Case Study

For nearly twenty years, Walibi parks catered to loyal, family visitors.  When theme park giant, Six Flags, bought the Walibi parks in 1997, they re-branded and re-positioned the parks into the more action-oriented type of parks favored by youth.  Profit in the youth market is driven by volume (heavy discounting policies), rather than the per visitor yield (high in-park spending) of families, and this re-positioning required a significant investment in large-scale rollercoasters.  Unfortunately, these major investments were made just before the European economy slowed in 2003, and the more unpredictable income streams of the youth market were not able to match the company’s expectations.

When financial reality forced Six Flags to pull out of the European market altogether in 2004, StarParks acquired their seven parks.  The Executive Management Team of StarParks foresaw unrealized potential and worked with the parks’ local management teams on the five StarParks Principles:

1. Develop Premium Brands
The Walibi brand was re-instated in 2005 and targeted marketing messages focused on the traditional family visitor using local channels.

2. Leverage Core Attraction Strengths
A multi-year plan for marketable CAPEX targeted to families was created and implemented to increase equity value of the attractions.  An expensive array of licensed properties were replaced, and park facilities were upgraded.

3. Increase Per Cap Visitor Spend
Value added promotions for family visitors were emphasized over discount promotion, and the overall offering, including food, beverage and retail items, was enhanced to better support park branding.

4. Streamline Operations
Group purchasing and delivery programs, which maximized group synergy while maintaining local autonomy, reduced cost of goods sold by 6%, increased gross profit by 8%, and reduced inventory levels to within an industry-accepted level of 15% of revenues.

5. Nurture a Strong Local Team
The local management teams were empowered, in large part through a new management incentive plan and management training.

Within two years, StarParks helped build financially-sound, professionally- managed parks for their local communities, staff and management.  When StarParks sold the Walibi parks in 2006, investors were rewarded with a 2.4 times return on investment.