Parks Keep Amusing During Downturn

Although some analysts are forecasting a long, hard summer for theme parks, at least a few giants of the amusement world seem to be doing just fine despite the sluggish economy.

Dennis Speigel, president of industry consultant International Theme Park Services, told it’s only a matter of time before parks take a dive.

"We’re not seeing any good information out there that points to a stellar season," Speigel said. "We’re putting our chips on a flat-to-down season."

Still, Walt Disney Co. recently reported that net income rose 22 percent last quarter, with revenues at the company’s parks up 11 percent to $2.7 billion compared with the same period last year.

It appears the company’s parks have benefited from the weak U.S. dollar in recent times, seeing a 25 percent increase in international visitors from a year ago, the Wall Street Journal reported. CEO Robert Iger told the paper the company is well positioned to offer "moderately priced" and "value priced" hotel packages during this "difficult economic cycle."

Similarly, Six Flags Inc. recently reported attendance at its parks grew 19 percent to more than 1.4 million in the first quarter. Revenues were up 35 percent to $68.2 million, reflecting a $4.52 spending increase per park guest compared with last year.

But unlike Disney’s international boost, Six Flags is focusing on keeping regional visits up by promoting new attractions, as well as lowering prices at many of its parks.

"The improvement in our first quarter performance reflects the increasing demand for the high quality, close to home, value proposition Six Flags offers in this tightening economy," Six Flags CEO Mark Shapiro said in a statement. "With a new attraction in every one of our theme parks, we are poised to deliver a memorable experience for the entire family this summer."

Cedar Fair Entertainment, which operates 11 regional parks in the U.S., is taking a different approach to keeping visitor numbers up by "adding value" to current tickets and season passes with extended hours, parking and other amenities, spokeswoman Stacy Frole told

In addition, select Cedar Fair parks will also feature summer concerts, Frole said.