Attractions industry news

27 Dec 2019

Attractions Review 2019: September

It has been another momentous year in the attractions industry, and Attractions Management has been there reporting the big news, good and bad, all the way. After yesterday's look at the events of August 2019, today we move on to September 2019, considering some of the biggest stories that made the headlines that month.

King Kong was to the fore as the Empire State Building, one of New York's most iconic landmarks, unveiled its new visitor experience. Disney batted away lower than expected visitor numbers following its launch of Galaxy's Edge, and in the UK, Chester Zoo looked to bring a touch of the African savannah to the north-west of England.

No sweat for Disney over visitor numbers

With the launch of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland in California, significant attendance increases were expected. However, initial visitor figures fell well short of expectations, with attendance dropping by 3 per cent, drawing comment from Disney’s parks and resorts chair Bob Chapek in September 2019.

While Disney chair Bob Iger blamed the decline on visitors staying away because of expected overcrowding, hotel price increases and a significant increase in entry fees for the park, Chapek told CNBC that a lack of extremely long lines despite the hugely hyped launch was a good thing for both Disney and its customers, and that a 10-hour queue line should be seen "as a sign of failure".

The reference to 10-hour waits was interpreted as a swipe at Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure – a new rollercoaster at Universal's Island of Adventure in Orlando – where visitor reports following launch suggested queues for the ride were more than 10 hours long.

Empire State experience reimagined

A new observatory experience at the Empire State Building was completed in September 2019, following a multi-phase redevelopment costing US$165m (€149m, £128m).

The visitor experience at the iconic New York City landmark has been reimagined by design firm Thinc, with a new visitor entrance, a glassed-in observation deck on the 102nd floor, and galleries that tell the story of the Empire State Building and its impact on pop-culture over the last 90 years.

Tom Hennes, principal at Thinc, said: "From start to finish, we made the whole thing experiential. The aim was to create memorable moments that visitors could hang onto, really treasure and really associate with the Empire State Building. It clearly had to involve its construction and its place in popular culture, but we wanted to look at life inside as well."

Most importantly, King Kong is present, with his eyes peering menacingly through a set of 1930s windows as his gigantic fingers break through the walls.

Chester's African savannah

Chester Zoo received approval to its plans to build an extensive African savannah habitat as part of its 217-acre expansion masterplan.

The expansion – called the Grasslands – could open in 2022, and will feature multiple rare and endangered species including zebras, giraffes, antelopes and ostriches, while existing buildings will be transformed into 28 lodges,14 tents and a restaurant, which gives visitors a view of the new area.

The project will boost the zoo’s work to prevent species extinction, with the creation of conservation breeding facilities, and more natural habitats for endangered animals. Plans also include an option for the zoo to develop overnight accommodation which would incorporate an additional 42 traditional discreet African-themed lodges overlooking the Grasslands.

Check back with Attractions Management tomorrow for a look back at the highlights from October

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