The shrieks from roller-coaster cars and the splashes of flume rides are as much a part of the summer ambiance as the play-by-play of a baseball game and the whine of mosquitoes.
And if you’re looking for a colorful story premise on just about any beat – technology, health care, personal finance, retail sales and beyond – it’s hard to beat an amusement park story for color and consumer interest. The amusement park business is not just peanuts. According to a report this week from Reuters, theme park revenue this year is expected to hit $13.4 billion, up more than 2 percent over 2012.
Several stories making headlines are ripe for localizing, and remember, if you don’t have a major theme park nearby, you can apply many of the same questions to any entertainment venue, from zoos to water parks to traveling carnivals. But chances are there’s an amusement park that audiences in your market will want to read more about. A website called ThemeParkCity.com offers a state-by-state directory of parks in the United States and beyond, as well as background information about the industry.
This just-out Gannett feature would be interesting for a business of health care reporter to localize. It discusses theme park policies for disabled guests, including autistic guests who parents say have a difficult time waiting in standard lines. It would be interesting to evaluate area parks not only for their corporate policies regarding wait times, but for general accessibility issues, Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, and the like – what can special-needs patrons expect at venues near you?
Another aspect of handicapped access was addressed recently in articles about people hiring disabled persons to accompany them at parks like DisneyWorld, in order to help larger parties skip lines. What about current and future designs? We all know that throughout the 20th century most thrill rides were not friendly to disabled people. Are roller-coaster and ride designers keeping all potential patrons in mind these days? How are new facilities at your area parks being planned to include everyone? What are the challenges in designing rides that won’t be harmful to people with health and mobility issues?
On a related notes, accidents at theme parks and carnivals are always of interest to readers. Read about safety issues in this Nolo.com primer, and check out some anecdotes at RideAccidents.com. Also, check with state regulators for official reports and inspection schedules. And don’t forget about food safety as well as mechanical ride safety.
As a gauge of the local economy, theme park staffing/hiring, season-ticket sales, hotel bookings, merchandise sales and the like can be telling. Recent articles have suggested that parks are offering discounts, promotions and even layaway to lure budget-minded travelers; the Cedar Point park in Ohio is offering “four easy payments” for travel packages to its resort. As a personal finance story, outlining typical costs for a day or a weekend at a theme park, plus ways to save, is always popular. (Readers like to know behind-the-scenes info, too, so the flip side would be a profile of worker duties and wages; companies keep these close to the vest but you can seek out former employees on message boards and the like as a starting point.) ThemeParkInsider seems to have some interesting tips and discussions.
Another economic angle is investing. Many park companies are publicly traded and their share price ups and downs, management interviews and annual reports could provide interesting insight into their take on the consumer spending outlook. Here’s a recent Yahoo! Finance report, “Theme Park Stocks Thrill as Customers Loosen Up,” to get you started.
Also, you might want to sign up for the daily e-mail version of Amusement Today, hands-down my favorite trade journal. The publication is chock-full of information about the amusement, theme and carnival industry.