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Parques Reunidos Opinions

Thekingin64

Strata Poster
This is a topic that seems to come up a lot in separate threads so thought it might be an idea to try and centralise them, have been wanting to do so for a while. Feel free to lock if not suitable.

Although I don't have much experience with them personally, I do not see PR as a particularly bad company but neither will I try and defend them. Yes, in the past they may not have made much investment in their parks but that does seem to have changed recently, even if the additions still aren't amazing. I do agree both Madrid parks do feel neglected and could use some more investment then they are currently seeing, even if it is just a spruce up like Belantis seems to be getting currently. Will agree that the ride operations at Parque de Attraciones de Madrid were also pretty terrible. Yet to visit any more PR parks but do plan on visiting more this summer.

I'd also like to point out that there was a topic on this site a few years back, suggesting PR was up for sale and hence potentially has new owners:

http://coasterforce.com/forums/thre...lake-compunce-mirabilandia-up-for-sale.39620/

While I'm unsure if it was ever sold, new owners would explain the sudden investment seen from PR into their parks. These investments would have likely have been planned since the takeover and are the result of the potential new owners trying to make a name for themselves, thus helping get rid of the bad image formed by the old owners. Vekoma have done similar recently with their rebrand and new designs, taking their image away from the SLCs and Boomerangs of old Vekoma. (I have tried to mention this before in the Status section but feel it got ignored)

Since I don't have anything concrete to back myself up here, I'm not disagreeing with any of the points made previously or trying to rant or start an argument over PR here, just thought I'd add my own thoughts without clogging up other threads.
 

Matt N

CF Legend
Great topic idea!

I too personally think that Parques Reunidos are definitely not as evil as some make out. They've really splurged on investments into some of their parks recently (e.g. Star Trek, Gold Rush, Ducati World, Bobbejaanland new area), and they seem to be pretty good from reviews (well, the ones that are open, anyway.)! Belantis, a recent acquisition of theirs, also seems to have a promising future!
 

HeartlineCoaster

Theme Park Superhero
Not a fan, most of their parks tend to spite me at least a couple of creds.
They've really splurged on investments into some of their parks recently (e.g. Star Trek, Gold Rush, Ducati World, Bobbejaanland new area)
This is true though, can't deny that Movie Park and Slagharen needed those rides to make them a worthwhile visit. Same will hopefully be true for Bobbejobbe.
 

Hutch

Strata Poster
Lake Compounce and Story Land are okay.

Other than that I'm not too familiar with the company. It's kinda hard to judge them when the only two parks I've been to are quite small, and it's not like I'm expecting much out of them.
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
I feel like this thread is very much in my alley, since I've often been one of those who let my opinion of Parques Reunidos be known in other threads, most recently the Belantis one. As you know, I've considered Parques Reunidos to be the EA Games of the theme park industry: Money-grabbing corporate shills who milk their assets dry for the sake of short-term profit, making money on low effort with no care for their customer experience or the long-term reputation of their brand. Scrooges who value their shareholders first and foremost, their customers clocking in somewhere around ninth place on the list.

Well, that opinion has recently changed, after I looked up some figures.

I now consider Parques Reunidos to be more like the Enron Corporation of the theme park industry. I'm suspecting that the scheme they're running is teetering on the edge of the amoral, at the very least, although it might be fully legal, and their public image seems far removed from the real situation. Sit down and find something to eat, because this will be a long post (@Matt N, take note):

I'm not sure where to begin my explanation, but Parques Reunidos' own website seems to be as good a place as any. If you click that link, you will notice that the main focus on the website to display to investors how successful they are as a company. No matter what sub-page you visit, you will find a lot of corporate speak and buzzwords, but very little about amusement parks. The guest experience is not mentioned anywhere. Contrast the sites of Merlin Entertainment (at a .biz domain, no less!) or Six Flags, where the first thing that greets you is a map of their locations and a link to buying season passes. Financial information is available and visible, but it's given a sub-page or a little box on the side. The main focus is to attract guests. Parques Reunidos features very little other than financial information. It seems like they are primarily focused on courting potential investors.

