A Trophy Under the Dome
In December 2018, Parques Reunidos Group (PQR) announced the company acquired the gigantic Tropical Islands in Krausnick, Brandenburg, Germany, about 60 kilometers south of Berlin. At a cost of 326 million euros, the purchase is the largest to date for the Madrid-based leisure park operator and adds the first indoor water park to its portfolio. Funworld asks PQR why the company was attracted to Tropical Islands, what the acquisition means for PQR, and what changes and enhancements are planned for the park.
The Trophy Asset
PQR comprises more than 60 amusement parks, animal parks, aquatic parks, FECs, and other attractions in 14 countries in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia. Together, its properties welcome around 20 million visitors annually, and added Tropical Islands’ 1.3 million annual guests with the acquisition.
Tropical Islands is not only one of the world’s largest indoor water parks, it is also one of the most iconic, sitting inside a massive airship hangar large enough to house 12 soccer fields.
On more than 600 hectares, Tropical Islands is also home to a 35,000-square-meter outdoor water park and other leisure attractions, plus a variety of lodging facilities.
PQR saw Tropical Islands as an irresistible property to add to its portfolio.
“It’s a trophy asset,” says Wouter Dekkers, who became Tropical Islands’ general manager in January 2019 after nine years with PQR. “It’s a unique asset with a one-of-a-kind product and strong brand awareness. The indoor setting, plus the accommodations, allows the park to remain open year-round, which improves the group’s diversification and helps hedge against external conditions.” He adds the acquisition strengthens what PQR sees as its position as the world’s leading water park operator.
As general manager, Dekkers sees the park’s key attributes: a repeat visitation of nearly 60%, high ratings from annual guests, the unique nature of the hangar dome environment, and the power to generate annual revenues of around 70 million euros.
Dekkers says his employees continue to demonstrate an “enormous willingness” to adapt following the acquisition and offer a positive experience every day for the park’s guests.
Enhancing the Collection
The complex is divided into three main areas. The huge indoor dome is its central feature, with a robust tropical theme and a combination of leisure attractions and accommodations. These are divided into sections with names like Tropical Sea, Magical Lagoon, Rainforest, Waterslides, Sandy Beach, and Sauna & Spa.
The second area outside the dome provides additional accommodations, including cabin-like homes, tepees, and camping areas. Finally, there’s Amazonia, an outdoor water park featuring heated pools open year-round. Key attractions include Amazonia’s “Whitewater River,” one of the world’s largest indoor rainforests, artificial beaches with palm trees, a spa complex, and a miniature golf course.
Dekkers says recently, the park opened a surfing simulator and the “Jungle Splash” complex, made up of eight water slides by Polin Waterparks. He reveals more is coming, including attractions for young guests.
“We will add a new, marketable offer to a variety of guests. We are not satisfied yet with the current offer for the toddlers and youngest kids,” Dekkers shares with Funworld.
Another area where Dekkers sees expansion potential is overnight accommodations. He says inside the dome, there are currently around 1,000 beds in various accommodation types. The 600-plus hectares that Tropical Islands occupies outside the dome provide plenty of real estate for expansion. Currently, there are 113 cabins, holiday homes, luxury tents, lodge tents, and camping areas for a total of around 2,000 beds. “We would like to increase 2,000 beds to 3,000 or 4,000 in the future by developing external lodges and also increase in‑dome capacity,” he says.
Tropical Islands receives the greatest number of visitors from Germany, followed by Poland and the Czech Republic. Dekkers sees the expansion in overnight accommodations as a way to open the door for the park to become a destination for visitors from other parts of Europe.
“With our strong focus on future development of overnight accommodation, we’ll be benefiting from a wider catchment area. The last few years we have been welcoming more guests out of the Scandinavian countries, with Denmark as front-runner. Besides this, we identified the Benelux countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, and Netherlands) as potential countries where the willingness to drive exists.”
PQR also wants to conduct an in-depth renovation involving the dome’s doors and infrastructure that would allow for a greater water supply when increasing overnight accommodations.
Implementing Best Practices
When Tropical Islands was purchased late last year, PQR believed the park could benefit from implementation of the company’s existing best practices. But first, it was important to see in which areas the park already exceeded guest expectations. With his past experience as general manager at both Movie Park Germany and Attractiepark Slagharen in the Netherlands, Dekkers was ideally suited to evaluate guest response.
“First, the building itself is a landmark,” he says. “For me, after several months here, it’s still impressive to approach the dome. Even pictures cannot really express the feeling [guests] have once they’ve entered the dome. Also, the theming is on a very high level, and there is a 200-meter sand beach, which also isn’t found at most water parks.”
Lastly, he points out that overnight guests are able to swim and use the Tropical Islands facilities 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which is unheard of, even for indoor water parks. Even day guests are provided 18 hours of access daily, from 6 a.m. to midnight.
The first area where PQR believes its best practices will help bolster Tropical Islands is in benefiting from the shared experience of the group, rather than operating as a stand-alone park. This includes profiting from the higher purchasing power and its approach to managing operating expenses, including introducing operational standards and procedures in combination with improved effectiveness and efficiencies in back of house.
Further, PQR predicts benefits from increasing the already-high level of safety standards at the park. Finally, as time passes, PQR says it plans to introduce Tropical Islands to some of the concepts with which it has been successful across its more than 60 amusement properties, including different pricing strategies, games, and proven food and beverage practices.