Thrills await in the world's best parks
Gravity slams the full weight of my body against my shoulder harness. I’m already upside down and have climbed a dizzying 150 vertical feet – and that’s before being flipped and sent into freefall through a 360-degree ‘heart’ roll.
It’s a manoeuvre that leaves my actual heart lodged somewhere between my pounding chest and screaming mouth.
Appropriately, considering my current predicament, I’m Down Under, swapping the relatively safe rollers of Queensland’s
Gold Coast beaches for the roller coasters of Dreamworld, Australia’s largest amusement park.
Blood is surging to my head as my brain – which clearly wasn’t engaged when
I boarded the park’s ‘BuzzSaw’ – starts questioning the science. “Will the harness carry the full weight of me and my bonzaidea-at-the-time breakfast?” and then, inevitably, my sanity: “What am I doing?”
My question is answered, in a fashion, as I’m plummeted earthwards, the wind whiplashing my hair. My stomach rolls, adrenaline and dopamine flood my body and loud, unabashed laughter replaces my screams.
Freed from the harness, I exit on shaky
legs, smooth down my mid-Eighties Bon Jovi hair and rejoin the queue.
With rollercoaster rides, I’ve found that one hit is never enough…
Worldwide attendance figures would suggest that I’m not the only one addicted to the thrill of an amusement-park ride.
The Global Attractions Attendance Report
2016, published by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), recorded a 4.3% increase in visitors among the major theme park operators, growing from 420 million to
438 million attendees over the year.
“While weather, tourism and political issues have tapped the brakes on growth a bit this year,” says TEA’s Senior Vice President, Economics, John Robinett, “we feel confident that the business, through some exciting new investments and operational improvements, along with strong leisure consumption globally, will continue its characteristically steady growth pattern over the long run.”
Florida’s iconic parks are still setting the pace, but other markets are definitely in the race and catching up fast.
“There are hundreds of theme parks around the world, varying massively in both quality and popularity,” says Kevin Brett, Managing Director of HAT Tourism Marketing, which represents a range of attractions in the U.S.
“North America remains the leading market, and is the home turf of giants Disney and Universal. But Asia and the Middle East are emerging hotspots for thrillseekers, while Europe offers some outstanding attractions.”
With amusement parks opening up in more varied destinations, agents have a great opportunity to incorporate pre-booked tickets into their customers’ holiday packages.
Annabel Cove, Head of Trade Sales & Marketing at DoSomethingDifferent.com, says: “The key to selling attraction tickets is to remember that there’s always something extra you can recommend. This isn’t a case of hard selling, but providing the best possible experience for your customer. They’ve come to you because they trust your knowledge and you’re uniquely placed to make recommendations to enhance their holiday and save them money.”
Purchasing attraction tickets in the UK prior to travel allows customers to take advantage of special deals and avoid the risk of an activity being sold out on arrival.
“Car hire and airport hotels are often added to holidays without a second thought,” continues Cove. “However, some agents are missing out by not offering experiences. Selling tickets can reap great rewards – our average booking is £800 for tickets alone – improving margins and the bottom line.”
A triumphant mix of human imagination, expert engineering, commercial cunning and a sprinkle of marketing magic draws millions of visitors to the U.S amusement Meccas each year: seven of the world’s top 10 most-visited theme parks are here (Japan scoops the other three).
Orlando in Florida is the main attraction, with giants Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort and Legoland Florida Resort.
The west coast is home to Disneyland
Resort, plus Universal Studios Hollywood
“As well as saving your clients money, combination and multi-park tickets offer greater flexibility and allow them to park hop, so they’re not restricted to one park for the entire day” Malcolm Davies, Product Destination Manager, Funway Holidays
For customers heading to Asia there are plenty of world-class parks to lighten any culture-heavy trip. Japan is leading the charge with Tokyo Disneyland, Universal Studios
Japan in Osaka and Tokyo Disney Sea.
In China, Overseas Chinese Town (OCT) has six parks in the region’s top 20, including Window of the World and Happy Valley in Shenzhen, while leading Chinese themepark brand Fantawild will have more than 30 parks operating in the next eight years.
Shanghai Disneyland opened in 2016, with Universal Studios Beijing slated for 2020.
Australia’s biggest park, Dreamworld on the Gold Coast, is worth incorporating into itineraries, along with neighbouring Warner Bros. Movie World and Wet ’n’
Wild, all available on a combo-pass.
USA: Pixar Pier (disneyparks.disney. go.com) comes to Disney California
Adventure Park in summer 2018.
Toy Story Land (disneyworld.disney.go.com) opens at Florida’s Disney’s Hollywood
Studios in June 2018.
Universal Orlando’s Fast & Furious – Supercharged launches in Spring
The Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster (sixflags.com) opens in spring 2018 at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (sixflags.com) in California will add a new
Harley Quinn Crazy Coaster in spring 2018. Europe: France’s Puy du Fou (puydufou.com/en) is developing new venues in Spain and China.
New acrobatic show, CARO, comes to Efteling: World of Wonders (efteling.com) in the Netherlands in September 2018.
Alton Towers Resort’s (alton-towers.com) new Wicker Man attraction, a wooden rollercoaster, opens this spring.
The Isle of Wight’s Blackgang Chine (blackgangchine.com) is celebrating its 175th anniversary throughout 2018.
The Walking Dead: The Ride (thorpepark.com) will arrive at Thorpe Park for Easter 2018. Other: Disneyland Hong Kong (hongkongdisneyland.com) is undergoing a $1.4billion expansion plan.
The Batman-themed Gotham City opens at Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi (wbworldabudhabi.com) this summer.
A new Virtual Reality Park has opened at The Dubai Mall (vrparkdubai. com) with an indoor rollercoaster.
Where to book it
GREATDAYS– 0161 928 3242
A typical package at Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe in Disneyland Paris costs £576, based on a family of four sharing. Includes three nights’ accommodation and a two-day Disney Park Ticket. Greatdays is a group travel specialist tour operator and has its own award-winning Disney team. greatdays.co.uk
AMERICA AS YOU LIKE IT – 020 8742 8299
The 14-night California’s Pacific Coast Highway: San Francisco to San Diego itinerary costs from £1,840pp, based on a family of four sharing. Includes return international flights, accommodation, car hire and Southern California CityPass tickets. americaasyoulikeit.com
“The key to selling attraction tickets is to remember that there’s always something extra you can recommend. This isn’t a case of hard selling but providing the best possible experience for your
customer” Annabel Cove, Head of Trade Sales & Marketing
Above: Dare you ride Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster, in Abu Dhabi? Right: The terrifying Wicker Man ride, new to Alton Towers this spring
This page, clockwise from top: a brainy Smurf at Dubai Parks & Resorts; the Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster at Six Flags Fiesta, Texas; bottoms up, Disney-style. Opposite: Efteling in the Netherlands; Legoland
Clockwise from top: a firework spectacular at Disney Orlando; meeting Batman at the Warner Bros Movie World in Queensland’s Gold Coast; Universal Studios Orlando’s new Volcano Bay