Whose Pricing will Prevail -- Six Flags or Cedar Fair?

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 3:55 PM

Jeff said:

Charles Nungester said:
But why did HW get the Applause award?
Well it has nothing to do with their pricing. You'd think that some people believe Holiday World is taking a loss on admission around here.

Your so off the mark on that one Jeff it's not even funny, Inclucing drinks in the addmissions, sunscreen and a smile Isn't a industry changing standared?

Funny, Lake compounce switched to it and it works.

Six Flags raised prices without demonstrating value, and I think that's where they're hurting themselves. It's still too early to tell what kind of effect it will have in the long run.

SF raised prices without improving their product and in some cases made it worse in the closed ride and capsity dept therefor cutting their own throat in the long run. I've seen no other major park chain suffer a 7 percent loss in attendance in a single season like I have this year.

Cedar Fair didn't so a company-wide price drop, so it's silly to even compare. To their credit though, at least they're able to go up from the lower price if they so desire. It's a lot harder to go higher when you're already high.


And get a grip on the Paramount Parks acquisition. Mark my words... they'll put that debt away in four to seven years.

Didn't I say that?

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 3:58 PM

But thank God for competition. Cedar Fair, Hersheypark, Busch, etc. have a better product and treat the customer

Arthur already made this point, but I'll echo it. For many Six Flags markets, this isn't the competition, because the other operators are too far away.

There is competition though: other leisure-time pursuits.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 4:18 PM
But Gonch, I think all of your thoughts on this issue hinge on one assumption that generally isn't true for not only enthusiasts, but GP: You have the cash to just drop it left and right. Just general impression here, if it's not into 3 digits, it really doesn't bother you one way or the other. Me? If I save $6 on my parking by going to Dorney rather than SFGAdv, that's my lunch right there. You couldn't get me to pay $50 for a skip-the-line machine if the lines were 8 hours long (it'd be hard to get me to pay $5 for it).

Do you seemingly (and yes this is extreme) lose the right to travel if you don't have a loose wallet that can absorb any cost? Should I not go on trips to parks until I can afford to drop $100 - $150 per person per day at the park? I don't feel that way. I think the only way to cram in as much as most of us around here do in a year is to skimp on every dollar possible. $5 saved in 3 places on the trip to SFGAdv pays for parking at SFA the next day... and you could probably benefit more from the free water than the $5 Coke.

Just my 2 cents (and yes, I better get a good value/return on my 2 cents, or please, return them, they could be put to better use elsewhere).

Edit: typed this before I saw there was a page 2. Sorry if I rehashed something.
*** Edited 9/6/2006 8:19:39 PM UTC by Impulse-ive***

Brett, Resident Launch Whore Anti-Enthusiast (the undiplomatic one)
Wednesday, September 6, 2006 4:46 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar No, you make a great point, Brett. But...

Do you seemingly (and yes this is extreme) lose the right to travel if you don't have a loose wallet that can absorb any cost?

Yeah, you do in a way. I can't afford to fly all over the country picking and choosing the parks I'd like to hit. Many enthusiasts can and do. Instead, I have to plan wisely and efficiently, load up the car and go. I lost the ability to visit fill-in-the-blank park because I couldn't swing it. It's nobody's fault that I can afford to fly out to Silverwood for the day or that I can't find the time to get back out to Jersey to try El Toro. It's my problem.

Should I not go on trips to parks until I can afford to drop $100 - $150 per person per day at the park?

Not at all. But you probably shouldn't go to parks that cost $100-$150 per person per day to visit. :)

I think the only way to cram in as much as most of us around here do in a year is to skimp on every dollar possible.

Oh, I totally agree. But most people aren't us. The vast majority of park visitors aren't cramming in every little trip they can.

On a related note, the alternative to "cramming it full" is compromise. I tend to budget more per visit and make less visits of what I feel is higher quality. I'd rather visit 10 parks and not worry about the nickles and dimes than visit 20 parks and constantly be concerned with if I can stretch a few dollars long enough to get home.

Perfect real world example. At this point in the season I have two trips left that I'd like to take. BooBuzz and a stop at SFOG to sample the wonderfully reviewed Goliath.

