Six Flags opens luxury hotel including safari near New…

Bloomberg — An encounter with giraffes on an elevated platform. The roar of lions from a private veranda. Early morning safaris among elephants and rhinos.

These types of experiences, typically reserved for safaris through the vast continent of Africa, can be enjoyed coming soon to a New Jersey amusement park, which also offers access to the tallest roller coaster on the planet.

Those who stay at the new hotel will be able to enjoy not only a safari to see 1,200 animals from 6 continents and will also have access to its exciting roller coasters.Visitors ride a roller coaster at Six Flags in its Valencia, California park. Photographer: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg(Bloomberg/Eric Thayer)

The company Six Flags Entertainment Corp. is entering luxury hospitality with a 20-room hotel and safari whose opening is announced for June 14.

Read more: Cedar Fair to buy Six Flags for $1.9 billion

Located just 24 kilometers from New York, inside the Six Flags Great Adventure safari park, we find the Savannah Sunset Resort & Spa which will offer its guests the opportunity to enjoy the Ankole cattle, wildebeest and black bears that inhabit the 350 hectares of the African-themed attraction.

This foray into luxury hotels for the first time is part of its US$1.88 billion acquisition project by Cedar Fair LP, owner of seventeen theme parks and eleven hotels, including Carowinds, on the outskirts of Charlotte, and Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio.

The Savannah Sunset rooms start at US$599 a night during the summer season, with a minimum stay of 2 nights, a figure that puts it on par with some of the most luxurious hotels in Walt Disney World.

The price includes modern amenities like Starbucks’ avocado toast and chai latte for breakfast in their canvas tent, plus park tickets to Six Flags.

That adds to the attractions that already draw thrill seekers to this corner of New Jersey, where Six Flags exploits 510 acres packed with 14 spooky roller coasters, he Hurricane Harbor Water Park and the already mentioned Wild Safari Adventure. On the latter, guests go on 45-minute safaris to see 1,200 animals from six continents.

Although Six Flags does not publish visitation data for its individual parks, AECOM research tracking attendance at global attractions shows that the New Jersey resort welcomed a record 3.5 million guests in 2019; In 2022, the most recent year for which AECOM data is available, that number was more than 2.1 million.

The new hotel is a way to take advantage of the existing safari park to achieve longer and more expensive stays, which in turn would boost spending in the rest of the parks. Although The suites are modeled after camps in, for example, the Okavango Delta in Botswana or the Serengeti in Tanzaniathe distributions have stoves and Keurig coffee makers to serve American families.

“We really needed to offer things that were special,” he says. Edithann Velez Rameydirector of marketing at Six Flags.

Read more: Disney will invest US$8 billion in parks and resorts: what does it plan to do?

Six Flags opens luxury hotel that includes safari near New YorkThis new luxury hotel, the company’s first, is located within its Six Flags Great Adventure Safari park. .Photographer: Mario Tama/Getty Images North America(Mario Tama)

A company in transition

Six Flags’ hotel expansion comes at a critical time. This year, a Bloomberg Intelligence survey of 3,491 US-based travelers showed that more than half I was planning to visit the theme parks on trips of at least three days, the second most popular vacation option, after all-inclusive resorts.

Wooing visitors over multiple days is an advantage that companies like Walt Disney Co. (DIS) and Comcast Corp.’s Universal (CMCSA) have long maintained over Six Flags, which has historically focused almost exclusively on single-day visitors. day.

The gap has only grown, as Universal Orlando Resort prepares a trio of new hotels around the debut in 2025 of its Epic Universe theme park, and Disney continues to renovate and launch new accommodations for its loyal Disney Vacation Club members.

Until now, Six Flags only operated one hotel: Great Escape Lodge, with 200 Adirondack-themed rooms surrounding an indoor water park in Queensbury, New York. Rooms start at $340 per night during the busiest summer weekends.

The decision to experiment with luxury accommodation was driven by the CEO Selim Bassoul, who took the helm at the end of 2021. It is his most ambitious move as he guides the company ahead of its merger. (The closing is expected to take place at the end of June, although some analysts and antitrust experts foresee regulatory delays.)

Marketing manager Ramey says the concept of glamping (camping in luxury) is part of a strategy that encourages greater spending. The question Bassoul was asking, he says, is: “How do we do things that allow us to raise the price and, by extension, revenues and profits?”

Instead of competing with Florida destination parks by building more attractions, Six Flags is utilizing its proximity to the New York metropolitan area as an advantage.

Offering safari-style accommodation without having to travel to the airport is unique, but as a unique hotel, it’s a great idea that speaks to Six Flags’ current performance gaps.

According to a Bloomberg Intelligence study, the Company cash generation fell in 2023, as per-person spending in parks fell from US$66 to US$64, while attendance remained below expectations. At its 27 parks across the country, Six Flags saw 22.2 million visitors last year, still far from the 32.8 million in 2019.

Read more: How much money do amusement parks move?: Brazil and Mexico shake up the business with these openings

What to expect from a stay at Six Flags Safari

The Savannah Sunset Resort & Spa is loaded with intriguing features and amenities, and also a heavy handful of contradictions.

Nowhere else in the Northeast can you find rooms equipped with authentic, handcrafted African wood furniture and expansive savanna views. The daily giraffe feeding, available exclusively to hotel guestsit’s the kind of thing some people associate with a trip to Nairobi on their bucket list.

An on-site restaurant, Mahaba Grill, will serve breakfast and dinner. Entrees, such as lobster ravioli or slow-roasted prime rib, cost between $25 and $40. An on-site spa offers deep tissue massages with an African rungu wooden stick.

Each Stay includes park admission, private transportation to the parks, and expedited access without waiting in line on roller coasters and water slides. Guests at Disney’s $300-a-night Animal Kingdom Lodge, which boasts the largest African wine list outside the continent and offers in-room views of the animals that roam nearby, have to pay extra for those perks.

But there are important challenges. Savannah Sunset requires all guests to be 5 years old or older, a serious warning for families with animal-loving preschoolers, and a restriction that is nearly impossible to find anywhere on the internet.

Six Flags also has to build this new business without the help of its most important demographic: Most of its guests are locals and arrive with season passes in hand, which means they don’t need a hotel.

This location is also the only Six Flag theme park that includes a safari park, so it is not clear if this strategy can be expanded.

And then there’s the problem that Savannah Sunset’s most senior staff has little experience in luxury hotels. In charge is Elizabeth Bransky-Cannatawho most recently served as interim traveling general manager of Holiday Inn Club Vacations properties.

She will have to establish the hotel as a must-see quickly, given its short seasonality. Six Flags Great Adventure is only open daily in the summer (that is, until Labor Day), and The hotel will only open on certain dates during the low season.

This is a logistical problem that neither Disney nor Universal, which benefit from Florida’s year-round sunny climate, have to deal with at their resorts.

Despite those caveats, Six Flags continues to see enormous opportunities.

“It’s one of our biggest and biggest properties, so we knew we wanted to invest,” Ramey says. “And we’re thrilled it’s happening in New Jersey.”


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