, IAAPA” or the “Association of German Leisure Enterprises” (cp. http://www.alpenforschung.de/skripte/ET_II_IBR_1.pdf).
Finally we have to state that it is difficult to give an overview of the theme park’s market situation because of the great diversity of theme parks. Although being based on some general industrial impacts most theme parks belong to different kinds of organizations.
2. Comparison between SeaWorld, Orlando and Ocean Park, Hong Kong
2.1.1. General Information
SeaWorld is a chain of marine theme parks, a combination of a marine zoo and a leisure park. It has its operations in Orlando, San Diego, San Antonio and previously Cleveland.
The parks offer a variety of animals living in the sea like killer whales, sea lions, dolphins and so on which are making stunts and shows for the visitors.
The icon is a killer whale named Shamu, which was the first killer whale ever in a SeaWorld park. Today these animals are still the main attraction in Shamu Stadium, a 7-million gallon habitat.
The parks were founded by George Millay, an Irish entrepreneur who was also the inventor of Wet’n Wild Orlando, the World’s First Waterpark. Today SeaWorld is owned by Bush Entertainment Corp., the family entertainment division of Anheuser- Bush, a famous brewery but also owner of nine theme parks with 15,000 employees.
SeaWorld get involved with wildlife conservations through rescue of beached whales, dolphins and other marine animals as well as through many contributions. Staff members participate in research and wildlife preservation.
SeaWorld has even created an own non-profit foundation called SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund.
Furthermore, SeaWorld has the best killer whale breeding program worldwide which gave birth to 23 whales since 1985.
SeaWorld Orlando covers a 200 acre area which has already about 80 million people visited up to now. The wide range of services allows all people to join SeaWorld. Visitors can get wheel chairs, strollers and climate-controlled pet kennels for rental. Diaper-changing and baby-nursing areas, first-aid, foreign currency exchange, 24-hour automated teller machine, taxi and bus parking may be found on-site.
An additional service is to offer facilities for meetings and conventions. SeaWorld organizes more than 400 parties a year on average. With a capacity ranging from 30 to 25,000 people it is particularly suitable for holding big events. (cp. http://www.answers.com/main/ntquery?method=4&dsid=2222&dekey=SeaWorld&curtab=2222_1&linktext=SeaWorld).
Till now SeaWorld has gained positive feedback in most cases. Nevertheless, it has also made some negative headlines. In the history of SeaWorld there have been some mortal accidents. One was among the animals because of a fight; the second was because of orcas drag a person under. However, these were just accidents not wilful killing.
SeaWorld Orlando is considered to be one of the most famous and diverse theme parks in the world. One has the choice between eleven different animal shows. SeaWorld covers all water habitats around the globe, no matter if Arctic, Antarctic, Rainforest, Caribbean Lagoons or Mediterranean Sea. The visitor can explore these multi-level ecosystems by a simulated jet helicopter or on foot. On their journey visitors observe polar bears, walruses, beluga whales, harbour seals, turtles, penguins, exotic birds as well as normal pets.
SeaWorld Orlando has rebuilt seven different living spaces:
- “Wild Arctic Area”, consisting of interactive stations that provide working vignettes of life in the Artic with real- time computer communiqués;
- “Penguin Encounter” where a world full of snow and ice and more than 200 penguins can be explored;
- “Shark Encounter” consists of a 60 feet long underwater acrylic tunnel where visitors can pass for regarding sharks, eels and barracuda living in this coral reef. (The tunnel represents one of the park’s superlatives because every single panel of the tunnel can bear more than 500 tons of water and weighs up to 5,000 pounds);
- “Tropical Rain Forest” which is domicile for hundreds of exotic birds;
- Dolphin Area, with “Dolphin Nursery Station” where mothers with their calves can be observed and “Dolphin Cove” where visitors can get into touch with the animals;
- “Stingray Lagoon” where up to 200 stingrays are domiciled and where they can be touched;
- “Turtle Point” where over 300 rescued and rehabilitated turtles are waiting for visitors.
Obviously SeaWorld is related to animals and nature. The main theme is “water as a habitat”. Therefore they have decided to have fewer rides but lots of amazing animal shows. Above that visitors can participate in a great amount of different shows. This could be a non-traditional circus with breathtaking acrobatic performances, comedy, playful costumes, underwater scenery and great special effects shown in front of an artificial Antarctic landscape or a show where about 100 talented pets, rescued from animal shelters, present their artistic skills.
Furthermore visitors can go on an adventurous pirate trip or take part in shows containing, for instance, water sports, stunts or music. Above that there are three amazing rides: a helicopter flight around the Artic World, a high- speed railway combining water rides and roller coaster and Orlando’s fastest, tallest and only floorless roller coaster. For those being interested in games, the “Game Room” offers a plenty of video and skill games, squirt gun races, diving simulators and a lot more for all ages. A quite interesting attraction is the “Sky Tower” which exists since 1973 when the park was opened. Today it is the 400-foot visual icon of SeaWorld and represents now the centrepiece of the brand-new Tower Island. A capsule ride in view of Orlando takes six minutes meanwhile the capsule is slowly rotating.
