Would innovation make you more likely to return to the same theme park rather than visiting a different one?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016 11:53 AM

I am currently a final year university student undertaking a dissertation on whether innovation can cause repeat visitation to the same theme park. I am trying to find out how significant an impact innovation has on potential visitors when deciding to visit theme parks. If you have visited two different theme parks I would like to know why you chose to visit a different theme park instead of returning to the first one you visited? Do you think that innovation such as new rides, shows, new areas of the park or improvements to existing rides, shows and the use of mobile applications and devices could have caused you to return to the first park instead of visiting a different theme park? I would also like to know how your experience was affected by the park's use of technology (e.g. mobile apps to find out wait times or to book fastpass tickets)or by new rides, shows and themed restaurants?
Any information provided will be kept anonymous and confidential and would be greatly appreciated.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016 12:25 PM

It's hard to say, for me, because -- for me -- it's not an either/or question. There are many factors that enter into my decisions about which parks to visit. A new ride, especially a coaster, will be a significant factor in the decision. Availability of coaster-riding friends to schedule trips is another. New shows, theme areas or shows and improvements to existing rides are never a factor.

But I'm also considering enthusiast events; I prefer to visit parks as part of an ACE event. If the first park has a new coaster, but the second park has an event scheduled around their new coaster, I'll likely go to the second park. I like to go to ACE's Coaster Con as I'm introduced to new parks I might not otherwise visit, such as Canobie Lake or Carowinds.

Technology has little impact on my plans or visits. I have an iPhone, but I'm too cheap to pay for data, so I can only access the Internet via wi-fi. And I'm on the autism spectrum and love very specific details, so by the time I walk through the gate of a new park, I can already tell you where the coasters, bathrooms and so on are located as I've generally spent hours (not an exaggeration) studying the park map and the park via Google Maps.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016 3:56 PM

Hmmm, it depends on the person I think. For me, my decision to go to a particular park is hinged on roller coasters (particularly those with airtime). I look at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, I think my visits to IOA outnumber Universal Studios 2:1, particularly because it the park with the better roller coasters.

In the context of ride innovation, there hasn't been any revolutionary roller coaster designs since 2001. I think if anything there is a shift to the immersive 4D experience - which is not enough to get me through the gate. I do not make use of any of the apps and even as a Disney annual pass holder, I've never used the magic bands. So yeah, technology is not a deciding factor for me. I assume other people might factor cleanliness, reputation, cost etc.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016 6:37 PM

A new coaster or major attraction can certainly entice me to revisit a theme park. Generally, I'll visit the local park even if nothing has been added, but I am not going to travel far out of my way to visit a park that hasn't added anything new since my previous visit. New shows and other minor new attractions normally don't affect my decision to visit, but they can improve the experience once there. Use of mobile technology has no effect on my visiting frequency, and little impact on the park experience, in my opinion.

Keep in mind that the folks on this forum are not your typical theme park attendees, so you're only getting responses from a very small subset of park visitors. The general populace visits theme parks far less often, so for them it may be an either/or situation while we may visit both the old park and a new park. I assume that most people aren't going to travel far out of their way to visit any park (Disney and Universal being the exception), no matter how many new coasters there are.

New attractions certainly do affect attendance, but I’m not sure what percentage of that attendance increase comes from people choosing the park with the new attractions over a different park. In the case of Disney and Universal, the attendance boost from a new attraction is probably the result of people choosing Orlando over a different, non-park vacation.

Last edited by Mr. Six, Wednesday, February 17, 2016 6:40 PM
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Wednesday, February 17, 2016 8:06 PM

As much as I like technology for a lot of things, the only tech I care about at a theme park is in the ride itself, immersion in the ride experience, and Q-bots. I don't even like using my phone at the parks unless it is to take pictures. I don't even feel that apps with wait times are even all that necessary because I've been at parks where the actual wait time was not even close to the estimated wait time.

