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Tuesday, Jul 23, 2024

Home But Not Alone

It’s the upside of the downside: While the hotel business has taken a nose dive, local amusement parks are expected to log 2008 attendance that is flat or down slightly from 2007.

According to the latest statistics from the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, attendance for local attractions, including the San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park, Legoland California and SeaWorld San Diego, was 11.8 million, down 0.5 percent through October versus the same period in 2007.

What’s so great about that? It’s all relative.

David Peckinpaugh, CEO at ConVis, says he thinks families are vacationing close to home to save money during stressful economic times. However, they’re still willing to shell out the price of admission to visit local theme parks and the parks have been able to draw consistent attendance from Orange and Los Angeles counties as well.

Record Pace?

Peckinpaugh says he heard that Legoland California in Carlsbad anticipates record 2008 attendance.

The theme park doesn’t release figures, but spokeswoman Beth Downing confirmed that the numbers are up from 2007.

“I wish that I could say what it is, because it’s really good,” Downing said.

SeaWorld San Diego also declined to give an attendance projection for 2008.

“While we don’t speak to the specifics of our annual attendance, in light of the current global economic situation, we have been very pleased with our attendance this year,” said Andy Fichthorn, SeaWorld general manager. “We did see even stronger attendance from our local market in the second half of the year than in previous years. We also expect a measurable rise in attendance from international visitors in 2008.”

According to Downing, Legoland California’s exit polls showed local residents were outpacing out-of-state visitors during the summertime, and the number of international guests was also on the rise. Also, more people bought annual passes than in 2007.

Christina Simmons, spokeswoman for the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, says zoo attendance has been consistent at about 3.2 million during the last couple of years and between 1.3 million and 1.4 million at the Wild Animal Park, which is located in Escondido.

Bargains Available

Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com, an online guide to theme parks, says that while most raised their daily admission rates recently, many have not increased their annual pass rates, which attendees perceive as a bargain.

SeaWorld’s regular admission for ages 10 and up was increased recently to $65 per person from $61. But the cost of its Silver Passport, which offers 14 months unlimited general admission, free parking, and discounts on food, beverages and merchandise for $99, did not rise.

In late November, Legoland California’s admission prices went from $59.95 to $62 for adults, with the cost for children and seniors rising to $52 from $49.95. Standard annual passes for adults now go for $119, an increase of $4, and the standard annual pass for a child went up $10 to $99.

In December, adult admission at the zoo went up $1 to $35 for adults and up $2 to $26 for children.

No one is willing to make attendance projections for 2009.

But if theme park-goers are looking for bargains at local hotels, now is the time. The ConVis Web site currently features discounts at 15 hotels, with rates at some full service properties rivaling what one would expect to find at Motel 6.


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