Knott’s Berry Farm, which has struggled to boost attendance in recent years, is counting on lower ticket prices and cheaper cotton candy to attract more customers.
Starting today, the Buena Park venue will cut adult admission 11%, from $45 a ticket to $39.95, the company said Tuesday. The price of cotton candy will be reduced to 25 cents from $2.75.
Other ticket and concession prices won’t change, but Knott’s new adult admission is significantly below what its regional competitors charge. A comparable ticket costs $59 at Disneyland, $56 at Universal Studios Hollywood and $59.99 at Six Flags Magic Mountain -- although many parks offer heavily discounted admission deals.
The price cuts are intended to “make sure that we don’t price out of reach for the average consumer,” said Gregg Picon, vice president and general manager of West Coast operations for Ohio-based Cedar Fair, which acquired Knott’s in 1997.
Attendance at Knott’s has dropped relative to other North American theme parks. Trade publication Amusement Business ranked Knott’s 11th in terms of annual attendance in 1999 with 3.6 million visitors. It ranked 15th last year with an estimated 3.5 million visitors.
Knott’s has been affected by the same trends that have depressed attendance industry-wide for several years, Picon said, including a drop-off in tourism after 9/11 and bad weather in much of the country last year.
Knott’s also is battling stiff competition from the heavily promoted 50th anniversary celebration at nearby Disneyland.
Still, Picon said he expected Knott’s 2005 attendance to show improvement over 2004 when the company releases results this month. Other theme park operators have issued similar forecasts as travel has rebounded.
Tim Conder, a leisure industry analyst at A.G. Edwards & Sons, said revenue lost from Knott’s price cuts could be more than offset by higher attendance.
“If people on average spend ‘X’ amount at a park, you have the opportunity to make it up with in-park spending,” Conder said.
James Zoltak, editor of Amusement Business, said Knott’s price cuts could help put a trip to the amusement park back within reach of the lower- and middle-class visitors theme parks originally targeted.
“Parks were never viewed as a rich man’s cup of tea, but they’re getting to be now,” Zoltak said, referring to the high cost of admission, food and souvenirs at theme parks.
“This has the potential to be very well received, especially if they get some marketing mileage out of it.”