Denver’s theme parks are experiencing a resurgence amid a national recession, as demand for its attractions and tourism numbers are growing.
But while the city’s parks are getting bigger, the industry has been hit hard by an economic downturn, as people move to cities such as Las Vegas, Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere.
The National Association of Theme Parks and Attractions has warned that the number of new park openings this year will be less than half of the 4.3 million the industry had hoped for last year.
The NATA also cited a dip in revenue and attendance as a major factor in the industry’s woes.
In Denver, the average visitor to the parks has fallen to $4,500, down from $5,800 last year, according to NATA data.
That compares with a peak of $9,400 in 2011.
The city’s number of visitors also dropped last year to 1.1 million, according the NATA.
The number of rides, including roller coasters, has been declining for years, as park operators have moved to cheaper, more accessible locations.
The parks have been losing money, too, but that is a symptom of a broader decline in visitors and spending, according Matt Loeser, the chief operating officer for the parks.
He blames a mix of factors, including the recession, the lack of an economic recovery and a reduction in state and local taxes that make it difficult for theme parks to make up the difference.
“They have had a rough time,” Loeserr said.
“We don’t want to say the industry is dying, but it is declining in its number of visits.
That’s not good.”
A growing number of guests are turning to social media, especially on social media sites such as Instagram, to keep up with the parks and their guests.
The Denver Post reported last week that social media users were using social media more to get information on theme parks than to stay in touch with the companies that lease them.
The Post said theme park operators are not being able to keep pace with the growing popularity of social media.
The industry is also facing challenges in its advertising.
Loesering said theme parks have tried to sell more merchandise, but have not yet succeeded.
And a number of theme parks, including Universal Studios and Epcot, are struggling to sell merchandise to the public.
“It’s a little bit like an iceberg that’s been pushed by water, and the water is melting,” Loeers said.
The trend is likely to continue as park visitation and attendance have been declining.
Loeer said he expects the parks to be losing money and that many will need to cut back on spending.
Loeser said theme-park operators are still focused on their main revenue streams, including ticket sales and merchandise sales, but they are also trying to grow the industry by increasing visitor counts.
The decline in visitation is expected to be temporary, as theme-parks begin to open up again, and theme-attractions become more popular, Loesers said, adding that many theme parks also are working to diversify their attractions, including adding water attractions and new attractions.