Out-of-Home Leisure and Entertainment
Is Poised for a 7-Year Run: Are You Ready?

January 1, 2011 could mark the start of a steady climb out of the United States economic recession.  Leading financial experts seem to agree that we have hit bottom and the curve is heading in a positive direction.  Well, let’s be more specific.  There will be sectors of the economy that will see the benefits much more than others. The number one sector will be infrastructure improvements (roads, bridges and government buildings) that will receive a huge chunk of the stimulus money and create many new jobs.  The number two sector will be health care and related services.  The number three sector will be leisure and entertainment.  Yes, of all of the hundreds of other sectors, our industry will be poised to reap the benefits of the next seven-year cycle.  Our industry for the past 100 years has more or less followed a seven-year cycle of ups and downs.
However, don’t get a swelled head over this prediction, for only those facilities that are competitive for the leisure entertainment dollar will benefit.  People are still going to be looking for “value,” and “family” is still the name of the game.  Those facilities that can appeal to a wide range of markets at a reasonable price, “and with superior service,” will benefit the most. FECs and bowling-anchored FECs may be in the best position.   Amusement Parks, Waterparks, and Resorts are seeing steady attendance for their main attractions, but guests are being very frugal with additional spending for games and gift shop purchases.  Per capita spending is a concept that we will all have to fully understand in each market. For FECs and bowling-anchored FECs, repeat business is the key to success.  (As an aside, did you know that 70 million Americans bowl at least once per year and that 60 million ski at least once per year?)
The season pass concept is stronger than ever as families are looking for the best bang for their leisure entertainment buck.  One of my (Frank) clients owns an outdoor waterpark and an indoor/outdoor pocket park/FEC.  They recently marketed a season pass for the 2011 summer waterpark season that included a year-round pass to their pocket park/FEC where guests could go on all of the attractions for free and just pay for food and games. The results were terrific and thousands of guests are visiting the pocket park/FEC each weekend and taking advantage of their season passes.
Amusement Parks have been re-opening and extending their seasons for Halloween and now more are getting ready for Christmas.  They are also using these times as an opportunity to sell season passes for 2011.  For those parks and waterparks that are located in high-population areas, the concept of opening up the front part of the park as a year-round (or just weekends and holidays) FEC can bring additional dollars to the bottom line, especially by attracting birthday party and other group business.
The bottom line is that our industry needs to be ready to take its place as the third leading sector.  During these economically challenging times about 10 percent of our industry has been actively investing in their businesses, knowing that when the economy improves they will be way ahead of their competition.  Others have just sat back and “milked” their businesses and may have done well, but have also dug a deeper hole to climb out of that will place them at the back of the pack when the race to profitability in sector number three officially begins in 2011.
The IAAPA Attractions Expo, this year Nov. 15-19 in Orlando, Fla., is our largest-attended industry sector trade show.  We can say one thing for sure:  if you are not attending, then you probably are not “ready” to take advantage of the upcoming seven-year run.  So stop digging a deeper hole.  Put your shovel down and make the most of your time at IAAPA, and see your future business opportunities. “Are you really ready?”-

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