So, what do they boast about? Let's take this prominent quote, which appears in many different places around their site, albeit reworded a little from time to time.
Parques Reunidos is the only successful leisure park operator with a worldwide presence to manage all types of parks across all segments and regions.

With 50 years’ experience, it owns and operates more than 60 parks in countries across Europe, America and Oceania.

So they're focusing on the size and diversity of their investment portfolio, and for how long they have been in the game (pretty bold, seeing as most of their locations were acquired after 2005). The site also prominently boasts of visitor numbers around 20 million per year, and their ever-growing revenue:
20181213-Factsheet-ENG-2.0.jpg

Main-financial-date-2018-ENG.jpg

They also focus on acquisitions of new locations. But one thing they don't show is a breakdown of annual visitors per location. I haven't managed to find visitor numbers from any single Parques Reunidos property from the last couple of years. Because those data are telling a bit of a different story, which the investors aren't supposed to hear:

I don't know enough languages to search for news about their other parks, but this type of information appears to find its way to the local press more easily than to official statements. I have yet to find any park of theirs that has shown to have more visitors now than it had at the time Parques Reunidos acquired it. Tellingly, in the statistics above (in the first hide tag), the chain-total visitor numbers are shown to have fallen steadily since 2014, when their last major acquisition was made according to their website (Miami Seaquarium). Indeed, it seems like there is a pretty constant chain-wide decline of the visitor numbers, that only go up when new locations are bought. Indeed, according to the TEA attendance report from 2008, Parques Reunidos had 24.9 million visitors that year. Since then, they have only grown their portfolio , they own more locations than ever (as far as I'm aware, they haven't ever got rid of any), but the number of visitors has dropped by five million over the last decade. Other chains are not doing that badly (TEA report 2017). In the meantime, Six Flags went from 25.3 million to 30.8 million, Cedar Fair from 22.7 to 25.7, Merlin from 35.2 million to 66 million. Even the famously troubled Busch Entertainment (now SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment) only saw a decline from 23 million to 20.8 million, and they were at 23.4 as late as 2013.

This all begs the question: How is a chain whose locations all keep doing worse from year to year make any money? And how is it possible for them to keep buying new locations? A theme park is not cheap, after all. Several theme parks in a few years must be even more costly. Where do they get their money from?

This brings us back full circle to their company website and its total focus on telling potential investors what a gosh-darn great company Parques Reunidos is. More than sixty locations worldwide! Operations on all continents! Twenty million visitors per year! Look at our revenue growth! The great unknown source of money, that allows this bonanza to continue, is external investment in the company. And as we all know how little money goes into the parks (Gold Rush at Slagharen, arguably the biggest coaster the company has built in the last decade, was €5 million, not a huge sum for the only big investment in 16 years in a park that sees a million visitors annually), it seems like most of this external investment goes into buying more parks. Because buying a new attraction may or may not bring a hundred thousand new visitors to that park (and by extension, to the chain), but if an entire park is bought, the chain's statistic will go up by several hundred thousand overnight. See the acquisition of Belantis, for instance, which adds a nice 600,000 visitors to that oft-quoted number of 20 million.

So this steady influx of new parks makes the terrible visitor numbers look much better (remember, they are only released on a chain-wide basis, not per park), which means more investors. "Look how much our company grows, we must be doing really good!".

But the actual prodution of value cannot possibly be above net zero. Evidently, parks bought by Parques Reunidos lose customers on an individual basis, and a park with a dwindling customer base is less valuable. Moreover, the parks are subject to the continuous wear and tear of time. Attractions will be less reliable and less attractive over time, the same goes for buildings, restaurants, infrastructure, decorations, and so on, so the total value of a park will go down steadily with age. The only way to increase it is with refurbishment or renewal, and Parques Reunidos is not doing this to a degree that upholds the quality level of their parks. It therefore seems evident that Parques Reunidos's parks are losing value over time under their management.

