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Seven New Theme Park Industry Trends and Statistics (2024 Edition)

Seven New Theme Park Industry Trends and Statistics (2024 Edition)

The theme park industry is projected to reach a value of $82.73 billion by the year 2032. Much of this remarkable growth is driven by emerging trends such as technological advancements, changing consumer preferences, and a growing emphasis on sustainability and personalization. 

Such trends reshape how visitors experience and interact with theme parks, prompting a reimagining of attractions, services, and business models. This comprehensive overview will equip you with the knowledge and tools to navigate this dynamic environment confidently and ensure your park remains agile and ready for change.

Key takeaways

  • Embrace digital innovation for immersive, convenient guest experiences.
  • Prioritize sustainability to meet eco-conscious visitor expectations.
  • Leverage data for personalized, unique visitor experiences.
  • Implement health and safety tech to ensure guests' well-being.

Trend 1: Embracing the digital transformation

Imagine a park where your smartphone is the key to a kingdom of magic and adventure. This isn't just a concept; it's the reality at parks like Disney's Magic Kingdom, where the My Disney Experience app transforms your device into a magic wand. With it, you can unlock your hotel room, secure a spot in line for your favorite rides through the FastPass+ system, and even order food ahead of time at multiple restaurants across the park. This seamless integration of digital technology eradicates the hassle of physical tickets, long lines, and the age-old question, "What's next?"

Consider Universal Studios' use of Virtual Line technology, allowing visitors to reserve ride times and enjoy other attractions instead of waiting in line. Or take LEGOLAND's app, which provides real-time updates on wait times and includes an interactive map that guides you through a maze of fun with the ease of a few taps.

Actionable takeaways

To navigate the digital transformation effectively, theme park operators should consider the following strategies:

Invest in an integrated digital platform

  • Implement a comprehensive mobile app that offers ticket purchasing, reservations, and real-time park information.
  • Ensure the platform updates wait times, event schedules, and interactive park maps to enhance guest navigation.

Enhance guest experiences with VR and AR

  • Virtual reality (VR): Develop VR attractions that transport guests to immersive worlds, offering unique experiences beyond traditional rides.
  • Augmented reality (AR): Integrate AR into attractions and park apps to overlay digital information on the real-world environment, enriching the visitor experience.

Leverage technology for personalization

  • Utilize data analytics to offer personalized recommendations and experiences based on guest preferences and past behaviors.
  • Encourage guest interaction with digital platforms through personalized alerts, offers, and experiences tailored to individual interests.

Streamline operations

  • Use digital tools, such as ROLLER, to manage crowd flow, improve operational efficiency, and reduce wait times for attractions.
  • Implement touchless transactions and digital queuing systems to enhance safety and convenience for guests.

Trend 2: Sustainability practices

Environmental concerns have grown over the years, causing sustainability to become a central theme in many sectors, and the theme park industry is no exception. Adopting and enhancing sustainability practices about doing good for the planet and meeting the expectations of an increasingly eco-conscious visitor base.

Disney's Animal Kingdom stands out, emphasizing conservation through immersive experiences and education. Its dedication to wildlife preservation is not just a part of its attractions but a core philosophy that extends to its operational practices, such as its commitment to reducing single-use plastics and promoting wildlife conservation efforts globally.

Actionable takeaways

To navigate the green wave, theme parks should consider the following sustainable strategies:

  • Renewable energy initiatives: Invest in solar and wind energy projects to power park operations. Disney’s massive solar farm, shaped like Mickey Mouse, not only fuels part of Walt Disney World but also serves as a visible commitment to renewable energy.
  • Waste reduction programs: Implement comprehensive recycling and composting programs. Universal Studios Hollywood's food waste composting program diverts hundreds of tons of food waste from landfills annually, turning it into compost for local farms.
  • Water conservation efforts: Employ water reclamation systems and drought-resistant landscaping to minimize water usage. For example, using reclaimed water for irrigation in various parks demonstrates a practical approach to conservation.
  • Sustainable merchandise: Offer merchandise made from recycled materials or sustainable sources. Merchandise like the plush toys made from recycled materials at SeaWorld parks reduces waste and educates guests on the importance of recycling.
  • Eco-friendly transportation: Encourage using electric vehicles by providing charging stations and using electric trams and buses for park transportation.

