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Onsite theme park hotels: what took them so long?

new hotel Tokyo DisneySea expansion plans

Few things are as immediately popular as a new roller coaster. However, another development is increasingly impacting the business. It is the decision to build onsite theme park hotels. 

By Lance Hart, Screamscape

For a long time, unless “Disney” was in the name of your park, very few properties were willing to cross over into the hotel business. Onsite theme park hotels were not part of the business plan. This was especially so if the attraction’s operation was based on seasonality. Being located in a very seasonal market meant a hotel to close for the winter.

Walt Disney and Universal parks may be the leaders in how to take advantage of onsite resort projects; however many others have now happily joined the trend. They do so in a variety of ways; by buying or building not just resort hotels, but waterpark resorts, RV parks and campgrounds as well. Outside of Disney and Universal, the movement may have gained more traction at first in the European market at locations such as Alton Towers, Europa-Park, PortAventura and Gardaland, amongst others.

Meanwhile in the US, the credit should go to Cedar Fair for creating their own on-site hotels at Cedar Point; as well as adding nearby hotels to their Knott’s Berry Farm property. Meanwhile some of the former Paramount Park chain locations also had a few connected RV Park / Campgrounds as well.

What took so long?

Lappset Creative create legoland pirate ship playground, onsite theme park hotels
Pirate Island Hotel – Legoland Deutschland

Lately the trend has been growing. More parks are looking into the concept, especially after others finally took the leap and found much success. Dollywood is a good example of the latter, where the demand was always there. So when Dollywood finally announced their DreamMore Resort, many wondered just what had taken them so long.

Today there are currently a number of new resorts under construction attached to various theme parks around the world. In Florida, Disney and Universal just can’t seem to stop building new hotels. The Legoland parks are also joining in where the park in Germany just opened the Pirate Island Hotel earlier this year, the California park just opened their second resort as well in the Spring, and the Florida resort has two hotel properties and just announced plans to build a third.

Cedar Fair is branching out again, having announced plans to build a SpringHill Suites resort to Carowinds in 2019 and Hyatt branded resort to Canada’s Wonderland in 2020. In Europe, the resorts also just keep coming with Gardaland having just announced plans to open a third hotel in 2019 and Europa Park busy preparing to open Kronasaur – The Museum Hotel (their 6th hotel) in 2019 ahead of the opening of their Rulantica indoor waterpark project later in the year.

Onsite theme park hotels not the only trend

Beyond just your typical onsite theme park hotels, other trends are also looming… more waterpark resorts, casino resorts and as previously discussed, the rise of the ultra themed resorts like Disney’s Star Wars themed resort concept.

The battle of the future may not just be to attract the most guests. It is also to give them a reason to stay longer and keep them on property for the night.

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Lance Hart

Lance Hart

Lance has been running Screamscape for nearly 20 years. Married and a father to three roller coaster loving kids, he worked for SeaWorld (San Diego and Orlando) in Operations and Entertainment for 19 years.

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