Water Park Resorts Hope To Ride Demand Wave

Duetto Research profiled H&LA President David Sangree as he answered some great questions about the waterpark industry.

Published by: Jason Q. Freed/Duetto
Published date: February 2017

If there’s an indoor water park open in the U.S. or Canada, David Sangree has most likely been to it. 

Sangree has been appraising hotels, performing market analysis and conducting feasibility studies for 30 years, and founded Hotel & Leisure Advisors in 2005. From the beginning, Sangree built a particular interest around water park resorts. He’s a nationally recognized expert on water parks and has performed more than 600 studies of indoor and outdoor water parks since 1999, maintaining databases of statistical information and performance figures. 

As more hotels across the country look to water parks as a unique demand driver, we caught up with Sangree to get a better understanding of the industry’s unique Revenue Strategy. 

Can you summarize the current state of the water park industry?

As it relates to water parks connected to hotels, there are hotels with indoor water parks and hotels with outdoor water parks. In the Northern U.S. and Canada, nearly all are indoor and the minority are outdoor. In the South, you have a number of resorts with outdoor water parks only, but resorts with a predominantly indoor water park are becoming more popular.

For example, the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas, has done very well, and that paved the way for additional proposals for development by the managers of Wilderness Resorts in Grapevine and a new Kalahari Resort in Round Rock, Texas.

Across the country there are some unique properties being developed, including the expansion of the Kalahari Resort Poconos in Pennsylvania, which will open this year as America’s largest indoor water park. Great Wolf Lodge just opened a property in Colorado Springs that was built in a hotel that was never completed, and they’ve purchased and are redeveloping existing water park resorts in Bloomington, Minnesota, and Gurnee, Illinois.

What’s the forecast for Summer 2017?

The indoor water park resort industry is doing pretty well right now, in correlation with the hotel industry. Both occupancy and ADR levels are up, so we are projecting it to be a strong year for the industry.

Although there are a few unique projects, there is a lot less supply coming online in the water park resort industry than in the hotel industry today, mostly because large indoor water park resorts are so expensive to build.
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