Innovation in rides though? That's a totally different story. One of the things that keeps me going back to Universal Orlando when I have the money for it is the way they keep pushing into new immersive rides and "worlds". No one does it better. The rides themselves aren't even great for the most part (for example, The Mummy coaster) if you take the theming away. However, add in the special effects on screens and the practical effects, and you've got a different animal. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey took the robotic arm ride from places like Legoland and advanced the tech, combined it with insane practical effects and screens, and produced a game changer that is worth multiple rides. Not to mention the queue itself being filled with enough tech to make even a cynical adult maybe believe in magic for a little while. Gringotts is apparently just as advanced, though that I haven't seen yet. Supposedly Skull Island is going to have an animatronic Kong like we have never seen before, and coming from Universal, I absolutely believe it.

On the flip side though, it's not ALL about innovation. Look at the love for smaller, cheaper parks like Knoebels. You don't hear too many people refusing a trip to Knoebels even though the speed of ride additions and new tech is likely not even on the charts. The pride the family takes in their park, along with the reasonable prices, free parking, excellent vibe, and the quality of the rides themselves all make a park like Knoebels a great place for many repeat visits, and I wouldn't call them necessarily leaders in innovation.

My theory is that guests will likely return to any park with or without tons of tech if the park is well planned, well organized, friendly, and a "value".

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016 8:07 PM

Agree with Mr. Six -- for me, driving from Chicago to Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine, then back to Chicago with a detour to Niagara Falls, all to ride roller coasters during ACE's 2013 con, made perfect sense. Most members of the general public would not, I think, come to the same conclusion.

And agree with Bunky666 -- Forbidden Journey's queue is in and of itself an attraction. Uni did an astounding job of bringing that world to life. And a visit to Knoebel's is a wonderful thing. The owners care about their guests.

Last edited by slithernoggin, Wednesday, February 17, 2016 8:12 PM
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Thursday, February 18, 2016 7:06 AM

ehat I usually do is I have about 15 parks on a rotation that I go to every 3 or 4 years, with parks with new coasters or good thrill rides having priority, like Carowinds,
Kings Dominion, Dollywood and the Busch parks. Then, there are parks I'll visit every year, regrdless of what they have, such as Cedar Point or Kings Island. Then, there are the random outliers that I would only visit if there is a groundbreaking attraction that is new or I haven't been there in years and changed a lot. These are parks like Six Flags Magic Mountain, mostly because it's so far away from me. I usually don't pay attention to events much, and shows and general improvements don't get factored at all.

Last edited by Go Intamin, Thursday, February 18, 2016 7:07 AM
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Thursday, February 18, 2016 3:10 PM

Innovation is a significant motivation for me only if the attraction is something truly spectacular or groundbreaking. That was my motivation for going to Silver Dollar City, Dollywood and Lagoon. Otherwise, unless there's a first tier park I want to visit or a roller coaster I know by reputation, I tend to stick with the parks in my neck of the woods: Great Adventure, Dorney and Hershey. One exception is Knoebels, which I might have skipped this year had Impulse not opened, so innovation was a factor in that case, but only insofar as I saw it as material for a story. Although Busch Gardens got two new coasters since I visited it, that wasn't enough to motivate me to rush back there. I do want to revisit, but mainly b/c I simply like that park. As to deciding where to go, economics are a major factor. Because I've been a Six Flags season pass holder for the past four or five years, I'm going to continue to visit Great Adventure about 20 times per season regardless of whether it's offering any new attractions. Nothing like a fun day at the park that's already been paid for. Mobile apps don't figure into the equation; I can't even figure out how to use the Starbucks app on my phone - and I'm a Starbucks junkie - so it's unlikely that I'd be any more successful with theme park apps.

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Thursday, February 18, 2016 7:25 PM

I doubt it. Innovation has no bearing on how often I personally visit a park. Location is far more important, I'm more likely to visit my nearest park more often. I'm in New York. Magic Mountain can add some great new ride and maybe I'll make the trip out there for it. If it adds an innovating ride the next year, I probably won't make the trip out there again so soon. Likewise, I may visit my home park often, but I'm also more likely to travel to a neighboring state to visit a park I haven't been to (or haven't been to in a few years). A park can build a new innovating ride, but it doesn't make me want to visit it again immediately. It'll get it back onto my "must visit" list a lot sooner though.

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Thursday, February 18, 2016 9:01 PM

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that for the average guest, geography and personal financial resources have more to do with deciding where to go above and beyond any other factor.

Most people are completely oblivious to what is being added to a park outside of their general vicinity, and those same people are probably, to some extent, not knowledgeable about what is going on at their "home park".