I therefore postulate that Parques Reunidos are not managing theme parks. They are shuffling them. Occasionally a park is thrown a bone, to build a major attraction, but I suspect this is mainly done just to have examples of development to show the shareholders. "Look, we bought Phobia, we totally aren't neglecting Lake Compounce!". The attractions are hardly impressive for parks of their size, however. Several of them built much larger attractions in past years, and have gone for many years potentially saving up for their next big investment since then. The money invested is clearly a) less than what the parks could have afforded given their size and time since the last investment, and b) probably less than what would be needed to cover the general decay of the park.

In sum, Parques Reunidos are, in a sense, appearing to cook their books. The massively decreasing popularity (and general decay) of their parks is masked inside a company-wide figure that is inflated by the steady acquisition of new properties, mainly financed using external money from investors. But the investors are sold junk assets, blinded by the company-wide figures ("Twenty million visitors! Sixty locations worldwide! Success!"). The parks taken over seem to rapidly lose value, and any income they have goes straight into the company coffers. This is not a strategy that facilitates long-term growth. Short-term profit, sure, but in the long term the parks' value dwindles towards zero. I dare even suggest that the parks are not what makes most of the money for the company, the investors are. This strategy has some eerie similarities to what is known as a Ponzi scheme, where a company makes most of its profit from investors instead of the product they are supposed to be selling. I'm not sure if they are breaking any laws, though, as we don't know what the investors are told. Some figures can be found through some looking up on Google, but Parques Reunidos might choose to disclose some numbers to investors that I haven't found myself, and they may be telling a less grim tale than the publicly available information suggests.

At some point, something has to break, and I think we're approaching this point quite soon. Their CEO recently jumped ship, and a new one got instated just last week. Time will tell if he was brought in to turn the company around, or to take the fall when the scheme is unraveled. Given the company culture so far, and the situation they have dug themselves into, my money is on the latter. Changing direction will require some major investments, and as late as 2018 Parques Reunidos acquired three more parks instead of spending the money on improvements to their existing properties. It seems like they were intending to ride it out until the bitter end, but again, that was under the old CEO. Anyway, I doubt we will have Parques Reunidos among us in ten years, or at least their presence will be much lower than today. The big question is how many of their parks will still be in operation by then.

P.S.: It's getting really late at night now, so sorry for any potential rambling here. I'll look it over in the morning.

THE NEXT MORNING EDIT:

I fixed some of the wording, put in a couple of new sources. Might as well put in a TL;DR list at the bottom too, with bullet points:
  1. As evident by their website, Parques Reunidos is mostly marketing towards their investors, rather than their customers.
  2. Their parks are all doing pretty badly. Yearly attendance figures are no longer released for any of their parks, in a possible attempt to hide this fact. Instead, the marketing (towards investors, not guests) focuses on how many visitors come to the chain as a whole.
  3. The chain increases its visitor numbers and revenue through buying more parks, rather than through managing the parks they already own.
  4. The parks, as outlined in point 2, actually lose value over time, due to general wear and tear and decreasing attractiveness. The investments into the parks appear insufficient to uphold their value in the long run.
  5. From the above, we can guess that Parques Reunidos are not generating their main income from the parks themselves, but rather from external investments into the company.
  6. This is obviously not sustainable, even though it might be completely legal (I'm no expert on this, so I won't make any statements). If point 5 is true, the company needs to change direction very soon if it wants to stay in the game for long.
 
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Kalistos

Roller Poster
I generally don't agree with your posts Pokemaniac, but this analysis is really good and interesting, I totally agree with it and may it make it clear about Parques Reunidos once and for all.
 

TheCoasterCruiser

Giga Poster
Oh wow, do I wanna chime in on this.
I wholeheartedly agree with Pokemaniac and I couldn’t really have said it better myself, so instead I’m gonna try to shed some more detailed light on the situation of a specific park they own that means a lot to me. - BonBon-Land. I feel like it's a very good example of how PR is running parks into the ground.