Trend 3: Personalization and customization

The demand for personalized and customized experiences is reshaping the theme park industry, reflecting a broader trend across service sectors. Theme parks increasingly use sophisticated data analytics to transform visits into tailored adventures, ensuring every guest's experience is unique. This trend is about forging a deeper connection between the parks and their visitors, creating memories that are not only memorable but also deeply personal.

Actionable takeaways

Embracing personalization and customization involves several key strategies:

  • Data-driven insights: Utilize data analytics to understand guest preferences and behaviors. This information can tailor every aspect of the theme park experience, from recommending the best times to visit attractions to suggesting dining options that align with dietary preferences. You can also use CRM data to create promotions that drive recurring revenue and increase upsells. And guest experience data can be used to improve visitor’s enjoyment and keep them coming back for more. 
  • Customized ride experiences: Develop rides that can adapt to guest input or preferences, offering a different experience each time. For example, Symbolica at Efteling in the Netherlands allows riders to choose one of three different routes, allowing for a more customized experience.
  • Tailored entertainment options: Use guest data to suggest shows, parades, and character meet-and-greets that align with their interests. This could mean recommending a superhero meet-and-greet for a comic book fan or a princess tea party for families with young children.
  • Individualized merchandise offerings: Offer personalized merchandise options, such as custom-printed T-shirts or merchandise recommendations based on previous purchases or expressed interests.

Trend 4: Beyond popular IPs: Crafting unique theme park experiences

We live in an era dominated by blockbuster intellectual properties (IPs). This has transformed theme parks into cinematic universes you can walk through. Yet, while giants like Disney and Universal Studios continue to capitalize on their treasure troves of popular characters and stories, there's a growing space in the industry for parks without access to these blockbuster IPs. These parks craft unique, memorable experiences that stand out in a crowded market, proving that imagination and innovation can rival even the most beloved franchises.

Actionable takeaways

For new and existing theme parks looking to thrive without the backing of globally recognized IPs, here are several strategies to consider:

  • Create original stories and characters: Develop unique, compelling stories and characters that can form the basis of rides, shows, and attractions. For instance, Efteling in the Netherlands thrives on fairytales, folklore, and its creations, offering guests an immersive experience that can't be found anywhere else.
  • Leverage local culture and history: Draw inspiration from the local culture, history, or geography to create attractions that offer educational value and a sense of place. Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen blends historical charm with modern thrills rooted in Danish culture and traditions.
  • Innovative ride technology: Invest in the latest ride technology to offer unique experiences that don't rely on character recognition for their appeal. Dynamic attractions incorporating cutting-edge VR, AR, and projection mapping can provide immersive experiences without a familiar IP.
  • Interactive and personalized experiences: Focus on creating interactive attractions that engage guests directly and can be personalized, making the experience unique to each visitor. This approach can create a deep emotional connection to the park's original content.
  • Collaborate with emerging artists and creators: Partner with up-and-coming artists, writers, and digital creators to develop fresh and diverse content. This supports creative communities and introduces theme park visitors to new stories and experiences.

Trend 5: Expansion of food and beverage experiences

Gone are the days of offering a simple hot dog or bucket of popcorn. Guests expect more from your menus. A unique food and beverage experience can be another factor that sets your venue apart.

Consider how Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter further entices guests by allowing them to dine in the Leaky Cauldron. There, guests find traditional English pub fare that elevates a simple meal into an immersive experience. 

Actionable takeaways:

  • Unique offerings: Curate items that offer a unique culinary experience, leaving a lasting impression and sparking conversations among guests.
  • Quality focus: Prioritize excellence in your food and drink selections to enhance guest satisfaction and foster repeat visits.
  • Themed dining experiences: Develop dining options that resonate with your park's themes, creating an immersive and cohesive experience for guests.
  • Global cuisine selections: Broaden your menu to feature diverse local and international cuisines, catering to varied palates and dietary preferences.
  • Dietary-specific options: Include a range of dietary-specific choices, such as gluten-free, vegan, and allergen-friendly dishes, ensuring inclusivity for all guests.
  • Culinary events: Organize food festivals or pop-up culinary events to attract food enthusiasts and add an exciting dimension to the guest experience.
  • Self-service: Tech-savvy guests expect self-service options in venues, especially when it comes to food and beverages. Offer seamless tech, such as QR-based mobile ordering, to enhance the experience. 