As mentioned above, you are asking a very specific, targeted audience, but maybe that's the sample you are after?

Last edited by OhioStater, Thursday, February 18, 2016 9:06 PM
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Thursday, February 18, 2016 9:07 PM

Good point. Folks who aren't part of our coaster-focused community are likely not aware of what parks have added which new features/attractions/etc.

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Friday, February 19, 2016 11:31 AM

Not only that, but I'd argue that even those of us more inclined to visit multiple parks all over the map aren't visiting because of "innovation," even when a new ride or attraction is the primary reason for us going. If I'm visiting a park primarily for a new ride, I'm not thinking how innovative it is, I'm thinking how much fun it looks.

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Friday, February 19, 2016 2:58 PM

Honestly, there was a time that I wanted to visit Geauga Lake for it's Flying Coaster and Dollywood for it's Wing Coaster. However, Geauga Lake was bought out by Cedar Fair and moved the flying coaster to Kings Island (my home park) and Cedar Point built their wing coaster (much closer than Dollywood and a better park). I've thought about visiting Silver Dollar City for Outlaw Run, but I know that Cedar Point, Kings Island, or Holiday World will most likely build a similar Rocky Mountain Construction coaster within the next few years.

I've never been one to visit parks beyond Kings Island & Cedar Point, though I've always wanted to check out a few (Holiday World, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Kings Dominion, Magic Mountain and Carowinds mainly).

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Friday, February 19, 2016 5:56 PM

My travel plans are almost exclusively based on work engagements or what the kids/family want to do. It is very rare that I travel specifically for what I find in a park.

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Friday, February 19, 2016 6:36 PM

I think John Miller invented my favorite technological innovations.

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Friday, February 19, 2016 9:15 PM

I hate to do this, but...I'm going to be Professor Guy for a moment.

This is precisely the wrong place to ask this question. This group is a self-selecting population of theme park enthusiasts, or perhaps even zealots. These are people who actually take the time to count the number of roller coasters they have been on, world-wide, and know what that number is at all times. We are mutants, and not at all representative of the public at large, as we are a teeny-tiny slice of the people who visit these places.

So, while the data you collect here might be interesting, it would not be something that I would rely on to actually make a decision as a park's general manager. At the very least, disclose in your thesis how you collected this data and why it might be subject to selection bias.

We now return to your regularly scheduled CoasterBuzz thread.

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Friday, February 19, 2016 9:19 PM

Um, yeah. What he said.

(For the record I do not know the number of coasters I've been on at all times. Keeping track of that number is what my Coasterbuzz track record is for. :-) )

Last edited by slithernoggin, Friday, February 19, 2016 9:21 PM
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Saturday, February 20, 2016 12:03 PM

Slithernoggin is not a real coaster enthusiast! LOL

Seriously though, I forget how many different coasters I've ridden. I will rarely tell people the approximate number. They gasp with heavy surprise, and I laugh and tell them that that is not an impressive number when comparing it to other coaster enthusiasts. When I am curious to see the actual number, I check my track record here on CoasterBuzz.

And i agree. Asking this question will get a very biased answer. People like us are not normal when it comes to anything about amusement parks.

Not to say that it isn't an interesting question though. It is very interesting.

Last edited by LostKause, Saturday, February 20, 2016 12:03 PM
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Friday, April 15, 2016 2:42 PM

I usually go to a park that is featuring a new attraction. I have gone to Cedar Point many times to ride their latest and greatest coasters. I think Gate Keeper, Top Thrill Dragster, and Raptor were the ones I was most excited about. I have also gone to Great America for their new rides. When Batman opened, I went to the park 6 times that year. But, I also like going to Chicago. And, plan my trip around that.

Another thing that effects my decision is who has the best deal. I had a Cedar Fair platinum pass when Gate Keeper opened, and could not believe how much money I saved by getting one.

Having nothing to get excited about, is my main reason for not going to a park. MA is just an hour from my house, and it costs so much to go there now, that it is not worth my time. If I had the platinum pass again I might. But, I'll pass. Though I may go to Great America and Cedar Point this year.

I go to those parks because they are worth the money.

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Friday, April 15, 2016 3:15 PM

Timber-Rider said:

I go to those parks because they are worth the money.

T-R understands how businesses work!

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