Theme parks strive to attract more senior visitors

Theme parks strive to attract more senior visitors
A family visits Tokyo Disneyland on May 22. More and more people are going to theme parks recently with three generations of their families.

Theme parks and amusement parks have been creating more places where senior citizens can enjoy themselves. If the parks encourage repeat visits by elderly people, who have time and money to spare, the owners believe it could compensate for the drop in the number of customers in younger generations due to the low birthrate.

If seniors enjoy themselves at the parks, the owners hope it could lead to an increasing number of visits by three-generation families, which would include their children and grandchildren.

"We try to buy whatever our grandchildren want," said a 61-year-old man from Saitama Prefecture who visited Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, as part of a group of six comprising three generations. The man said he spent about ¥10,000 (S$108) buying souvenir gifts and toys for his grandchildren, who are 9 months and 2 years old.

For theme parks, finding ways to attract more senior visitors and encourage them to spend money is an important challenge that could lead to increased profits.

Oriental Land Co., the operating company for Tokyo Disneyland, is planning to open an indoor attraction in July based on the popular film "Lilo & Stitch." It will be an attraction children and seniors can enjoy while remaining seated. A large-scale restaurant scheduled to open in the autumn of 2016 will be designed for those visiting as three generations.

Attendance at Tokyo Disney Resort, which includes Tokyo DisneySea, reached a record high of 31.38 million in fiscal 2014. Children aged 4 to 11 accounted for 16.6 per cent of the total, a 2.6 percentage-point decrease from fiscal 2000, while visitors 40 or older exceeded 20 per cent, showing a tendency toward the parks' mounting dependency on the senior population.

Indoor, hot-spring facilities

Other theme parks and amusement parks are also ramping up their attempts to appeal to middle-aged or senior visitors.

In the spring of 2016, Yomiuriland in Inagi, Tokyo, and Kawasaki, will set up a new indoor facility where visitors inspect a reproduced factory production line while riding a go-cart, and can experience manufacturing processes at workshops.

The facility targets middle-aged or older generations who have experienced Japan's postwar rapid economic growth and have a strong passion for Japanese craftsmanship, according to the general affairs department of the park's operator. The investment for the construction of the facility reportedly totals about ¥10 billion.

Huis Ten Bosch in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, opened a new facility called the "Kingdom of Health & Beauty" on May 24. The kingdom has a section that offers an abundant selection of health and supplement foods and another section for providing medical checkups targeting health-conscious people. This summer it plans to add a hot-spring facility.

At Fuji-Q Highland in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, a theme park featuring roller coasters and other attractions for younger generations, a new attraction built last summer is popular among three-generation visitors as it gives viewers the impression they are flying over Mt. Fuji. With Mt. Fuji registered as a World Cultural Heritage site, more elderly visitors reportedly came to the park.

Sales at theme parks and amusement parks in 2013 were ¥724 billion, a record high, according to the White Paper on Leisure compiled by the Japan Productivity Center.

In a survey, one-third of visitors to amusement parks and other facilities were in their 50s to 70s. Meanwhile, places where seniors seem to enjoy visiting, such as hot springs, domestic vacations and karaoke, are seeing an increase in sales.

"There is a need for theme parks and amusement parks to differentiate themselves by offering experiences that visitors cannot have anywhere else," said Tomoichiro Kubota, a senior market analyst at Matsui Securities Co.

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