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  • Writer's pictureVirginia Erti, Sabrina Frigerio, Sara Piazza

Gardaland in the global competitive environment of theme parks

The size of the amusement park market worldwide grew consistently until 2019, reaching a turnover of USD 73.5 billion. However, this growth came to a halt with the advent of the pandemic, resulting in a loss of 20% in 2020. It must be taken into account that due to the pandemic, the government kept amusement parks open for 17 weeks in 2020 and only 16 in 2021.

It is expected, however, that in this increasingly innovative and recreational sector, the size will grow again and reach USD 89 million by 2025.

Theme parks are a public or commercial place of entertainment and/or education intended for everyone. The theme allows the visitor to build a world that, although designed and built ad hoc, allows the visitor to immerse himself in a unique and emotionally rich experience, offering him a tour that follows a very specific thread. The theme can be found in every environment of the park, together with secondary themes that characterize specific areas, thanks to the use of stimuli that affect the sensorial spheres of the individual.

The first modern theme park concept can be found in California with Disneyland and was opened to the public in the summer of 1955. Disneyland is part of the theme parks owned by Walt Disney Attraction, a group that ranks first in the global scenario thanks to its parks located all over the world (United States, Asia and Europe), with a turnover of around 17 billion dollars in 2021. Following Walt Disney is OCT Limited Park China, Universal Studios and Merlin Entertainment Group. Merlin Entertainment is a major player in family entertainment, with parks such as Gardaland and Legoland.

Gardaland was inaugurated on 19 July 1975 following an idea of Livio Furini. In 2004 Gardaland Hotel was created, an epoch-making event for the park that marked its transition from being an attraction pole, where you could spend a few hours having fun, to a destination pole worthy of a longer stay.

Qualitative research conducted through in-depth interviews with 11 individuals including boys, girls and mothers of children showed that 75% were satisfied with their Gardaland experience and would not be willing to organize a trip abroad specifically to visit a theme park. The word amusement park conjures up fun, summer, friends, light-heartedness but also queue for all respondents.

To investigate this further, a quantitative CAWI (Computer Aided Web Interviewing) analysis was then conducted. This is a methodology that allows the respondent to fill out the questionnaire independently, with a duration of approximately 11 minutes depending on the parks visited by the respondent. The questionnaire was administered to 215 people, mainly from Lombardy. The sample was predominantly female and belonging to GenZ, i.e. born between 1995 and 2015.

The sample was analysed through different analyses. In order to carry out a proper segmentation by homogeneity, the classic mode was used, consisting of a Factor Analysis first and then a Cluster Analysis. The result of this analysis was the identification of 3 clusters which we defined as follows:

The first cluster, named "The Imaginative", is driven by choice drivers such as atmosphere and shows, and the attractions they prefer are those Gardaland defines as "Adventure", namely Escape from Atlantis, Jungle Rapids and Colorado Boat.

The second cluster, "The Thoughtful", is less inclined towards adrenalin attractions, and prefers Mr Ping's Noodle Surprise or Peppa Pig's Hot Air Balloon. Of the three clusters, he is the one most likely to visit a park dedicated to cinema rather than entertainment.

At last, the third cluster “The fearless”, as can be guessed from the name, is the one who most appreciates 'adrenaline' attractions, such as Blue Tornado, Oblivion and Raptor. This third cluster is the one most inclined to visit a theme park abroad, which is why we have come up with the 2x1 ticket, this ticket consists of a discount for admission to Gardaland when the user goes/decides to go to a park abroad belonging to the Merlin Entertainment group, of which Gardaland is part.

With the multiple linear regression analysis we noticed that the items that have the greatest impact on the overall satisfaction of the respondents are choice of music and queue. In order to reduce the queue we came up with a queue seat reservation system through an existing application. In this way, people can avoid spending hours in the sun standing in a queue and in the meantime take advantage of other services offered by the park, such as restaurants or bars.

The correspondence analysis allowed us to understand how Gardaland is positioned in relation to the most internationally known amusement parks. This analysis showed that the adjectives most frequently attributed to Gardaland are: adrenaline, neglected, crowded and fun. Gardaland does not cover the area of parks dedicated to children in which Legoland excels, followed by Disneyland Paris.

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