Six Flags doesn’t want to be a ‘teen daycare center’

If you’re a roller coaster-loving teenager who takes advantage of free or discounted tickets to visit amusement parks, Six Flags Entertainment Corp. makes it clear that he doesn’t want your business.

The nation’s largest regional theme park company, which operates Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia and 26 other parks in North America, is trying to attract more middle-class families by raising ticket prices and improving its food, drinks and amenities. At the same time, it eliminates promotional offers, freebies, discounts and all-you-can-eat meal plans that have attracted lower-income teenagers and park-goers.

Too many discounts and promotional offers have turned amusement parks into “cheap daycare for teenagers,” Six Flags President and CEO Selim Bassoul said during an earnings report. of August. He wants to put a stop to that with what he calls his “premiumization initiatives”.

Ticket prices have yet to increase this year at Six Flags Magic Mountain, but Bassoul said other parks have already imposed higher prices and canceled discounted food deals.

“Raising prices is not an easy task for a company that has trained its customers to expect discounts,” he said. “And in 2022 we shocked the system with a significant increase in ticket prices.”

Day tickets and annual passes vary in the access they offer, but in the first six months of 2022, per capita spending for admission to Six Flags parks increased 29% from from a year earlier, dropping from $29.67 per capita to $37.75, according to company reports.

The price hike comes as other theme parks grapple with overcrowding and fights that threaten to turn away high-spending visitors, such as international tourists. Several fights broke out July 16 at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, prompting the park to adopt a support policy which requires all visitors 17 or younger to be accompanied by an adult 21 or older on weekends and during its closing hours Halloween event.

A fight broke out at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Florida in July following allegations of line cuts.

A police car at Knott's Berry Farm.

A flanking policy has been adopted by Knott’s Berry Farm after several fights broke out on July 16 at the theme park.

(KTLA)

After pandemic closures that lasted up to 13 months, many theme parks in the United States are now reporting attendance numbers in line with 2019. Many industry leaders, including Disney, are focused on increasing income and solving overcrowding problems trying to attract high spending. tourists and discourage locals who visit often – causing longer queues – but spending less.

At Six Flags Magic Mountain, the park opened its 20th roller coaster last month, Wonder Woman: Flight of Courage, the tallest and longest monorail coaster in the world. The park’s Halloween celebration, starting in September, will feature a new haunted house, two new “scary zones” and a new haunted happy hour and buffet.

“We continue to execute our premiumization strategy by focusing on customers who are willing to pay more for a premium experience,” Bassoul said during its recent earnings report.

Reaction to Basoul’s plan has been mixed, with some roller coaster enthusiasts calling it “classic” and others saying they are still willing to pay higher prices to visit the parks.

Jesse James Suazo, a 16-year-old roller coaster fan from Northridge, questioned the strategy because adults with young children are unlikely to take up many seats on the park’s star attractions: the extreme roller coasters.

“The point of doing this is just for the money,” Suazo said. “The parks really don’t care if a teenager or a family goes. It all boils down to maximizing profits.

Sarah Anderson, an Orlando, Fla. resident who helps run a YouTube channel about roller coasters, called Bassoul’s comments about Six Flag customers “classic,” saying the plan “will take out families and kids looking to have fun within their means.”

Derek Perry, a Los Angeles nightclub DJ and longtime roller coaster enthusiast, said he was skeptical of the changes because higher-earning families typically spend their vacation dollars at Disneyland or Universal Studios Hollywood while that thrill-seeking teenagers and young adults prefer the adrenaline rush of the Six Flags Parks roller coaster.

“I understand the plan from a business perspective, but I don’t know how successful it will be,” he said, adding he was willing to pay a higher price to continue visiting the parks. Six Flags.

According to industry experts, Six Flags’ biggest challenge may be shedding its decades-old reputation as a low-cost, thrill-seeking hangout.

“It’s not clear that the chain’s image will change enough to attract high-spending customers,” said Martin Lewison, theme park expert and professor of business management at Farmingdale State College in New York.

To improve the park’s image and attract higher-income visitors, he said Six Flags may need to invest in new attractions — the kind of multimillion-dollar rides offered by competitors like Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood. “They don’t have that kind of budget,” Lewison said.

Although Six Flags has the right to build attractions based on DC Super Heroes and Looney Tunes characters, Disney may offer themed attractions based on characters from Disney movies, the Star Wars franchise, Marvel comic books and Pixar, among others. Universal Studios offers themed rides based on the Harry Potter franchise and dozens of Universal Studios films, dating back decades.

John Gerner, theme park consultant and managing director of Leisure Business Advisors, said Six Flags should stick to its thrill niche and instead find ways to operate more efficiently.

“I’m not saying it’s impossible,” he said. “I say it’s really difficult.”

Bassoul, who took over as head of Six Flags in November, recently told analysts the strategy would take the company “from what I call the Kmart, Walmart to maybe the target customers.”

Six Flags representatives declined to answer questions about specific changes in prices and food offerings at the parks.

Corporate earnings data shows that the shift may have already begun. Year-to-date, park attendance is down about 35% from 2019, helping the company reduce the number of full-time employees by 25%. The company says attendance has plummeted in response to recently enacted higher ticket prices and the end of reduced fares.

Although the parks welcomed fewer visitors, each park visitor spent 23% more in the second quarter of the year, compared to the same period in 2021, due to higher spending on food, goods and equipment. tour tickets, according to company reports. During the same period, the company reported overall revenue of $435 million, down $24 million, or 5%, from the second quarter of 2021.

“We’ve changed our customer base so that today more families are coming to our parks,” Bassoul said during the recent earnings report. “And we know that families spend a lot more money in our parks than young adults. Our percentage of families in the first half that frequented our parks, given our premiumization, was huge.

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