On the fact of dining facilities the park really cares about their guests. There are so many dining facilities that it could be a real experience to dine at SeaWorld. Each restaurant is inspired by the sea and offers different dining adventures. Either guests sit in an underwater restaurant surrounded by sharks or are overlooking the waterfront by relaxing on a rustic patio. Highlights are also the family-friendly entertainment and the possibility to watch your meal being prepared. SeaWorld cares about the quality of their meals so there are only fresh ingredients used up and all items are prepared by hand. SeaWorld promises world-class dining by offering a great variety of menu items which rise above standard theme park fare as well as trained employees which attend to guests well being and needs. No matter if special dietary, kosher or baby food, each guest will find a delicious meal or snack on several dining facilities. You have the choice between a total of 23 different restaurants, candy or ice cream shops, quick bite locations and bars offering a great variety of fish and meat dishes; exotic fruits, spices and drinks; ice cream; candies; pizza; muffins; cookies and a lot more. Kids even get their meal served in a Shamu souvenir lunch box. SeaWorld also offers special dining events full of fantastic entertainment, amazing ambiance and breathtaking animals. “Seafire Inn” for example arranges the so called “SeaWorld’s Exclusive Evening Extravaganza”. This is an authentic Polynesian Festival named “Makahiki Luau” with Pacific Island dancers wearing beautiful costumes, live music and tasty island cuisine. Even at the restaurants the contiguity to the animals is preserved.
Education plays an important role for the management of SeaWorld. That is why they offer educational programmes including adventure camps, sleepovers, school programmes, teacher programmes and resources, scout programmes, birthday parties, guided tours and animal connection. Children and youths are able to stay there for some days and can experience the life of SeaWorld’s animals. They also can learn how to train them in so called Career Camps. No matter if they choose the Adventure, Resident, Group or Day Camps they learn a lot of animals and the environment but also fun is guaranteed. These camps are offered for kids of all ages from the kindergarten up to high school level. The Sleepovers always take place at an animal habitat and includes educational, exciting and funny activities, breakfast and a pizza snack. School programmes are shows and presentations, self-guided programmes, course offerings, outreach programmes and the ”middle school grad nite”. Each allows applied class by watching the animals and visiting SeaWorld. Even teachers get the chance to gain more knowledge about marine animals by visiting so-called teacher workshops or the “SeaWorld University” which works in cooperation with Valencia Community College (Winter Park campus). It is a three-credit-hour, full-semester course on Marine Mammalogy, a combination of campus coursework and experiential opportunities at SeaWorld.
In order to increase the interest in green issues SeaWorld places the “Environmental Excellence Award” to a group of students who plead the best for preservation of the environment.
SeaWorld even tries to support and improve school lessons by offering online teacher guides, educational books, videos and additional material.
The involvement in rescue and rehabilitation of animals merits closer examination. SeaWorld offers special programmes for the visitors. Worth mentioning is the “Saving a species tour” which aims to support the Sea World Conservation Fund. This fund assists research, conservation and education projects around the world. The fact that SeaWorld has got its own animal care team and several rehabilitation facilities where endangered and threatened species receive medical treatment, points out how involved they are in animal protection.
The Beluga Interaction Program (BIP) focuses on education and personal animal interaction and includes a souvenir photo and a book on whales. It is the golden opportunity for the visitor to be immersed in the world of the white whales. One is able to feed and touch them, communicate with them through hand signals and at least swim with them after meeting with the educator. This took place at Wild Arctic under the supervision of the animal care staff. The reason why such intimate work with whales is possible is that they want the visitors to learn more about these species and to become aware of the animals. Visitors shall get into touch with Belugas in order to remark the importance of protection.
What is interesting is the “Terrific Tuesday Seminars”. Especially people over 50 years get the chance to take a behind- the- scenes insight about the park and its animal programmes by educational symposium.
Particularly spoken SeaWorld reacts on demographic changes. They know that there are more elderly people with the desire to make experiences. So the theme park implements special offers for seniors.
According to the enhancing wish of the customer of celebrating and being entertained SeaWorld carries out several events and festivals. Throughout the year, SeaWorld hosts Central Florida's favourite events, including the SeaWorld's BBQ Fest - an All-American Country Festival, featuring so much country music and down-home BBQ, it takes two weekends to contain it all. SeaWorld is related to cultural festivals as well. For example one can take part in the famous “Halloween Spectacular” with costumed characters, ghostly activities for children and adults and unique Halloween – themed entertainment. All year round there are themed events which represent the effort to meet customer’s needs, i.e. to supply a great variety of events and to offer an insight in the world’s cultural diversity. Celebration, fun and entertainment is inclusive.
Another special worth mentioning is the pricing strategy of SeaWorld offering the possibility to buy combined tickets. One includes the visit of Bush Gardens and SeaWorld and another one the entrance to four different theme parks in Florida.
2.1.3. Future planning
SeaWorld, like most other theme parks, is still developing. There are some plans for the times coming soon as well as for times a bit further away.
This year there will be the “Dolphin Nursery Close- up Tour” where visitors get the chance to learn something about bottlenose dolphin characteristics, reproduction and calf-rearing as well as touch and feeding them. This tour is available for ten people at the same time and is guided by an Animal Care Specialist
The new “Brewmaster’s Club” is a real beverage attraction. At the "Anheuser-Busch Hospitality Center" visitors can taste several Anheuser-Busch Beverages and come to see the "Label Stable" gift shop and Budweiser Beer School for learning how Anheuser-Busch uses the finest ingredients to brew its beer (http://www.buschgardens.com/seaworld/fla/ama_hospitality_center.aspx). Going on a trip with a trained Anheuser-Bush Brand Ambassador the guests will learn lots of things about the fresh ingredients and the historic brewing process. From classic American lagers to full-bodied stouts, guests will sample from an amazing portfolio of Anheuser-Busch beers paired with an assortment of food.
They will acquire basic knowledge about various food pairings and will sample cheeses, chocolates, and fruits with each sampling flight. It will be a completely new dining experience including an improvement of one’s knowledge about brewing beer.