When people ask me about funology i talk about this quasi-science’s testbeds or parties and festivals. Today i want to write about amusement parks.
Willow, his half brother Fabian, Hawina, Micha and Wieneke and i all went to the Dutch amusement park called the Efteling yesterday. We arrived early and closed the place. It was cold and gray, which it turns out is the perfect weather for going to this successful theme park, because there were virtually no lines on any of the rides. Fabian went on this boat ride 10 times, Willow went 8. My stomach could only handle 3.
The Efteling is a vibrant successful theme park with 4 million visitors a year employing 3,000 (mostly) locals at the height of the season. Part of what makes a theme park work is adding new attractions. This year is the 60th anniversary of the park and they added a new light and water show.
Sixty years ago (just 7 years after the second world war which devastated this country, the main port of Rotterdam had not yet been rebuilt) the park was built around the idea of showcasing fairytale stories. It has grown to a more classical theme park with roller coasters and other rides since then.
Twenty years ago what was then called EuroDisney was built at the staggering cost of US$4 billion). DisneyLand Paris (as it is now called) has lost money for almost every year of operation. Part of the reason is the 36 million Euros a month (about US$50 million) it must pay in interest for the original construction. But with 15 million visitors a year (more than either the famous Paris art museum the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower) DisneyLand Paris cant seem to turn this situation around. DisneyLand Paris employs in about the same visitor to employ ratio as the Efteling, with 12,000 staff.
There are lots of contributing factors beyond the crushing debt payments. One of the largest is alcohol. For almost 20 years Disney has banned alcohol at the park. The park is located in one of the best wine growing regions in France and the French simply refuse to eat without drinking. Thus the per visitor expenditures are well below what is forecasted. This November, after the CEO resigned, Disney is finally reversing this policy. The other reason often sited for the financial failing of this park is the interference by US decision makers at Disney in the operation of this European park.
As with so many ventures, the key to success is respecting the local culture.
All still photos credit Michael Engelhardt