August 2015

Summer Hits

As the August 2015 edition of Funworld celebrates the year’s new rides and attractions, Funworld Extra highlights new projects at Scandinavia’s summer parks 

by Juliana Gilling

In the summer months, Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians head en masse to their favourite “summerlands.” These seasonal parks have defied short summers and unsettled weather to become a Scandinavian success story since they started offering leisure activities in the 1970s and 1980s. Most combine amusement and water parks. Largely dependent on loyal visitors, summer parks lure people back year after year with new rides, entertainment, and water slides. Now operators want to expand into accommodation as a way of increasing guest stay and spend. 

Djurs Sommerland

Djurs Sommerland Adds Capacity
Danish amusement park Djurs Sommerland unveiled Bondegårdsland for 2015. The €6 million children’s land is the latest in a series of investments in the park totaling more than €40 million over the past five years. 

According to CEO Henrik B. Nielsen, these investments—coupled with a focus on delivering “unique, quality guest experiences” and raising customer satisfaction ratings—have increased visitor numbers by 30 percent over the same period. This season Nielsen is hoping to surpass 2013’s record high of 752,000 visitors. Attendance at the end of July 2015 was up 10 percent on 2014, “which is very good considering that the weather has not been as summery as last year,” he says.
Bondegårdsland substantially increases the park’s offerings. It features a family roller coaster and an interactive carousel among 10 new rides from companies including Zamperla, Metallbau Emmeln, Wooddesign, and Zierer. Jora Entertainment designed the farm-themed world, which is filled with brightly coloured tractors, animal-themed rides, thatched buildings, and matching F&B and shops. The 10,000-square-metre area replaces the little Lilleputland, which was narrowly targeted at smaller children. Bondegårdsland is one of eight themed areas at the park.

Bondegårdsland is partly a response to the rise of blended families, which often have children of different ages. “We could see that older children visiting the area with their families were quickly looking for something else to do,” explains Nielsen. “We decided to broaden the target group for the area so that, instead of being for 3- to 6-year-olds, it would be for 3- to 11-year-olds. Then the whole family could stay together for a longer time.”

Djurs Sommerland
While popular, Lilleputland was showing its age compared to newer attractions. “Also, when we did Lilleputland in 1995, the park had 350,000 visitors. Now we have 705,000 to 750,000, so the capacity in that area was not sufficient,” says Nielsen.

Nielsen intends to strengthen the core park product and increase capacity before developing accommodation facilities. Djurs Sommerland, which dates back to 1981, is Scandinavia’s biggest summerland and Denmark’s fourth largest amusement park based on visitor numbers. Families can enjoy more than 60 rides at the park, over a kilometre of water slides at the Aqua Park, and extensive parklands. Tickets start at DKK245 (€33).

“By 2025, we are looking to turn Djurs Sommerland into a short-break destination park,” says Nielsen. “If you want to be successful with accommodation you need to have a product that gives people a reason to stay overnight and go to the park twice. Operating an amusement park with accommodation is a totally new ballgame. Our organisation has to be ready for it.” 

He hopes offering accommodation will smooth out the seasonal attendance swings that affect summer parks generally: “On a weekday at the beginning of the season we could do less than 1,000 visitors and on Wednesday (July 22) we had a record day with more than 20,000. It’s a huge difference,” he says. The park team has to be flexible to mitigate the effects of seasonality, bringing in enough employees to deliver a quality product while exercising rigorous cost control. 

Maximising guest spend is a challenge at summerlands where people are welcome to bring picnics. “When 50 percent of guests bring their own food to the park for one meal, it is important that we extend their stay so they buy their second meal here. That means more rides, more capacity, and more entertainment,” says Nielsen.

The family-owned park is open from May 1-Oct.18 in 2015 (the Aqua Park opens from May 30- Aug. 23). A “Magical Halloween” event (Oct. 10-18) rounds off the season. This is the sixth year Djurs Sommerland has opened for Halloween. Nielsen saw the event as an opportunity to stretch the season without cannibalising existing business. Djurs Sommerland benefits from high numbers of repeat visitors—more than 70 percent—many of whom return outside the summer months to experience Halloween. 

