As a vice president in the Chicago office of Economics Research Associates, Dan Martin knows a thing or two about market trends. And any way you look at them, his numbers indicate a slowdown. "[The economic situation] is affecting waterparks and waterpark hotels by fundamentally lowering potential revenue," he says.
As a result, operational changes have been made on many levels, from marketing to hours of operation.
Martin's recommendation for aquatics professionals: Play it smart. Though your initial reaction might be to cut staff and reduce the marketing budget, you may want to think twice, he says. For example, if you'll have to spend a large amount of money on retraining, that reduction in staff may be more costly in the long run.
Marketing is another area that may seem expendable, but ultimately, tough times make it even more important. As a service provider, you've now got to work that much harder to make consumers want to spend their limited dollars on what you're offering. Promotions might be one option to consider, Martin suggests. For instance, you may want to push your season pass as a value proposition.
Where should you consider making cuts? Start by assessing your subsidiary revenue streams, such as food and beverage or arcade, he suggests.
While these strategies may offer a smart solution, Martin does not pretend to suggest that they're a cure-all. Looking specifically at the waterpark resort segment, he expects more properties particularly those in remote locations or carrying large debt ratios to either cut hours drastically or fold completely.
In the long run, the downturn may not be a bad thing.
"It will force operators to look at their business models and some of the changes may be worth keeping, even when times are better," he says.