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Amusement Parks: How Universal Orlando Resort Turned Mardi Gras into both Revenue Enhancer and Guest favourite

Universal Orlando Resort Mardi Gras Parade

With money tight and guest spending down, amusement parks need to work every angle to maximize their revenue potential.  As an alternative to large capital projects, some theme parks are turning toward special events that take advantage of their existing attractions and talent.

By:  Chad D. Emerson

One of the most successful examples of this strategy can be found at the Universal Orlando Resort with its annual Mardi Gras events that begin every February. 
Michael Roddy Universal Orlando Resort
In a recent exclusive interview, visited with Michael Roddy (left), Manager of Show Development for Universal Orlando Resort to discuss how Universal has turned Mardi Gras into a guest favorite as well as a revenue enhancer for the resort.

1.  Share with us how Universal Orlando first got started with a Mardi Gras themed event?
Universal Orlando Resort Mardi Gras Parade
Universal Orlando is about living the experience, putting the guests in immersive environments. We are always looking for ways to place our guests in the middle of amazing situations and once-in-a-lifetime encounters. Mardi Gras is a perfect combination of celebration, color, atmosphere and music. As part of our marquee event program, we knew our audiences would enjoy the opportunity to have the Mardi Gras celebration here on our backlot.

2.  What have been some of the biggest surprises along the way regarding the event?

The biggest compliment is that guests who have travelled to both our event and the actual New Orleans event, comment at how well we capture the spirit and fun of Mardi Gras.

3.  Tell us about the planning that goes into the event each year such as when does it start and what type of team is involved in putting Mardi Gras together?

We always look for a theme for each year that will be the driving force of the creative. This year’s event focuses on the art and diversity of storytelling. We have signature floats that focus on the many different styles and genres of stories, all the way from ancient Greece to the modern day adventure tale. Our design and production team works closely with the Kern Company, to bring the most accurate floats you will find outside of New Orleans.

4.  What makes Universal’s Mardi Gras unique from other Mardi Gras events?

Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras is a combination of all of the best scenarios rolled into one perfect celebration. The most amazing experience of our event is that it is the biggest party you will find. Not only can you have the authentic, perfect  Mardi Gras experience , but we continue the celebration with an amazing concert featuring the hottest artists.

5.  On a personal level, what was your most memorable Mardi Gras moment at Universal Orlando?

I love the ability to throw beads to guests, all the while riding an authentic float through the backlot of Universal Orlando. I also love to watch the guests see the floats for the first time.

More from Chad Emerson:
Amusement Parks: Former Disney Exec Greg Emmer Shares Insights with Chad Emerson
Themed Restaurants: Chad Emerson Interviews Steve Schussler
Michael Hudson of Gaylord Hotels Talks Americana, Opry, Themed Entertainment and the Hospitality Business
Amusement Parks: Former Disneyland President Matt Ouimet Reflects

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Images: Photos and Videos: © 2009 Universal Orlando Resort. All Rights Reserved.

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