Trend 6: Health and safety innovations

In the wake of global health challenges, theme parks increasingly prioritize their guests' and staff's health and safety. This shift towards innovative safety measures is not just a response to recent events but a long-term trend reshaping the visitor experience. Integrating advanced health and safety technologies has become a hallmark of forward-thinking theme parks, setting new standards for the industry and ensuring that fun and safety go hand in hand.

Actionable takeaways

To embrace this trend and enhance the wellbeing of all visitors, theme parks should consider implementing the following health and safety innovations:

  • Touchless transactions: Deploy technologies, such as ROLLER, that allow for cashless payments, mobile food ordering, and touchless ticket scanning to minimize physical contact and reduce the risk of transmission. For example, apps that let guests manage all aspects of their visit from their smartphones can streamline the experience while focusing on hygiene.
  • Enhanced sanitation stations: Install state-of-the-art sanitation stations throughout the park, including hand sanitizing dispensers and automatic disinfecting gates at entrances. Parks like Tokyo Disneyland have set the standard by integrating these features seamlessly into the park design, making hygiene accessible and unobtrusive.
  • Advanced crowd management tools: Use digital tools and data analytics to monitor and manage crowd density in real-time. This can include virtual queuing systems for rides and attractions and apps that guide guests to less crowded areas of the park, ensuring social distancing without sacrificing enjoyment.
  • Regular staff training: Ensure that all staff are regularly trained in the latest health and safety protocols and are equipped to handle emergencies. Empowered, knowledgeable staff are key to maintaining a safe environment and instilling confidence in visitors.
  • Effective communication: Use multiple channels to communicate health and safety measures to guests before and during their visit. Clear signage, mobile app notifications, and staff announcements can all keep guests safe.

Trend 7: Interactive entertainment

As theme parks evolve, there's a noticeable shift towards more immersive, experiential forms of entertainment. Parks now offer guests the chance to be part of the story, engaging them in interactive performances, exhibits, and educational experiences. This trend reflects a broader movement in entertainment towards personalization and active participation, appealing to visitors' desire for new and engaging ways to experience their favorite stories and worlds.

Actionable takeaways

To capitalize on the growing demand for interactive and experiential entertainment, theme parks should consider incorporating the following elements into their offerings:

  • Live performances with audience participation: Design shows that invite guests to become part of the narrative, whether through direct interaction with performers or by influencing the story's outcome. For instance, Knott's Berry Farm's Ghost Town Alive! in Buena Park, California, is an interactive experience that transforms the park's Ghost Town into a living narrative where guests play a significant role in the unfolding story. Visitors can become deputies, deliver telegrams, and influence the outcome of the town's events, directly participating in the narrative.
  • Interactive exhibits: Create exhibits beyond passive observation, encouraging guests to touch, play, and engage with the environment. The "Ant-Man and The Wasp: Nano Battle!" attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland combines a thrilling storyline with interactive elements, allowing guests to fight alongside their favorite superheroes.
  • Educational experiences: Integrate educational content in a fun and engaging way, such as interactive science exhibits or conservation-focused attractions that teach guests about wildlife and the environment. SeaWorld's "TurtleTrek" combines entertainment with education that follows the life of a sea turtle, coupled with exhibits featuring live animals and conservation messages.

Staying ahead of the trends

The roadmap for navigating changes in the theme park industry involves a holistic approach. As theme parks continue to push the boundaries of what's possible, they enhance the guest experience and cement their place as leaders in the broader entertainment industry. For operators, the journey ahead is complex but incredibly promising, offering endless opportunities to enchant, educate, and inspire visitors from around the globe. With these trends as a guide, the future of theme parks looks not just bright, but downright magical.

Discover how ROLLER’s intuitive platform could help your theme park grow.