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Florido-Benítez, L. Analysis of Latin American Theme Parks. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/55339 (accessed on 21 April 2024).
Florido-Benítez L. Analysis of Latin American Theme Parks. Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/55339. Accessed April 21, 2024.
Florido-Benítez, Lázaro. "Analysis of Latin American Theme Parks" Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/55339 (accessed April 21, 2024).
Florido-Benítez, L. (2024, February 22). Analysis of Latin American Theme Parks. In Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/55339
Florido-Benítez, Lázaro. "Analysis of Latin American Theme Parks." Encyclopedia. Web. 22 February, 2024.
Analysis of Latin American Theme Parks
Edit

Latin American theme parks are not as well-known as North American, European, Asian and Pacific theme parks such as Disneyland, Universal Studios, Europa Park, Legoland, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, Ocean Park and Nagashima Spa Land, but they have become an integral tourist attraction within the Latin American tourism industry, which attracts millions of visitors annually with the help of airports and airlines, public transport networks, accommodations and the wider population. Theme parks contribute significantly to the sustainability of destinations in numerous areas, including investments in infrastructures, tourism revenues, tax revenues, job creation and community sustenance.

theme parks visitors cities location public transport services airports

1. Introduction

Latin American theme parks are not as well-known as North American, European, Asian and Pacific theme parks such as Disneyland, Universal Studios, Europa Park, Legoland, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, Ocean Park and Nagashima Spa Land, but they have become an integral tourist attraction within the Latin American tourism industry, which attracts millions of visitors annually with the help of airports and airlines, public transport networks, accommodations and the wider population. Theme parks contribute significantly to the sustainability of destinations in numerous areas, including investments in infrastructures, tourism revenues, tax revenues, job creation and community sustenance [1]. Florido-Benítez [2] notes that film-induced tourism can be the perfect marketing tool to attract more tourists to theme parks through movies and the real or fictional characters represented in films such as Marvel, Minions, Avatar, Harry Potter and Disney. Thus, theme park operators are recommended to adopt marketing strategies to improve their brand image, as well as to increase the number visitors at parks and tourist destinations where they are located [3].
Most international tourists who book holidays in Latin American cities are drawn in by their tourist attractions like beaches, national parks, large resorts, historical monuments, tourism products and services at very cheap prices. Theme parks play an important role in the entertainment and tourism sectors of cities because they provide a financial and social impact (revenues, direct and indirect employment and local taxes) wherever they are located. Bodolica et al. [4] note that theme parks are considered one of the most popular entertainment destinations worldwide and are great revenue generators for the tourism and hospitality industries [5]. For instance, the theme park industry in Hong Kong represents an oligopoly market structure in which Ocean Park and Disneyland are in direct competition [6], but both parks provided more than 120 million visitors from 2012 to 2022, and these two parks helped to stimulate tourism demand in the city [7].
This study is focused on the top 12 Latin American theme parks, as seen in Figure 1, because in the last 12 years (2020 not included) they have experienced a considerable growth in their number of visitors. In 2022, theme park attendance increased globally by an impressive 34% compared with the previous year. The most prestigious ranking of theme parks worldwide is based entirely on attendance [7][8]. Indeed, I selected these 12 theme parks because there are limited studies related to theme parks in the Latin American region. Latin American theme parks as a topic is not frequently researched by researchers, academics and organizations [9]. Conversely, there is a great deal of research on theme parks localised in North America, France, Asia and the Pacific regions [10][11].
Figure 1. Top 12 Latin American theme park locations by number of visitors (2011–2021). Author’s own elaboration.
Theme parks and museums are linked to the future of tourist destinations, and they need to be supported by the close proximity of hotels, restaurants, public transport services, airports and a good supply of tourism in order to be accessible to a wider audience [12]. For this reason, destination marketing organizations (DMOs) have a good understanding of them and the benefits and opportunities that they bring to the cities [13]. For instance, some DMOs’ marketing strategies and promotion campaigns through digital channels are focused on the theme park’s location, and on marketing segments to improve and diversify the tourism supply and demand of cities. In this same line, Paiva [14] found that marketing strategies developed by the DMO of Peña city and Beto Carrero World Park improved the tourism supply and demand in the Brazilian region of Santa Catarina. Indeed, the theme park sector in Brazil continues to grow thanks to the Beto Carrero World and Hopi Hari theme parks, the latter of which is located 70 km from the city of Sao Paulo [15].
The theme park industry in Mexico is chaired by two large companies: one is a national company named Experiencias Xcaret and the other is the international company Six Flags Mexico, the latter being the most visited theme park in Latin America. The theme park industry in Latin America is a market with companies operating in oligopoly-like conditions [16]. The operational performance of a theme park depends on its region, weather patterns, the number of days in the operating season, local demographics and income characteristics, its proximity to population centres and travel times from the city centre to the theme park [17]. One of the main goals of theme park operators is to provide recreational and educational services for international visitors and the native population [18].
There are no scientific studies in the context of the best Latin American theme parks that analyse the impact in terms of number of visitors, location, public transport, airports and native populations as factors crucial for the success of Latin American cities and for improving the future tourism industry, as well as promotion campaigns to stimulate tourism demand. Theme parks are concentrated within a small geographical area, and they need accommodations, restaurants and air and ground transport systems to attract visitors, as in the case of Shanghai Disney park and its resorts [19]. Public transport systems have considerably enhanced the development of US cities and their theme parks [20]. Additionally, theme park operators need to understand their competitiveness within a destination to increase their market share [6]. Liang and Li [21] claim that theme parks have attracted extensive scholarly attention within and outside the tourism literature, but a globalised vision remains lacking for theme park conceptualisation research and practice in the tourism industry context. Examination of theme parks is important for better developing tourist attractions, businesses and destinations [22].