I can get a hotel room for free in Atlanta and we all have SF passes, plus we have a 4-day weekend for the family coming up in October. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Wrong. BooBuzz looms shortly after. I have X number of dollar I'll be able to spend on trips the rest of the year.

Getting to Atlanta costs money. Staying in Atlanta costs money. Going to SFOG costs money. Getting home costs money.

I could do it and still have enough to stay off-property on Friday night before BooBuzz, do the event, then drive home Saturday night as long as we watch the dollars a little in the park and getting both trips in.

But that's not what we're doing. We're skipping Atlanta, scoring a Cabin at Lighthouse Point, hitting CP on Friday and staying until Sunday. We'll enjoy a carefree weekend at the Point with no concerns other than having a good time.

Make sense?

*** Edited 9/6/2006 8:51:50 PM UTC by Lord Gonchar***

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 5:04 PM
That brings up a point that I implied earrlier. Travel costs as well as park costs must be considered. That's why I haven't gotten to CP yet. I figure I would spend $115 to $125 total if I do it alone without an overnight. What I will do is wait until my sister or one of her children can go with me so that we get more value out of those car related expenses (gas, tolls, parking).

For now, I will probably hit the other Western PA parks. Besides KW, it will probably be Lakemont and DelGrossos next year (same day) and Waldameer (with Ravine Flyer II) plus a short stop at Conneaut Lake for a couple of rides on Blue Streak in 2008.

If I go to New England to visit my sister, I will probably go to Knoebels (because I need an overnight on the way to her place and Knoebels is close to the route I take. I would also plan on going to LC while I am there as well.

Arthur Bahl

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 5:07 PM

Lord Gonchar said:

...On the business level, the higher priced park has sold me less product using less worker time and netted more cash on top of that.

The cheaper park sold more product (higher cost to them), that required more work to produce (higher cost) and took less cash from my pocket (lower profit margin).

While the difference between what the two took is $8 from my pocket, the actual profit is more than that for the higher priced park based on the costs incurred to get that $8 from me.

Makes sense to me.

Only problem is it's the higher priced park that sold you less product using less worker time and netted more cash on top of that that's in debt up to the moon.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 5:42 PM
I'd like to make a comment on this whole thing, but I dont think that anything I would say would differ much from what Gonch has already said. Looking back on my very recent 4night stay @ Universal Orlando, I tend to think that people are not as "unwilling to spend" as one might think if such a person read only these boards.

Seriously, the parks are 'expensive' ($115 2park/2days) and they also have a 'flashpass' like program ($40/day for both parks). And the 'onsite' options only increase from there. But the upcharge Royal Pacific luau was packed. The 3 hotels were well occupied, and the citywalk restaurants, with their 'high priced' food were not wanting for business (IOA's Mythos had a nice 30min wait).

Hell, by my own finances I see I'm about $1200 lighter in the wallet (excluding airfare) with just the two of us...and I'd do it again in a half a heartbeat.

But hey, I'm one of those eliteist top 5 percenters...
lata, jeremy ;)
--still looking for his silver spoon....

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 5:55 PM

Do you seemingly (and yes this is extreme) lose the right to travel if you don't have a loose wallet that can absorb any cost?

What "right to travel"? There isn't any such right. These are theme parks, not free speech. The parks set the prices, and we decide if we visit or not.

The thing is, our viewpiont is just different from the vast majority of guests in a park. Most park guests visit one park one time every summer or two. Maybe they visit twice a year. Maybe they visit two parks once each.

But, they don't visit five, six, ten parks each summer. I'd even go so far as to say they probably don't do much more than a handful of other "days out" kinds of trips, either. For many folks, time is just as limited as money, and maybe more so.

The question is: for those "regular" guests within an X-hour drive of a park, is the day at the park perceived as a good value, compared to all of the other fun ways they might have spent their day, or not?

I suspect that, even at $40-$50 a head, and even with $15 parking, and even with overpriced food, more folks leave the gate happy than leave the gate upset.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 6:15 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar Yes!

There's a lot of generalizations going on. Are we talking enthusiast or GP. Big parks or local favorites? East Coast, West Coast, Heartland, South, etc.

