Cedar Fair CEO: Staycations are fun

The chief executive of one of the country's largest amusement park companies said since the economic downturn has people staying closer to home, staycations have boosted business at the parks.
Associated Press
Jan 10, 2013


CEO Matt Ouimet on Wednesday predicted the staycation trend would continue even with the economy improving. He spoke about the future of the amusement park industry and Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. after touring the plant where the newest roller coaster for the company's Cedar Point park is under construction. He said Cedar Fair's parks generally draw most of their visitors from within a couple of hundred miles.

"I think staycations are here to stay because people have rediscovered that it's more fun, less complicated and less expensive to get in your car and drive to Cedar Point or other parks," Ouimet said.

The key to success for Cedar Fair parks and others is to focus on the job of "keeping people happy."

"As long as we do that and provide a great value for a full day's experience, the industry will be healthy for a long time to come," Ouimet said.

As he toured the plant, he several times said simply: "Wow!"

Clermont Steel Fabricators LLC in Batavia, just east of Cincinnati, is constructing the steel parts that will form a winged roller coaster, called GateKeeper, set to debut May 11.

Ouimet viewed sections of track and towers that will form a 100-foot tall keyhole-type opening for riders to pass through as they soar above guests entering the park. The blue-steeled tubular coaster will feature a 163-foot vertical drop and speeds of 67 mph, with riders on seats that extend sideways with nothing above or below them.

The $25 million coaster, designed to make people feel as though they are flying, will help provide the thrills that Ouimet says are a major part of Cedar Point's attraction.

But he said it's also an example of the investments Cedar Fair plans to make in its parks.

The company owns 15 entertainment sites, including 11 amusement parks and four water parks. While Ouimet didn't provide specific investment plans for those parks, he said that Kings Island, Cedar Fair's amusement park just north of Cincinnati, "is on my radar."

The new coaster is part of a roughly $30 million project overhauling the entrance to Cedar Point in Sandusky. The company also plans to spend about $60 million over three years to renovate its hotels and some other projects at the park along Lake Erie.

The company has said it expects upcoming figures will show 2012 was its third consecutive year of record profitability and has projected revenue for the past year at $1.06 billion to $1.08 billion.

Ouimet oversaw the Disney Cruise Line and Disneyland Resort in California before going to Cedar Fair as president in June 2011. He became Cedar Fair's CEO last January.

While Cedar Fair had become the nation's third largest amusement park chain by the time Ouimet arrived, it has had to deal with problems in recent years, including a large debt from its $1.24 billion acquisition of Paramount Parks Inc. in 2006. That deal added five amusement parks to the chain but was followed by the economic downturn.

Now Ouimet says "business has never been better from a financial standpoint."




He may be on to something here. I'm an avid Myrtle Beach vacationer sometimes going more than once per year. It used to be a relatively cheap trip for my family but it is becoming more and more expensive due to simple greed by the resorts and condo owners. What used to cost us $1700 for a week is now well over $2200 for the exact same experience.

While costs of living and entertainment keep rising year after year, my pay has not kept up the same pace. I'm not simply stating that I need a raise every time inflation rears its ugly head. It is possible that I'm not doing my job well but I wouldn't know as my employer fails to let me know HOW I'm doing.

Our company my be one of the rarities in that when the economy suffers, we do better. With that being said, our numbers have increased for the last four years. While the boss blesses himself with huge bonuses (anything is huge to us at this point as we NEVER get one), we're left wondering if we'll have jobs as he cries poor at every turn.

Back to the point though. Staycations are surely becoming more and more common due to folks' pay not keeping pace with costs. I'm thankful that we have Cedar Point as it's a cheap form of entertainment for my family. We would NEVER stay at their hotels as their really is no point to it. We come and go as we please (usually over 50 times per season) never staying for more than 4 hours at a time. We spoil ourselves from time to time with an order of cheese fries but that's about it. Food and souvenirs are out of the question.

Various camping trips and local sights and sounds will probably be our kind of vacation this year. I never thought affordability would be an issue for one week out of the year but unfortunately, greed is imprisoning us all.


If you go to Myrtle Beach -try the Serendipity Inn -- It is well priced, convenient and fun. Great rates --includes breakfast


Captain Poo's in NMB is one of my favorites.
And don't forget Crab Catcher's in Little River!



Stay at one of Carl Ruda's Cheap hotels on Rt.250.