2. Theme Parks Help to Improve Cities’ Economies and Tourism Activties

Theme parks are a popular form of entertainment and a fast-growing sector of tourism [22]. Milman [23] defines a theme park as a company that offers rides, shows, merchandise, food services and other forms of entertainment in a themed environment, but tourist attractions also improve tourism demand and tourists’ experiences at cities [24]. Tourist attractions such as theme parks, museums, iconic bridges, cathedrals and mosques, amongst many others, are the pivotal elements of tourism development and motivate tourists to visit destinations [25][26]. Hence, theme parks make direct economic contributions to regional and national economies [27]. It would be difficult to imagine US tourism activities without the Disney and Universal theme parks, which attract millions of visitors from all over the world each year. For example, Disney and Universal parks are implementing new attractions with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to stay in tune with visitors’ preferences and to encourage visitors to return [28][29]. International tourism is an export or tradeable good and a service that improves regional economies [30]. Foreign and national visitors to a tourism destination spend money buying goods and services, creating economic impacts [31].
To explore new initiatives related to tourists’ experiences between cities and their tourism activities such as at theme parks and museums, first, DMOs need to analyse tourists’ preferences, and then design digital marketing campaigns that can improve the sustainability of the tourism industry in cities [32][33]. DMOs must monitor how residents and tourists acquire information through DMOs’ websites and apps to improve cities’ tourism supply at both their origin and destination [34]. However, residents who visit theme parks in their cities may rate the socio-economic and environmental impacts of tourism development differently than foreign tourists [35]. Residents also boost the tourism industry thanks to their visits to the city’s tourist attractions and their tourism expenditures [36]. A tourist site is considered to generate a flow of expenditures on its own if it is attractive for most visitors and empowers the city’s economy [37]. For instance, DMOs and tour operators jointly promote tourism campaigns with package holidays that include flights, hotels, theme parks, museums and restaurants to increase tourists’ expenditures in cities such as Paris, Madrid, London, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Orlando, amongst many others. If the theme park operators can effectively differentiate themselves from their competitors through strategic integration with the accommodation providers and DMOs, the entire tourism supply chain would benefit from this vertical strategy [38].

