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Growth and expansion of day recreation in alternative ways

Marco Louters Auteur

Marco Louters

December 29, 2023 | 5 minute read

Goof Lukken over Trends in Dagrecreatie en Leisure
Marco Louters Auteur

Marco Louters

December 29, 2023 | 5 minute read

Businesses in day recreation see growth opportunities in alternative paths. Companies in the leisure industry are expanding through (1) accommodations, (2) season extension with evening and winter openings, and (3) flattening the peak, by maintaining an optimal maximum number of visitors.

To get a good idea of the developments in the leisure industry lately, I spoke with Goof Lukken; expert, lecturer, and trendwatcher in virtually everything connected to recreation, leisure, and tourism.

“We are spoiled in the Netherlands. When I look around… and count all the indoor playgrounds…” Goof outlines the market. “It’s funny, when I’m abroad and try to explain to others, how many options we actually have in the Netherlands; places to spend your free time, at a very short distance from each other… The country really has a very compact, intensive offering.”

We are having the conversation in Breda. Goof points to the right: “If I drive to Tilburg (only 25 minutes away), I suddenly have a completely different playing field.” Translated from Dutch.

Fantastic for consumers.

But that causes companies to have to do their best to reach and seduce that customer. And at the same time, that customer has already experienced a lot and seen a lot. It is becoming increasingly difficult to be noticed and distinctive. The bar is constantly being raised. The market is becoming more and more professional.

Meanwhile, companies are increasingly fishing in each other’s pond.

For years, we have seen boundaries between segments blur and fade. By now, this is old news. Back in the day, a company used to have one clear segment and stay in it. That world is now very different.

Expansion and growth today is sought and found in multiple areas. Not just móre attractions and móre animals, but also guests staying overnight, extending the season through winter openings, and flattening the peak.

In this blog, we will look at three alternative ways of growth and expansion in the leisure industry.

1. Day recreation with accommodations

Do you want to sleep over? 😴

Lodging and day recreation are increasingly melting together.

Companies prefer to take as large a slice of pie of your weekend getaway as possible. To that end, they are coming up with an ever-expanding range of options.

Safari park the Beekse Bergen, for example, has made great moves in the accommodation world. As of 2018, the zoo has 239 lodges, safari tents, and tree houses surrounding a savannah. A new Safari Hotel was added this year, with 112 rooms and suites. (Entree) (OmroepBrabant

Goof also named the Efteling as an example. Because there is little growth left in the Dutch market share (except in terms of spending), they also want to attract visitors for a short vacation. The Efteling had already opened a second hotel and second vacation park in 2017, but will expand this offer even further in 2024 with a third hotel, this time within park boundaries. (Efteling)

On the other end of the spectrum, companies in the hotel and accommodation industry are also expanding their day activities, such as rental of electric bicycles, a bowling alley, and one or more restaurants.

2. Evening and winter openings

Ho ho ho 🎅

“Companies are looking for growth in multiple opening hours,” notes Goof Lukken. “Winter openings are a new form of growth and expansion. Businesses are not going to do that if they think there is no market for it, because the tons of investment are not to be sneezed at.” Translated from Dutch.

Goof cites several companies as an example.

“For Walibi, Halloween is now the busiest time of the season. It is when they generate the highest revenue.” Added to that is now a winter opening. “Walibi suddenly has Christmas events, both in the Netherlands and Belgium.”

The Beekse Bergen now has a Light Safari for the evening hours. This has brought a Chinese tradition to the Netherlands. The whole thing was set up as a collaboration between three parties. Libéma director Dirk Lips told Quote: “We share the cost, we share the revenue, nice and straightforward.” (Quote) Translated from Dutch.

Also the Brabanthallen in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (also owned by Libéma) will offer a large-scale Christmas event for the first time in 2023: ‘The Brabant Winter,’ complete with performances, ice skating field, beer garden, even bigger ice skating field, Ice Tube slide, Christmas market, Après-Ski, and more. (Brabanthallen)

“So everyone grabs a winter market in their own region,” says Goof. “Brabanthallen picks the southern region.” Translated from Dutch.

Finally, 2023 is also the first year for Belgium’s oldest amusement park, the Bellewaerde, to open its doors during the winter period; the ‘Bellewaerde Christmas.’

Evening and winter openings are a form of season extension that the Efteling (as an innovator) has already benefited from for many years.

3. Flattening the peak


‘The more visitors, the better?’

Where that statement used to be sacrosanct, companies are now weighing where their optimal number lies.

Goof Lukken cites an example: “We saw it last year at Halloween at Toverland. They had the most visitors – ever – in one day. Then the next day they said, “We’re going to maximize ticket sales now, because we just can’t handle it.” It’s not good for the guest experience, not good for sales, a lot of complaints…”

“Then the rest of the week they had fewer tickets sold, but they sold out very quickly. The weekend days were suddenly flying out… And then people started moving. They moved to a Tuesday, or a Wednesday, etc.” Translated from Dutch.

The optimum for the Beekse Bergen is 15,000 visitors. More than that definitely does not enhance the guest experience. “When I arrive and I see 100 people waiting in line for coffee, I think to myself, “Well, that coffee will come later.” In addition, toilet capacity is too low. People are bummed. The whole guest experience goes down.”

With a cap, you try to flatten the peak.

There’s operational profit in that, of course, but it also increases the experience. “You don’t feel like you’re in a pub, but really in another world. You have a quieter guest journey. You’re more relaxed to grab another coffee.”

There is a certain point in capacity, after which the positive effects disappear.

More and more companies are tackling it this way.

The maximization and spread is a form of growth and expansion through optimization and efficiency.

In corona, all focus was on online reservations with limited capacity. Full = full. Everyone scaled up online ticketing, with associated time block reservations.

That development, then, is continuing, now.

In the area of food, parks are also thinking, “When I sell a park ticket, can I at that moment also sell catering?”

The recreation industry is rapidly professionalizing and seeing growth and expansion in alternative ways.

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