“We only open the park when it makes economic sense. Basically, we have as few opening days as possible. That leaves us with a better return on investment and the possibility of doing new rides every year,” says Nielsen. He hopes that strategy translates into better attendances and higher spending—key advantages in a competitive parks market where guests demand fresh reasons to return frequently. 

www.djurssommerland.dk

Djurs Sommerland: Investment Timeline
2008 “Piraten” roller coaster (Intamin): €7.4 million. Visitor numbers: 528,023.
2011 “Skatteøen” water coaster (Mack Rides): €8 million. Visitor numbers: 662,410.
2012 “Solguden” family carousel (Zierer). Visitor numbers: 623,000. 
2013 Europe’s first double-launch coaster, “Juvelen” (Intamin): €9.4 million. Visitor numbers: 752,000.
2015 Bondegårdsland children’s area: €6 million.

Djurs Sommerland

Fårup Sommerland Hotel to Open in 2016 

Denmark’s family-owned Fårup Sommerland has long had a reputation as a pioneer. Fårup was Scandinavia’s first “summerland” when it opened in 1975 and it made a splash with a water park in 1989. The pay-one-price destination is now one of Denmark’s largest tourist attractions. While families’ reasons for visiting remain much the same as the early days, now they are as likely to find roller coasters like “Orkanen” and “Falken” as rowing boats and water playgrounds at the park. Next year, Fårup’s president, Søren Kragelund, plans to launch a hotel in the heart of the amusement park.
“In 2015, Fårup Sommerland will have been part of North Jutland tourism for 40 years and the park is more popular than ever. Hotel Fårup will strengthen and increase tourism, not just for Fårup Sommerland, but the entire region. With the construction of the hotel, we hope to attract new customers who are looking for experiences, convenience and short stays,” says Kragelund.
The four-star hotel represents an investment of DKK45 million (€6 million). It will offer 51 rooms, reflecting Fårup Sommerland’s forest setting. “The hotel will be themed in true Fårup style, with plenty of cosy and fun details which are known from the park,” says Kragelund. Guests will enjoy panoramic views of the roller coasters from their rooms.  

Faarup

For 2015, two new water slides have arrived at Fårup’s water park. “Water Cannon” is the world’s first outdoor Double-AquaLoop and a “really wild ride,” says Kragelund. Sliders are sealed into a tube high above ground. A trapdoor opens, sending them into a virtual freefall. The high-speed ride leads to two loops before a final splashdown. The second slide is the steep “Waterfall.” The 35-metre-long water slide presents thrill seekers with a rapid drop. Aquarena and Scan Water were the companies behind the two slides. 

New attractions support Fårup’s efforts to widen its target group beyond a regional audience. “Additional guests must come from tourists—both internationally and nationally—in order to extend the season,” says Kragelund. He had expected 610,000 guests in 2015, but wet and windy weather in the pre- and peak-season had led to a 3 percent downturn in attendance by mid-July. Peak tickets typically cost DKK240 (€32), but prices vary over the season according to demand. This year Fårup’s season runs from May 1-Sept. 13; the park opens again in the autumn holiday (Oct. 9-17).

faarup

Service is a priority, especially for a park facing the challenges of a relatively short season and inclement weather. Kragelund relies on Fårup’s training program, which is delivered through the Fårup Academy (it also offers courses for other businesses). “We need to perform 150 percent each day that we are open,” he says. “Our employees deliver not only a great service, but are also very efficient. All of them are service-oriented, open-minded, and team-spirited. The average length of employment for seasonal employees is seven years, so we believe people feel at home with us.”

“We would like to be known for our quality service,” he continues. “We believe it is an essential part of a great experience in an amusement park, along with exciting, family-oriented attractions. We want guests to leave after a day in the park with a sense of satisfaction and value for money.” With 99.4 percent of guests leaving satisfied, 82 percent re-visiting the following year, and increased per-cap sales, the signs suggest this Sommerland is heading in the right direction. 

www.faarupsommerland.dk

Juliana Gilling is a contributing editor for IAAPA’s Funworld magazine, covering the European attractions industry. Contact her at julianagilling@gmail.com.