Many Americans are planning summer trips to theme parks, one of the most popular vacation destinations. Theme parks offer a wide variety of attractions targeted to families. Major theme parks such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios draw diverse visitors from across the country who plan their vacations around park visits. Resort ambiance such as spas, luxurious rooms and fine dining broadens the parks’ appeal to more affluent groups.
Theme parks are big business. According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the industry earned $12 billion in 2007. Revenues — and attendance — have steadily increased over time. The Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM stated that 127 million people visited the top 20 North American theme parks in 2011, an increase of 2.9% from 2010. In 2011, 337 million people visited the world’s top 10 theme parks groups. This includes Walt Disney Attractions, Merlin Entertainment Group and Universal Studios Recreation Group. Smaller parks such as Cedar Point in Ohio, draw thrill-seeking regional crowds to ride Millenium Force, the world’s best steel roller coaster.
What types of people visit theme parks? Where do they live? Do their visits depend on the park’s attractions?
Walt Disney World Resort
Disney theme parks are the world’s most-visited theme parks with a total of 121.4 million visitors to all of its parks in 2011, according to TEA. Of Disney’s theme parks, Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., ranks No. 1 for the most visitors. In 2011, 17.1 million people visited Florida’s “Happiest Place on Earth.”
Who is most likely to visit Walt Disney World Resort in Florida? Where do they live?
People who are most likely to visit Walt Disney World Resort live along the Eastern Seaboard, in southern Florida and in parts of the West. ZIP codes with residents who would most likely go to Walt Disney World Resort are 07751 (Morganville, N.J.), 20152 (Chantilly, Va.), 77382 (Spring, Texas) and 94506 (Danville, Calif.). Residents in these ZIP codes are at least 1.5 times more likely than the average American to visit Walt Disney World Resort.
What type of American is most likely visit to Walt Disney World Resort? Esri, a geographic information systems company, developed the Tapestry™ Segmentation system that classifies U.S. residential neighborhoods into 65 unique market segments based on socioeconomic and demographic characteristics.
Residents of Boomburbs, Pleasant-Ville, Simple Living and Top Rung neighborhoods are the most likely to visit Walt Disney World Resort.
Boomburbs neighborhoods are home to busy, affluent young families with young children who live an upscale lifestyle. Most households have two incomes. Residents of Pleasant-Ville neighborhoods are prosperous married-couple families who live in single-family houses. Located primarily in the Northeast and in California, some of these middle-aged residents are nearing retirement. Simple Living neighborhoods are found in urban outskirts or suburbs across the U.S. Older singles and married-couple families with limited resources live in these neighborhoods. Top Rung residents represent the wealthiest 1% of U.S. households. They are highly-educated, married couples with and without children.
Residents in Metropolitans neighborhoods are the least likely to visit Walt Disney World Resort. These singles and married couples prefer an urbane city life. They live in single-family homes and multiunit structures in older neighborhoods. Half of them hold professional or management positions.
For thrill-ride seekers, Six Flags is a popular theme park destination. In 2011, 24.3 million people visited Six Flags parks, according to TEA. Six Flags has 18 parks, including amusement parks and water parks; 16 are located in the U.S.
Who are the thrill-ride seekers that go to Six Flags parks? Where do they live?
Visitors to Six Flags theme parks most likely live along the Eastern Seaboard, in southern Texas, on the west coast of California and in parts of Alaska. ZIP codes with residents who would most likely go to a Six Flags theme park are 11219 (Brooklyn, N.Y.), 37916 (Knoxville, Tenn.), 78705 (Austin, Texas) and 91204 (Glendale, Calif.). Residents in these ZIP codes are at least twice as likely as the average American to visit a Six Flags theme park.
What type of American is most likely to visit a Six Flags theme park? Who is the least likely?
Residents of Dorms to Diplomas, High Rise Renters, International Marketplace and Urban Melting Pot neighborhoods are most likely to visit a Six Flags theme park. All of these neighborhoods have young, diverse populations.
Dorms to Diplomas residents are focused on their education. Most are enrolled in college and graduate school. High Rise Renters neighborhoods are in densely populated urban communities, mostly in New York City. A diverse mix of cultures, many residents speak a language other than English. International Marketplace neighborhoods are a rich blend of cultures and household types. Most residents are families who live in apartments. Residents of Urban Melting Pot neighborhoods are ethnically rich and recently settled. Most residents rent apartments in the high-density urban canyons of large cities. Residents of Silver and Gold neighborhoods are the least likely to visit a Six Flags theme park. These residents are primarily affluent seniors who have retired from professional careers and moved to sunny climates.
SeaWorld theme parks are also popular. In 2011, 23.6 million people visited SeaWorld theme parks according to TEA. Three SeaWorld parks are in the U.S.: San Diego, San Antonio and Orlando, Florida.
Who is most likely to visit Shamu at SeaWorld? Where do they live?
Visitors to SeaWorld theme parks most likely live along the Eastern Seaboard, in Southern Texas and throughout the West. They are least likely to live in the Midwest and South. ZIP codes with residents most likely go to a SeaWorld theme park are 33538 (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.), 60585 (Plainville, Ill.), 86413 (Golden Valley, Ariz.) and 98851 (Soap Lake, Wash.). Residents in these ZIP codes are at least twice as likely as the average American to visit SeaWorld.
What type of American is most likely to visit a SeaWorld theme park? Who is the least likely?
Residents of Boomburbs, Senior Sun Seekers and Southwestern Families neighborhoods are most likely to visit a SeaWorld theme park. Boomburbs neighborhoods are home to busy, affluent families with young children who live an upscale lifestyle. Senior Sun Seekers residents have typically escaped cold weather to live in warmer areas. Most are retired or are close to retirement. Southwestern Families residents are ethnically diverse families and are the bedrock of Hispanic culture. Most of those who work are employed in blue-collar or service occupations.
Residents of Home Town, Rural Bypasses and Southern Satellites neighborhoods are the least likely to visit a SeaWorld theme park. Home Town neighborhoods are low-density, modest income communities that rarely change. Residents rarely move across county lines. Rural Bypasses neighborhoods are found in small southern towns along back country roads near open space, undeveloped land and farms. Unemployment is high in these communities. Residents of Southern Satellites neighborhoods are primarily married-couple families living in newer single-family houses or mobile homes. They work in manufacturing and service industries.
Why this matters
Theme parks are big business to the theme park companies as well as to the economic development agencies, hotels, restaurants and stores located near the park properties. Although visits to theme parks can be quite expensive, many Americans choose to vacation at theme parks. Properties such as Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios provide a wide variety of entertainment for the whole family and special packages for other groups. Companies that know who their visitors are can continually update their attractions, encouraging their loyal visitors to return. If companies also understand the types of consumers who would probably not visit their properties, they can tailor offerings and marketing to reach those consumers.
Smaller theme parks are often more specialized and cater to the local area. Understanding who their visitors are and where they can come can help these theme parks draw in larger crowds. Theme park companies can create promotions for specific groups to increase attendance and loyalty. Additionally, location intelligence can help the theme park adapt attractions based on demographics and lifestyles of the regional population. Companies can also co-promote attractions with local restaurants, hotels and shops to consumers within an easy drive time.
Pam Allison is a digital media, marketing strategist and location intelligence consultant. You can visit her blog at www.pamallison.com.