Will Koch (pictured), Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, USA: It depends on the park’s business model. Ours is based on delivering an exceptional visit to the guest. Hitting them with lots of add-ons during the day doesn’t make sense for us. We don’t charge for parking, in fact free parking is one item on a long list of things we provide for free.
Going the extra mile with free sunscreen, free inner-tubes, free waterpark admission and free soft drinks makes a big impression. When our guests go home, they talk about these things. There is another business model that many parks follow. The strategy is to get as many people in the gate as possible at a low admission price, and then make up the difference through high food prices and lots of add-ons. In this business model, the low admission price is the key, not the quality of the visit, so there is less concern about how the guest perceives the additional charges. Another issue with charging for parking is that guests confuse the cost of parking with the cost of admission and think of the parking charge as an add-on for each guest, and do not divide it by the number of passengers in the vehicle. So, I think that high fees for parking can have a negative impact beyond the amount of the fee.
Hogne Høstmælingen, Hunderfossen, Norway: My opinion is that we gain more in total by charging for car parking. It would not be possible to generate this turnover by increasing the number of guests or the entry fee. People in Norway are used to paying for car parking everywhere, and we have very few complaints on this matter.
Angela Wright, Crealy Great Adventure Parks, UK: We invite our guests to come to the park in a variety of ways, and we encourage the use of public transport. Those arriving by bus, for example, are entitled to a discount on the gate. However, we do not charge for car parking; I think it’s a cultural thing and may be more accepted in the States. The secondary charges we make within the park are generally only for things that are optional. One way I think we could make some revenue from parking is if we offered to clean people’s cars while they are in the park.
Christopher Thorpe, Darien Lake Theme Park Resort, USA: I have always felt that the best strategy for profit is driven by accommodating your guests’ demands and concerns and providing exceptional guest service. To charge for parking or not to charge is a consistent debate in our industry and I think careful observations of your guests’ needs drives the decision. We offer multiple parking options for our guests. Season pass holders receive free or discounted parking as a benefit, day trip guests have the opportunity to park in our regular lot, preferred lot or VIP lot at prices ranging from $8 to $25. Group Sales guests often receive parking benefits associated with their events.