Night Fever - March 2017

Attractions in Europe are embracing the dark hours as an additional revenue stream

by Juliana Gilling

Attractions are making it so people no longer have to choose between a day out and a night out. The trend for attraction-as-nightclub is popping up all over the world, as operators capitalize on their eye-catching facilities, entertainment talent, security expertise, and hospitality.

Attractions are creating nightclub-style offerings for millennials hungry for new experiences and older audiences looking for something more adventurous than a night in with a Spotify playlist. We take a look at European facilities that are keeping the beats going.

Ride the Musical Wave

The centerpiece of the Splashworld Provence water park in Monteux, France, is “Da Wave,” recognized by the Guinness World Records as the world’s tallest flowboarding wave. Splashworld President and CEO Frederic Bouvard aimed to optimize the investment in the surf simulator by using it to extend the facility’s operating season and opening hours.

“When I designed the park, I put ‘Da Wave’ in a self-contained area named the Wave Club, which features a restaurant, toilets, changing rooms, and two night bars (one indoor and one outdoor). That way we could operate the area year-round if needed—and late at night—independently from the water park,” he says.

At night, the area becomes the Wave Club Lounge. Bouvard hoped to entice guests to stay on after the park closed (Splashworld operates around 100 days a year) to watch pro-surfer shows and have dinner and drinks. “However, we quickly saw that instead of keeping the water park’s family clientele, the place became hugely popular with young (and older) adults, looking for more than quiet cocktails with lounge music—they wanted a place to party. Following guest demand, we turned the lounge into an outdoor club,” he explains.

When the park shuts at 7 p.m., the team stages a dance/surf show in the Wave Club to attract guests. Families who have spent the day at the park normally have dinner there starting at 7:30 p.m. “Step by step, we start to welcome a different clientele who come to enjoy dinner in a unique setting,” says Bouvard. “The switch is really made thanks to the music. Until 9:30/10 p.m. we keep playing lounge/soft electro music. Then, we slowly turn up the beat and turn it into clubbing music, as we encourage families with young kids to leave.”

Guests can expect popular DJs, shows, special effects, and a live concert once a month. The Wave Club invites people to “have fun in a truly amazing—yet safe—place and be in bed by 2 a.m.,” says Bouvard. He sees the Wave Club as an appetizer for French clubbers who go on to party at other venues until dawn. 

Addressing neighbors’ complaints about sound levels in the open-air venue has been the only real challenge. Security is always paramount. The club has a comprehensive video-surveillance system, and staff enforce a zero-tolerance policy. “It is also important to have a good manager. We are lucky to have Dorian Trecco, who performed excellently throughout the season, from setting up a great party program to making our guests feel at home,” says Bouvard.

Bouvard’s business plan for the Wave Club forecast around 400 guests per night. In reality, “attendance last summer ranged between 1,000-1,500 guests, and from 3,500-4,000 guests for special events,” he says. Admission fees start at i10 for men, with free entry for women, except for special events where everyone is charged €i15-30 depending on the featured performers.  

The Wave Club operates on Friday and Saturday nights indoors (in the restaurant) from April 1 to May 20 and from Sept. 15 until Oct. 31. From June 4 to Sept. 15, the open-air club operates daily, weather permitting.

In 2017, Bouvard plans to enhance the venue’s lighting and special effects, open a VIP-style, chill-out area for older guests, and hold bigger special events.

The Wave Club “represents a sixth of our gross income. Also, because it attracts a different clientele, it smooths out any issues we could experience throughout our water park season, attendance-wise,” says Bouvard. “It has exceeded our expectations, and we are very pleased to have added a ‘second leg’ to our business. We thought it would be an added revenue stream. We realize now that the Wave Club is a stand-alone profit center, which we can develop alone, outside of our Splashworld parks.”

Europa-Park’s Vampish Mix

Europa-Park in Rust, Germany, offers two nightclub experiences. Night.Beat.Angels joined the established Vampire’s Club on the park’s entertainment calendar last season. Vampire’s Club is a fang-tastic celebration that takes place weekends during “Horror Nights,” Europa-Park’s award-winning Halloween evening event.

Night.Beat.Angels marked a new direction for the park. Having successfully presented shows and party formats, the entertainment team wanted to introduce a program that combined both elements. “Also, I wanted to create a high-quality, sensual show especially for adults,” adds Thomas Mack, managing partner of Europa-Park.

Night.Beat.Angels returns for 21 dates from April 28 to June 24, 2017. The event starts at 9:30 p.m., with an after-show party that runs from 11:15 p.m. to around 3 a.m. The action takes place inside the baroque-style Teatro dell’Arte in the park’s Italian-themed area. By day, the theater hosts a colorful variety show. By night, it takes guests (aged 18+) on a “seductive journey into a dizzying world” filled with hypnotic beats, devilishly hot acrobats, and glamorous dancers. Skillful staging, light projections, surround sound, and fire and wind effects ensure the festivities are a feast for the senses.

“With more than 30 artists, Night.Beat.Angels is secret underground clubbing at its best in an extraordinarily stylish location,” says Mack.

Its predecessor, the Vampire’s Club, “is a proper nightclub experience in the station of the ‘Poseidon’ water coaster, which is transformed after the park closes into this unique venue,” he explains. Undead characters interact with guests while live DJs spin the decks for dancers and clubbers. There’s also an impressive light show and a well-stocked bar.

People who want to visit the Vampire’s Club must first purchase a “Horror Nights” ticket. Last year, tickets were available from i29 with entry to the nightclub costing €i5 extra. The Vampire’s Club can entertain around 400 guests per evening.

Tickets for Night.Beat.Angels are also available from i29 and are limited to around 300 per show. The admission price includes the show and party program as well as one drink. Guests can also take advantage of VIP packages and early-bird specials.

It’s not always easy to create nightclub experiences in a park environment. Mack recalls the challenge of finding the right show/party format, story, first-class artists, and DJs. The short turnover time between daytime and evening means the team has to get the logistics right. Mack points to the park’s “well-trained staff and excellent infrastructure.”

Marketing also had to convince guests to make a special trip to Europa-Park, when they could go club-hopping in nearby cities, instead. “However, this is an opportunity at the same time. Night.Beat.Angels guests usually stay the whole evening,” says Mack.

“With our nightclub experiences we are able to extend our exclusive show and party program, and address new target groups,” he says. Mack considers these events part of Europa-Park’s continuing goal to “expand what we have to offer at all times” and to “provide people with unforgettable moments.”

Armin van Buuren Spins a van Gogh-Inspired Set

Grammy-nominated DJ Armin van Buuren recently teamed with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam to share a fresh perspective on the artist’s work. Last October, he performed live in the museum’s entrance hall to celebrate the launch of “Embrace Vincent.” Van Buuren collaborated with the museum on this special edition of its multimedia guide. The project sought to highlight Van Gogh’s relevance to modern audiences.

In the guide, Van Buuren linked 11 of van Gogh’s masterpieces to tracks on his new album, “Club Embrace,” and offered personal interpretations. “When the opportunity arose for me to use my music to introduce young people to this art, I had to grab it,” he says. More than 20,000 people have listened to one or more of the “stops” (fragments) of “Embrace Vincent.” 

Van Buuren’s live show was broadcast around the world via two, 25-minute Facebook Live streams, reaching more than 9 million fans. Dazzling light projections of van Gogh’s works, drawn from the museum’s collection, provided the backdrop. “Embrace Vincent” was a joint initiative with ALDA Events.

According to the museum’s director,  Axel Rüger, “The combination of music and art enables us to reach out to a new and different target group.”