High pressure. High Season. High stress.
But this year, it is … different. Normally I am shuffling around weather apps, worrying about the all-too-unstable Scandinavian summer weather during the all-too-short peak season.
But in 2022, it is all turned upside down. With continued (self-imposed) capacity restrictions, we are constantly trying to balance volume, turnover, and guest satisfaction. This also means, that having too many guests is actually just as stressful, as having too few.
Most attractions in the LBE sector are seeing very strong demand right now. With some regional variances, of course, but generally: 2022 has so far been a good year.
But the question is of course: Will it last? Is this the new normal? Or is it a Sugar High, driven by penned-up demand, stimulus packages, low unemployment, or just people wanting to spend less money on things – and more on experiences?
These questions are relevant, especially if we take a looming possible recession into account. But if we have such a downturn, the question remains – how will it impact us?
If we look at historical figures, the LBE industry is actually quite resilient. If we take the dot-com bubble in the 90’ies, the impacts of 9/11 in 2001, and the financial crisis in 2008 as examples most attractions were OK in times of economic downturns.
One could argue that it is the old Roman Juvenal saying about ‘Bread and circuses’ that drives this. One could also argue that many guests ‘trade down’ – they exchange more expensive travel with more inexpensive short breaks or day-outings.
But this also means that there are variations. Large destination parks are far more sensitive to an economic downturn than parks with a more local or regional audience.
This being said, I believe there are two sets of plans that are good to have ready in the drawer these days:
First; have a really strong regional strategy. In other words, developed thoughts on how to cater to a more local market. It can of course be annual passes and discounts, but can also centre around programming, driving re-visitations, and broader thoughts on what ‘regional’ really is.
Second; have a contingency cost-saving plan. We are all in the process of building muscles after the pandemic, but there might be projects or hirings we can delay. It is difficult to step on the speeder and the brake at the same time, but it might be necessary to have a rather agile foot these days.
Sugar High or not. Recession or no recession.
We’ll get through this. Like we always do.