It all makes a difference.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 6:17 PM
Jeff's avatar

Charles Nungester said:
Inclucing drinks in the addmissions, sunscreen and a smile Isn't a industry changing standared?
I agree with most everything Holiday World does, and it's far and away one of the best parks on the planet. Will Koch is my hero. The thing is, I don't pretend all of that "free" soda and "free" sunscreen and "free" parking isn't built into the cost of admission.

The thing Holiday World does best is create perceived value. Yes, it's a standard that the industry should strive for. But Holiday World isn't doing anything for the industry, they're doing it for the bottom line of their business. That's what I was getting at.

What it all comes down to is getting the most cash out of each person that walks through that gate. Some parks, like Holiday World, do a good job at that. They're not public so we don't know what the per capita figure is, but given their rate of expansion I'm sure it's an industry high. Cedar Fair does a pretty good job as well, and is ridiculous about cost savings. Six Flags sucks at all of the above.

Regardless of the park, don't act like it's all flowers and rainbows and philanthropy when at the end of the day we're talking about good business practices that make money from you.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 6:32 PM
Vater's avatar

Brian Noble said:
The thing is, our viewpiont is just different from the vast majority of guests in a park. Most park guests visit one park one time every summer or two. Maybe they visit twice a year. Maybe they visit two parks once each.

But, they don't visit five, six, ten parks each summer. I'd even go so far as to say they probably don't do much more than a handful of other "days out" kinds of trips, either. For many folks, time is just as limited as money, and maybe more so.

An excellent point, and actually quite relevant to my situation--I was the GP this year! One park was all I could visit this summer, and I was able to spend more than I would had I visited my usual 5 or more parks in a season. As Gonch pointed out when he linked to my GAdv trip report, I really had a good day, and I honestly wasn't expecting much after reading loads of negative TRs about the same park. It was nice to step outside the 'enthusiast' box for a change (actually, I like to think I'm only partially in it 24-7).
Wednesday, September 6, 2006 6:37 PM
I never said the drinks were free and I agree with everything you just posted Jeff. The applause award is for parks providing leadership or standards.

I have nothing against CP and other corporate parks (Well I do if they don't provide what they advertise) But In my second or third post I mentioned that just the drinks and parking and not very overpriced food covered my gas bill to get there and back VS say CP which is about the same distance.

And I don't see people pretending roses of anything. I see people posting they'd rather feel welcome and value VS. Being treated bad and feeling ripped off.

There are several reason the Disney/Universal parks can and do charge more and nobody says anything about it being a rip off. BECAUSE THEY DELIVER WHAT THEY ADVERTISE and have plans for about any budget.

CP being a resort is nearly there IMHO but SFGADV? SFMM? HARDLY! the parks are so missmanaged and understaffed its a wonder anyone enjoys em let alone the rediculous parking and addmission fees.


Wednesday, September 6, 2006 7:02 PM
What about Kennywood? They also do a good job of offering perceived value and I would expect good per-caps from them even with their low food, drink, and game pricing, free and inexpensive parking, permissive outside food policy, not to mention very reasonable gate pricing for a park of its size.

Oh yes, that no season pass policy helps too, keeping the trouble out and the per-caps up.

I do admit that the nature of the Pittsburgh economy has an effect on their pricing policy. People in the area want good value, they get it, and they keep coming back. They may gripe about the prices being higher than they used to be but they also know how important that day at the park is to their family so they keep coming. This is important to KW, both now and in the future. .

Arthur Bahl

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 7:17 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar Why does it always come back to KW with you? ;)

But see you answered part of the equation yourself there. Many of these park price as they do because they HAVE to. KW could never in a million years charge people $40 admission. It'd fly like a lead boot. The 'people' as you put it, already gripe about $29.

I still insist all of the 'value' parks charge what they do because it's all their market will bear. Most are out of the way, small parks in areas where the incomes may be lower and the clientel more rural in base.

These parks simply CAN'T charge SF prices, there's too many factors against it.

Don't think for a second that these parks aren't getting all the money they can.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 7:30 PM
There is also the case with GL. They have to give the gate away because of the perception people have about the park (largely from the Six Flags days)along with the weak northern Ohio economy. Also, this pricing encourages some people to come just for the waterpark.

Knoebels is another example. It's in an out-of-the-way location like HW. Their approach works because it draws a lot of people to their park even with all of that competition in the area from other parks that are easier to get to.. *** Edited 9/6/2006 11:33:35 PM UTC by Arthur Bahl***

Arthur Bahl

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 7:34 PM
I am going to say this. By the sound of a lot of these posts many people have not been to disney world.

