Parks and Resorts Scandinavia is a privately held theme park company founded in 2000 which owns some of Sweden’s most popular attractions. In addition to the Gröna Lund theme park, the Group also owns the Skara Sommarland water park, the Kolmården and Furuvik wildlife parks and the Aquaria Watermuseum aquarium.
The Group experienced a 10 year high in attendance in 2012 and recently announced the retirement of CEO Jan Roy.
Johan Tidstrand, principal owner of Parks and Resorts Scandinavia, described the decision to appoint Fogelmarck (left) saying that, “Christer has already played an integral part in shaping our future strategy and investment plans going forward. His broad industry experience and strong leadership skills make him the obvious choice to take the organization forward and realise our plans.”
Blooloop talked to Fogelmarck about the attractions industry in Sweden and his vision for the Group.
“All fun and all entertainment”
As a relatively newly formed company, Parks and Resorts Scandinavia brought in Fogelmarck in 2011 as the Group’s very first Marketing Director with a remit to co-ordinate the marketing strategy for the attractions.
Fogelmarck was headhunted for the role for his background in the event and sponsorship area, as CEO for the event and sponsorship agency Eventum and film distributor Atlantic Film, and also for his experience in business development for Melodifestivalen, Stockholm Open, Live Nation, Blixten & Co and Stockholmsmässan. Having previously worked with Gröna Lund on sponsored events, Fogelmarck was familiar with Parks and Resorts Scandinavia. He says the move to the attractions industry seemed a natural one given that his previous jobs had also been “all fun and all entertainment in some way.”
After 3 years as Marketing Director Fogelmarck is now set to take over as CEO. The most valuable experience that he feels he brings to the job is that of creating an environment which allows his team to thrive:
“I have a deep knowledge of sponsorship and that kind of corporate business development but the actual reason that I work so well is the way I like to manage myself and the environment. I’m more of a leader than a specialist – I know a little about a lot of stuff! Every day I try to create the best circumstances and the best environment for the people around me so that they can do what they’re best at and that creates great results.”
In his position as Marketing Director Fogelmarck’s initial objective was to promote co-operation between the parks and identify synergies to reduce costs. However, more recently he has been focussed on promoting Parks and Resorts Scandinavia as a brand in its own right. As a result, brand recognition has been “increasing by hundreds of per cent each year”.
The brand is now perceived to have value for the visitor in terms of both a guarantee of “the same quality and service and beautiful environment” across the Group’s properties, as well as cross promotional offers between the parks allowing visitors reduced entrance prices for repeat visits to any Parks and Resorts Scandinavia attraction.
“It’s definitely something that we want to work even harder on because it’s a benefit for us as a group, ” says Fogelmarck. Recent innovations include the introduction of a digital gift card that can be bought online and used at any cashiers desk in any Parks and Resorts park.
Fogelmarck has also introduced extensive market research and this has guided initiatives to improve the guest experience.
He explains, “We mostly focus on the visitors that we have, but we are very thorough in working with them. Every week of the season in every park we ask our visitors what they thought about everything – ‘How did you like that restaurant, that attraction? Was it clean? Was it nice? What was your experience speaking with the personnel?’
“We have a lot of data showing what was important to our visitors in terms of getting them back and happy and spending.”
An example of an initiative driven by the results of market research is the option for hotel guests at Kolmården wildlife park to enjoy a themed dinner inside the park after closing time. Fogelmarck says that the new offer has been “very successful … guests are even happier about their visit and they also spend more, so everybody’s happy!”
The Attractions Market in Sweden
Fogelmarck describes the attractions market in Sweden as “a very, very stable market.” While the weather and the economy have an effect on attendance, “you have the same players for a lot of years, brands are strong and the development in the market doesn’t vary that much from year to year.”
For Parks and Resorts Scandinavia, most guests are Swedish within a 150 to 200 km radius of the attraction. Fogelmarck says that “in terms of competition, our challenge is to get the people that are attracted to what we do to come even more often.”
Parks and Resorts Scandinavia has a range of attractions within its portfolio; from historic theme parks to animal parks, together with a resort water park and an aquarium. So what does Fogelmarck see as the major challenges facing the Group?
“The various parks have some common ground. For instance, in all of our parks we need to have a new approach with the food. A couple of years ago everyone was fine with fast food and there to ride the attractions and see the animals. But now we see that visitors expect more from the food and we need to develop it to get visitors that are happier with their visit and who will recommend us and to increase spending. So we need to work with food at all parks as an example, but then we also have specific park challenges.”
Extending the Day
A short season and dark winter’s nights are always an issue for attractions in the north of Europe. Extending the visitor day and the season are key to increasing revenues. Parks and Resorts Scandinavia have benefitted from building an events business at Gröna Lund with record attendance of 1.5 million visitors in 2012.
Fogelmarck says, “We really need to work with the management given the fact that we have a very short season. We have things going on all year round at Kolmården and Furuvik but still everybody, even ourselves, will see us as a seasonal business so we need to get more revenue out of the short season.
“If you have a look at Gröna Lund, what’s behind the fantastic increase from somewhere around 900, 000 visitors up to 1.5 million visitors in five to six years is that we have been working with different segments of our target groups: working with attractions with one target group, working with dance evenings and dinners with an older group and with concerts for everybody else. So we have different audiences at different times in a 24 hour day. That’s been successful for Gröna but it probably won’t work in the same way in another park. We have to find a unique recipe to get more revenue out of every park.”
Challenges at Wildlife and Water Parks
Parks and Resorts Scandinavia own two wildlife parks and an aquarium. Fogelmarck sees a unique set of challenges with animal based attractions around educating visitors about the valuable role that wildlife parks play in conservation.
He says, “Not everybody is aware of the work we do and the money we invest in terms of learning more about the planet.”
As for the Group’s water park, the largest in Scandinavia, Fogelmarck sees very different challenges ahead. The question that he thinks the Group will have to answer is a strategic one about managing the popularity of the park: “In Skara Sommarland where we experience more sunny weather, people get fed up with standing in line for a ride. How do we do it better? Do we need to expand the waterpark region within the park or do we need to do something else? ”
“A plan to make the plan”
Fogelmarck is in still transition from his role as Marketing Director to CEO, but he has started to work with the park managers to develop a strategic plan which has yet to be finalised and communicated internally.
Given that the name of the Group is Parks and Resorts Scandinavia an obvious conclusion to draw is that future plans may include expansion or strategic acquisitions outside Sweden.
Fogelmarck says, “I often get that question. We get a lot of questions from smaller parks and other parks and from parks that don’t even exist yet!
"We always look seriously at every case presented to us but we’re not proactively searching for acquisitions and today there’s no plan to buy more parks. We will focus on investing in the parks we have.”
What will that investment look like? Investment in thrill rides, resort accommodation, theme park attractions in wildlife parks? Does Parks and Resorts Scandinavia have Merlin-like ambitions to grow its individual brands?
Fogelmarck is not ready to share his vision just yet. He says, “We have started some more strategic work looking at how we want to develop the parks in a 5 to 10 year period. We haven’t really launched it internally yet, but of course we are looking into those kind of questions. Which parks should we develop in what order.
Fogelmarck is in no hurry to rush the process: “It’s a bit too early to say exactly where I’ll put my energy – I’m still the Marketing Director. I held a meeting the other day with the management from all the parks and I told them that the way forward is the way together and I want to sit down with them and understand for each park what their challenges are and what they need for Parks and Resorts to reach a higher level. So the plan isn’t set yet but I have a plan to make the plan!
He adds, “We are doing so many things so well – there is no panic in growing our group so I will take my time.”
Images: Parks and Resorts Scandinavia