BonBon-Land is a park that I’ve been going to ever since I can remember and I have very fond memories of the place, but I actually haven’t gone since 2012 because I just didn’t want to anymore.

The park opened as part of a candy factory back in 1992 and from there up until 2007, it was owned and run by a passionate family who obviously really poured their heart into the place. Something you could definitely tell.
After the 2007 season, Parques Reunidos bought the place and since then it has never been the same.
Let’s take a look at some numbers shall we?

BonBon-Land had their best year ever back in 2003 when they opened the prototype Euro-Fighter “Vild-Svinet”. Here they broke their attendance record and had 616.000 guests, never to be matched again…
Under the original owner, they got 1 new (sometimes more) attraction(s) every year.
Here are just some of the attractions they got under the original ownership:

1992: Opening with a lake, candy workshop, cinema and paddle boats.
1993: Zierer Force One.
1994: Waveswinger.
1995: Log-Flume.
1998: Rapids Ride.
2000: Huss Condor.
2001: Drop Tower and Flying Carpet.
2002: Swinging Ship.
2003: Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter.
2004: Zamperla Disc’O.
2005: Flume Ride.
2006: Family Drop Tower and Driving School.
2007: Gerstlauer Spinning Coaster.

Now have a look at the years following the PR purchase:

2008: A Zierer Force Zero they had in storage (this was already taken down again in 2009).
2009: A Zierer Custom coaster relocated from Panorama Park in Germany.
2010: Zamperla Giant Discovery and 4D-Cinema (the only big investment done under PR)
2011: 5D Shooting Gallery.
2013: Small Kiddie Waterpark.
2014: ???
2015: ???
2016: ???
2017: ???
2018: VR on the aforementioned relocated Zierer.
2019: ???

To add to all of this, the park has since even been removing several bigger rides from the park.
Areas have been poorly kept, food is bad, they have even added boardwalk games (something I thought I would never see here) and the list goes on.
The place is completely derived from it’s former abundance of fun and charm and as you can see there is quite the change of pace in investments.
So how have all this affected attendance? Let me show you:

mbgEcvM.jpg


Unfortunately BonBon-Land has only made their attendance public up until 2016 (I wonder why).
Now let's compare this to another park in Denmark who has done pretty much the opposite of BonBon-Land:

5O3HOJY.jpg


As some of you probably know, Djurs Sommerland has invested heavily in new roller coasters and rides for many years now, something that especially kickstarted back in 2008 with the Intamin Mega-Lite "Piraten". They have showed no sign of stopping since then and furthermore they're also putting a huge emphasis on food, service and the overall quality of the park.
Let's see what happened in Djurs Sommerland on some of the peak years from the above graphic:

2008: Intamin Mega-Lite
2011: Mack Water Coaster
2013: Intamin Family Launch
2015: Huge new kiddie area with 10 new rides.
2017: Intamin Family Invert

And those are just the biggest years. They've also invested in high quality in the years between and next year they're getting an Intamin Gyro Swing.

Also, notice how BonBon-Land once was more popular than Djurs...

This is a prime example of what happens when you don’t invest in a place versus when you do.
I actually just checked PR's website and I **** you not, on their page of BonBon-Land they write: “Located near Copenhagen, this leisure park has the latest and the most exciting attractions in Denmark.” - That couldn’t be further from the truth!
Of course, building new big coasters is not enough. You also need a lovely park overall, so even when PR actually does invest and a park gets a new coaster, it might not even matter in the end, because they don’t care about keeping the rest of the park up to standard.

Now when all that is said, I am well aware that things might be a lot more complicated than that, but then you look at all the other parks in PR and you quickly realize that BonBon-Land is no anomaly. Now, I totally get that PR is a business, but this obviously can’t continue. With regards to BonBon-Land I honestly don’t think the place will exist in 10 years if this trend continues.