Disney is expensive also. Its amazing what they charge you for some of the food there.

But I forgot Disney can charge what ever they want and people wont complain.

I guess Six Flags will never do anything right with most of the people on this board

Most people fail to realize new management took over a company that is in shambles and that has 2 billion in debt.

In order to make the aprks better and more disney like they have to get rid of some of that debt and get some money that they can do the things to make the parks better.

The only way to do that is to raise prices.

Six Flags does not have the breathing room to reduce prices.

Why cant people understand that.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 7:49 PM
Ride of Steel's avatar

Touchdown said:
^Are you telling me SF could not market a beach front park, with a hotel and a boat load of huge concerts every year without S:ROS?

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. It barely brings in people now, without s:ros? They'd have issues.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 7:54 PM
majortom: this is a good point.

Disney *can* charge whatever they want, and generally people *don't* complain.

Coaster enthusiasts don't complain because most coaster enthusiasts (as opposed to park enthusiasts) rarely visit Disney parks. After all, the coasters mostly suck.

Regular people don't complain becuase Disney does two things as well or better than anyone: they provide immersive experiences (and here they are better than anyone else), and the show the people a good time (other parks may equal them here). Those two things, put together, give people the strong perception of value. This despite the fact that one week at Disney costs more than a dozen visits to even the most overpriced amusement park NOT owned by the Mouse.

You think we're crazy as a community in terms of our passion for our hobby? Read one of the Disney fan sites sometime. We've got NOTHING on those nutcases. What inspires that passion? The experiences that people get when they are at those parks.

We visit one of the two domestic Disney resorts for a week each winter. Even ignoring costs to get to Florida or California and back, we probably spend more money in that week than we spend in an entire season at Cedar Point. If push came to shove, and I had to give one of them up, I'm not sure which it would be.

*** Edited 9/6/2006 11:56:02 PM UTC by Brian Noble***

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 8:09 PM

another needless quote removed -J

The time for that defense is long past IMHO. Snyder came in with the Yeah we're gonna increase prices but IMPROVE THE EXPERIENCE. Sorry just putting some charictors in cartoon suits while continuing the same or worse crappy treatment and then just shutting rides down further undervaluing a customers visit is really GOING TO HELP THEM?

The man should just have a fire sale. Hopefully keep about 5-6 parks and pay off the debt. Oh and hopefully run the parks that remain right or they're going to be in trouble again in a short span.

Chuck, who says the only ones snyders helping is his stockholders. We had less visitors but we made more money. WOOHOO! But next year they are going to have even less visitors. *** Edited 9/7/2006 1:00:40 AM UTC by Jeff***

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 9:28 PM
Gonch, I hear you about that not being how the GP typically spends their trips (cramming in as much as possible) but, maybe it's just me, but to those of us who can't (or won't) spend those kinds of dollars on a trip, saying that you can't complain about what these parks charge for their services seems very pretentious (I think that's the right word). I get the feeling this isn't what you're going for, but when I read what to my eyes comes across as "stop whining, if you can't afford it, stay home" it just sends the hairs on my neck up and the defenses go into code red ;)

I do very much realize these are businesses and as much as I appreciate them, I think that season passes should NOT be good at parks outside of the one you bought them at without a major markup. But, I think $20 for chicken strips and a drink, $50 to cut in line and $15 to turn my car's engine off are the WRONG way to go about it. Charge me $100 at the door, advertise it upfront, broadcast all the wonderful things that are included (say, free parking, free drinks, $10 in food vouchers [and food is more in line with say Wendy's pricing] and a cut-in-line pass for one ride in the park one time that day) and I'm happily budgeting that amount and coughing it up at the gate (see: Holiday World).

Give me a reason to drop that much money and I have no problem with budgeting for it. Charge me money for things I don't feel like I'm getting more than 10% of the dollar-to-value ratio I get outside the park gates and I'll balk at it, and find every way possible to contribute LESS money to your company's coffers, even if it does mean less new coasters, less quality management and operations and the end of a few parks.

Brett, Resident Launch Whore Anti-Enthusiast (the undiplomatic one)

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