Vacationers Turn to Amusement Parks

by Gabe Bullard on August 8, 2008

As Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom spokesperson Carolyn McClean walks through the park, she points out how the crowds have changed.

“We’ve seen an increase in folks that are coming from outside of our core market,” she says. “Often we talk to a lot of people that are walking the park and they’re coming from Nashville, Bowling Green, West Virginia, Lexington, and they’re doing sort of what we call a staycation.”

At the beginning of the summer, travel experts predicted the ‘staycation’ trend. They said Americans would be more likely to save money this season by forgoing long-distance family vacations and staying closer to home. That’s what Robin Burris of Cecilia, Kentucky decided to do. Her family used to take vacations to places like…

“Hilton Head, Florida, California.”

But not anymore.

“Prices were too high,” says Burris. “We checked around on different prices on different resorts and things and we just decided to stay close to home.”

And all those so-called staycationers are a boon for an urban theme park like Kentucky Kingdom.

“We feel very fortunate,” says McClean. “The economy is definitely tight, but our business has remained up and good.”

But for a park that’s farther away from an urban area, the story is a little different.

“The economy probably affects us two different ways and they tend to go in two different directions.”
Will Koch is the President of the Holiday World amusement park in Santa Claus Indiana, about 70 miles west of Louisville.

“A lot of people have had some extra costs added in to their monthly budgets that they hadn’t been prepared to spend and so I think there are some folks out there who just have to find a way to fit the budget on a month to month basis,” he says.

Like Kentucky Kingdom, Holiday World is getting more visitors who can’t afford a trip to places like Florida, but it also has lost customers whose annual vacation was a day or two at the amusement park.

“Those folks may choose to delay a trip to a park like ours and say, ‘Oh we’ll go the next year,’ or that kind of thing,” says Koch.

Both Holiday World and Six Flags haven’t released their summer numbers. But the Cedar Fair Company, which runs the King’s Island and Cedar Point amusement parks in Ohio, just announced an increase of about 1 million visitors across its 11 amusement parks.

Back at Kentucky Kingdom, staycationer Robin Burris says if the financial roller coaster continues on its current course, she’ll be riding a real one again next summer.

“If things don’t change in the economy, oh yeah,” says Burris.

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