There is actually an article with an interview of the original owner where he straight out says “my heart is bleeding”, because of what has happened to his precious creation.
No doubt it's amusing to poke fun at PR, but in the end it's all really sad to be honest. This company has taken hold of places where so many fond memories for millions of people around the globe have formed and they're basically ****ting on them.

Thanks for reading along.
 
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Fluorineer

Mega Poster
See @Pokemaniac all of that adds up perfectly, but something bothers me. I think it's Movie Park.

Movie Park started out differently because it was in a terrible state after Premier Parks was "done with it", and all that was left was the sleeping potential of the theme, the enormous draw area of the Ruhrgebiet and the undeniable quality of the existing rides from a GP perspective, because yes, there's plenty of GP who take MP Xpress over Black Mamba, love Bandit and think The High Fall is reason enough to pay the entry fee. It was a park that required a different approach to most other PR acquisitions, because there wasn't that much room to "spice things up" with a cookie-cutter thrill ride, but rather the entire park required a new future-proof concept.

Van Helsing was a surprise hit, for sure. On paper, it fits as the typical kind of thing PR would put into a newly acquired park: a Gerstlauer Bobsled Coaster in a Park that already has a Wild Mouse, making use of an already existing, defunct building, very unimpressive stats... but due to the special situation of Movie Park, it happened to be a perfect fit and I believe that it was totally unintentional. After all, it's an IP that has sticked to this day - something Movie Park always had issues with, especially after all the cheap rebrands that happened under Premier Parks - it has a theme and theming perfectly fitting what the target audience wants to see, and it works in a way that people perceive the ride was much more thrilling than it actually is. In hindsight, it's brilliant and the ROI must have been incredible.

I feel like Van Helsing changed how PR looked at Movie Park compared to all their other assets, because they took over a park that wasn't ready to be milked yet, and their approach to turn it into a cash cow blew their own expectations totally out of the water. Maybe Van Helsing was the first time that PR realized how they actually have the theoretical knowledge, capacity and most importantly capital to actually build something rather than just generating cash flow, however in a chain that huge with that many parks, one single park evidently isn't enough to cause a change in business philosophy. But Movie Park is receiving constant refurbishment over the years. It still has plenty of ugly spots, but with every season they are getting less and less. Nickland is great for what it's supposed to do and a major draw for families, it's another IP that is meant to last and also flexible enough that you can easily integrate something like Paw Patrol, which won't cost much, but will be a great addition for families once more. Paw Patrol fits once again the grand scheme of cheap additions, but specifically at Movie Park, it's done right. It will most definitely work because the people responsible for Movie Park have built their expertise over the past years, since they actually had to do plenty of work with the park. Cheap additions are cheap additions, but it can certainly help if they are done by people who know their ****.

And then there is Star Trek, which is most certainly not a cheap addition. Yes, the theming is made of old computer motherboards but come on, live actors all day all season round? In a PR park? GOOD live actors? A Mack Rides launch coaster? From the company that charges more for Copperhead Strike than B&M did for Fury? A **** expensive company? That is just exceptional all things considered. Star Trek was the missing piece to put Movie Park back on the map imo. It fills another huge hole in the park in terms of defunct buildings, it works spectacularly well with the entrance plaza and it's a proper thrill ride not only for the GP, but honestly even most enthusiasts now can at least justify spending the extra day to visit Movie Park. Your day feels somewhat worthwhile now, and the general structure of the park - having a family/kids oriented half and a thrill ride half - is pretty well executed.

