For any of you savvy in Internet technologies, you are certainly familiar with the term Web 2.0. The term gained popularity a handful of years ago as a description of the evolution of the World Wide Web that went from being primarily a means to retrieve information to a medium where we actively and easily contribute to and interact with the content through blogs, social networking, wikis, video sharing, and so forth.
As the world slowly works its way out of the most recent recession, some are starting to talk about a rebirth of amusement parks, even going so far as to use the term 'Theme Park 2.0,' the next level of amusement parks. Amusement parks certainly boomed in the 1970s where many new ones were built, and numerous existing ones went through extensive development. That led to a saturation of many markets by the 1980s and eventually the demise of many in the years since.
About the same time the term Web 2.0 was becoming popular, park attendance was becoming mostly stagnant in the United States leading to discounting at parks for the next several years in an attempt to improve attendance. Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services, estimates that spending by parks has risen 30 - 35 percent over the past two years, which we have seen and is good news for all of us.
Part of that spending is being credited to the overwhelming success of the Harry Potter experience at Universal Orlando. Executives of the park claim that it has boosted attendance by 50%, leading to new attendance records never before seen there. Another reason is most likely attempts by United States parks to encourage people to spend money here, and not in overseas parks, where an expanding middle class around the world has led to an explosion of theme park construction.
Speigel says that ride manufactures who met in November for the annual IAAPA convention "have never been busier" and "literally, they're almost at capacity for the next couple of years."
Will this 'Theme Park 2.0' lead to more immersive experiences at our local parks, or will it be reserved for the theme park hot spots of Orlando and southern California? Only time will tell.
For additional information on this story, please see Reuters.