3. Air and Ground Means of Transport Play an Important Role in Theme Parks and Cities’ Tourism Supply

Air connectivity and the proximity of large airports provide an added value for tourist attractions, because they provide accessibility, connectivity and frequent flights by airlines [12]. It is well accepted that air transport has remarkable effects on economic landscapes and a direct impact on the number of passenger arrivals at destinations [39]. In the case of large airports, these provide better air services than regional airports to passengers, including nonstop flights, more schedule options and cheaper fares, in order to visit the main capital cities worldwide and their tourist attractions [40]. In most cases, the theme parks tend to be located in capital cities. For example, if a tourist wants to visit Mexico City and the Six Flags Mexico theme park, s/he should book a flight arriving at the Benito Juarez Ciudad de Mexico airport because this airport is the most accessible in terms of time and space from the airport to the city centre or theme park (6 min). Air traffic demand in Latin America is expected to double over the next twenty years [41].
Figure 2 displays the concentration of the main Latin American cities’ air traffic as measured by available seat kilometres (ASKs) in 2016 [42]. Brazil accounted for 28% of total air traffic, followed by Mexico comprising 22% and the rest of the countries accounting for 50% of the total. An ASK measure is a measure of an airline’s carrying capacity to generate revenue, calculated by multiplying the available seats on any given aircraft by the number of kilometres flown on a given flight [43]. Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia and Chile together provide around 70% of the air traffic in Latin America [42]. Therefore, it is not a coincidence that most theme parks analysed in this study are located in these countries. Theme park operators need the best air accessibility and connectivity provided by commercial airlines and airports to attract international visitors. In the case of commercial airlines, Aeromexico is the most connected airline hub in Latin America, serving over 95 destinations [44].
Figure 2. The concentration of the main Latin American cities’ air traffic as measured by ASKs in 2016. Author’s own elaboration from OAG [42].
Ground transport systems (e.g., subways, buses, trains, trams, taxis, ferry, electric bikes, scooters, etc.) at cities and theme parks help to move tourists and residents from one area to another in an efficient and affordable manner. Public transport systems improve the tourism supply and contribute to reduced air pollutant emissions in cities and their tourist attractions [45]. Public transport is an indispensable part of current intelligent transportation systems in cities, mitigating traffic congestion, improving the local economy and reducing climate change [46]. Every €1 of value created from public transport is linked to a further value creation of €4 in the total economy [47]. Mobility is an essential issue for tourists visiting large cities, since it is a crucial factor for their comfort. In the case of Latin American countries, railways and bus transport systems are the main means of transport, but a lack of institutional frameworks and oversight by governments has often led to inefficient systems with poor quality and excessive informality [48]. In contrast to rural areas, Le-Klähn and Hall [49] suggest that sustainable transport development is important in rural areas and nature-based attractions to preserve the environment.
Albalate and Bel [50] note that the transport supply of cities is primordial for tourists as they move around the city, visiting urban attractions, returning to their accommodation and so on. The provision of excellent access and mobility within a tourist attraction or city is an important factor in determining the attractiveness of a theme park or city and its brand image [51]. The capital cities of Shanghai, Stockholm, Berlin, Tokyo, Prague, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Singapore, Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris and Madrid offer the best public transport in the world [52]. From a sustainable city perspective, greater efforts are required by regional and national governments to improve residents’ and tourists’ mobility and the quality of public transport services in cities. In March 2020, Luxembourg made global headlines as it made all public transport free. That is, when in Luxembourg, you are encouraged to use public transport like the bus, train and tram, as they are completely free and efficient too. Luxembourg’s public transport reaches most famous places and tourist attractions in the city so, without spending anything on local travel, residents and tourists will be able to see many places in an equitable, sustainable and efficient way. Cities with effective and extensive public transport networks are potentially more attractive to tourists [53].

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