Selim Bassoul’s plan as Six Flags CEO was to improve the guest experience by raising prices, leading to fewer guests spending more money overall.
So far, he’s been most successful in lowering the chain’s attendance and revenue. In the quarter ending on Oct. 2, Six Flags parks did see per capita guest spending jumped by 17 percent year-over-year to just under $61— but revenue had a steeper decline of 21 percent to $505 million, earnings dropped 19 percent to $226 million, and attendance fell 33 percent to 8 million guests. The chain’s season passholder base has dropped by 44 percent since last year.
Looking at the first nine months of 2022, attendance was down 39 percent compared to 2019, though per capita guest spending was up 48 percent.
In contrast, Six Flags’ main rivals in the regional amusement park market, SeaWorld and Cedar Fair, have been reporting record financial results quarter after quarter. Bassoul insisted to analysts on the company’s earnings call Thursday that 2022 was a “year of transition” and “bold changes,” but also acknowledged that its initial overhaul of its season pass system didn’t work as intended.
“I think we got it wrong at first and priced our season passes too high,” Bassoul said. “Our pricing structure was confusing and complicated. We eliminated — we froze memberships. We added annual passes. We had too many configurations and it confused our customers. So, what did we do in October? We simplified our pricing architecture…and we basically reduced our season pass pricing to be much more in the mix for our guests that allow us to reach our goal attendance level and factor in our guest satisfaction to increase admission.”
The new system introduced last month included three tiers, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. Prices and perks vary from park to park and the top-tier Diamond pass includes entry to all parks in the Six Flags chain.
The improved guest experience has, so far, not included many investments in new rides. Only one new roller coaster is scheduled to open in the entire chain for 2023. Bassoul hinted that a focus on new attractions may happen after next year.
“While in-park amenities and events are our primary focus in 2023, we’ll continue to add new record-breaking coasters to our parks over time, and we look forward to some exciting announcements on this front in the near future,” he said.