Long story short, I feel like the people at PR never took any pride or interest in the theme park business, and therefore they never had any intentions of trying to be a good park operator until they were forced to in order to actualize the potential of Movie Park, and to me it seems like they were so shocked about their own abilities to actually build great things, that they were **** scared and tried to lock it away, keep it isolated in that small island of a theme park called "Movie Park Germany", because if someone actually paid attention to what is happening at that place, it would falsify their entire business strategy and therefore they would have to call out their own bull****. Because then they wouldn't have an excuse for why not every park in the chain is treated like Movie Park.
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
I wholeheartedly agree with Pokemaniac and I couldn’t really have said it better myself, so instead I’m gonna try to shed some more detailed light on the situation of a specific park they own that means a lot to me. - BonBon-Land. I feel like it's a very good example of how PR is running parks into the ground.
Great post! Bonbon-Land's story seems to echo that of TusenFryd perfectly. 600,000 visitors in 2006, some investment in the first few years under Parques Reunidos (relocated coaster, Giant Discovery, small flat, a shooting dark ride, VR on the relocated coaster, lots of flats removed, not necessarily in the same order though), then an almost total lack of news in recent years. The visitor numbers hovered around 450,000 until 2016, but the numbers haven't been released since then.

I think TusenFryd is making money, however, since they make up for the guest shortfall by increasing ticket prices. And of course, the park has 23(!) manned boardwalk games, exceeding the number of mechanical attractions. TusenFryd also has no local competitor, as the only other big parks in Norway are hours away. They have a monopoly in the Oslo area, unlike Bonbon-Land, which is located much further away from big cities, and competes with Tivoli, Djurs, Legoland and probably a few other small parks. I guess PR aren't putting money into Bonbon-Land because it would take some serious effort to make it competitive with the other parks, instead they're letting it run with a deficit and cling on to it just to bolster their portfolio. TusenFryd, meanwhile, gives a return on its meager investments, so they're getting meager investments to squeeze some more money out.
 

TheCoasterCruiser

Giga Poster
I guess PR aren't putting money into Bonbon-Land because it would take some serious effort to make it competitive with the other parks, instead they're letting it run with a deficit and cling on to it just to bolster their portfolio.

This! - And I totally understand why they're not going to do it. As you said, it would take a massive effort much bigger than anything you'd expect from PR. But had it been run by a different company, who was more passionate about it and actually cared, maybe it could have gone differently. BonBon-Land is, after all, only a small hour from Copenhagen and the only true theme park in the region, with the second closest being Djurs, which will take you at least 3 hours to get to from the capital.
The original owner of BonBon-Land must have had his reasons for selling it though, so maybe it just wasn't a good business anymore and it's a lost cause. - But it still pains me to see it being neglected like this.

It would not surprise me if it closed down in the very near future and the rides would be relocated to other parks. Who knows @Pokemaniac, you might just get your next ride at TusenFryd from BonBon-Land ;)
 

Kw6sTheater

Hyper Poster
See @Pokemaniac

And then there is Star Trek, which is most certainly not a cheap addition. Yes, the theming is made of old computer motherboards but come on, live actors all day all season round? In a PR park? GOOD live actors? A Mack Rides launch coaster? From the company that charges more for Copperhead Strike than B&M did for Fury? A :emoji_poop: expensive company? That is just exceptional all things considered.

Actually, Copperhead Strike was $20 million, hence that French documentary where the MACK Rides worker said "California" instead of "Carolina" when referring to their new launch coaster being built in the States. Fury cost $25 million. Still it's crazy that MACK charged $20 million for a souped up Slinky Dog, but then again MACK's products are insanely high quality like B&M's.
 

streetmagix

Mega Poster
Actually, Copperhead Strike was $20 million, hence that French documentary where the MACK Rides worker said "California" instead of "Carolina" when referring to their new launch coaster being built in the States. Fury cost $25 million. Still it's crazy that MACK charged $20 million for a souped up Slinky Dog, but then again MACK's products are insanely high quality like B&M's.

This is slightly offtopic but B&M fabricate their track on Ohio, shipping it by road to Carowinds or Disneyland etc. Mack fabricate in Germany, with higher wages, import duties and the higher costs of sea transport. Trains also are a super expensive too and need to be shipped from Germany out to the US.

This is possibly why Movie Park Germany could get a Mack launch coaster, as the cost of shipping is less and there are no tariffs.
 
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