J. Henk Bemboom - November 2014

Innovative Pioneer J. Henk Bemboom Passes Away

by Keith Miller

The modern attractions industry lost one of its creative progenitors with the passing of J. Henk Bemboom on May 27, 2014, at the age of 93. Bemboom was the founder of Themepark & Resort Slagharen in the Netherlands, and one of his most profound contributions to the attractions industry was the introduction of pay-one-price, all-inclusive general admissions in the early 1970s, long before most other theme parks around the world adopted the strategy and made it the standard practice in the industry.

In 1963, while working as a shopkeeper in Slagharen, Bemboom noticed the growing preponderance of Dutch families with cars was increasing their mobility and causing those around Slagharen to do their shopping in larger towns and cities. He decided the best way to counter this was to find a way to attract cars to Slagharen.

So, on a piece of land around an old farmhouse, he constructed a few cottages that people could rent. He decided to give each cottage a special attraction—a Shetland pony with a cart—and the operation was named Shetland Pony Park Slagharen. The cottages soon became quite popular and rented quickly, so Bemboom built more of them and added two other attractions—a playground and a swimming pool.

As the years passed, Bemboom continued to build more cottages and add more attractions, including mechanical ones. He followed a simple principle for which he became known: “Give people value for their money and they’ll come back.” As a part of this philosophy, in 1973 he was one of the first to introduce a pioneering concept that in subsequent years would become the standard for amusement parks—all-inclusive pay-one-pricing for admissions, which allowed guests to access all attractions in a park and not have to pay for each individually.

The idea was enormously popular, and the park’s natural setting made it a desired place to visit for Dutch and international artists, as well as members of the Netherlands’ royal family. In 1980, Bemboom was knighted by the Queen of Holland; in 1990, he decided to step back from his daily operation of the park and let his children take over.

Today, the park is called Themepark & Resort Slagharen (www.slagharen.com), but it still features the cottages with Shetland ponies, along with 40 other attractions. It ranks as the second most popular tourist destination in Holland, with some 1.6 million guests per year. In 2012, the Bemboom family sold the operation to Parques Reunidos, and the park has recently undergone a revival of sorts, as €12 million (US$15.8 million) has been invested in renovations.

Of Bemboom, Angelique Klar, the current director of the resort, says: “I am most impressed with how he recognized the needs and wishes of his guests, and his ability to transform those thoughts in an efficient and down-to-earth way into new developments of the park. No fancy research experts and external advisors were needed; he just sat down on a stone near the exit of the park at the end of the day and he listened to what people were saying to each other. Simple, efficient, and, most of all, very effective!”

In 2000, Bemboom received an award from the VDV, the German Asso-ciation of Amusement Machinery & Accessory Manufacturers, for his achievements and service within the attractions industry. In 2001, he was inducted into the IAAPA Hall of Fame.