Parkworld.be: Europa-Park is an amusement park for families, managed by a family, with members of several generations: is it easy to make certain decisions, or to come to a consensus when a novelty is in process of development?
Roland Mack: Well, compared to a big concern, we do indeed have a big advantage: We can decide within the family, whether we realize a certain ride or other novelties. Like this, we save a lot of time and can react quickly to the demands of our visitors. However, many times we also have different opinions, so that we still have to discuss the details about certain novelties. But in general, we make up our minds quickly and can start to bring all of our ideas together and plan the realization of the project. Of course, we also have a fantastic team of designers, architects and our manufacturing company Mack Rides, with whom we realize our projects.
Parkworld.be: At this moment Europa-Park is not open throughout the entire year, are there any plans to have a resort which is open the entire year? Are there any plans to extend the resort with for instance a waterpark, a shopping mall/village to accomplish this?
Roland Mack: Although the theme park is not open all year round, we offer many activities also during the winter in our resort hotel Colosseo. For example, we have special packages at a fantastic rate, our restaurants offer themed weeks with e. g. Asian specialities, etc. and our wellness & spa areas also have special winter offers. We also offer some high-level special events while Europa-Park is closed: the election of Miss Germany and the Euro Dance Festival, to name just two of them. Right now we do not have any plans to build an indoor water park or a shopping mall. But with the introduction of our winter season, we made a big step towards a year round opening. The period during which the park is closed, is absolutely necessary for us to realize our novelties and do all of the renovation work.
Parkworld.be: In the past there were some rumors of a second park. When I interviewed Michael Kreft a few years ago, he confirmed that indeed there are some ideas on that. What is the current status/position on this? Can the park still be extended? Would you consider to have a second park, in the USA or Asia for instance, to extend also the market for Mack Rides?
Roland Mack: Of course, Europa-Park can still be extended. Just a year ago, we bought another 15 hectares of land. We partly used this expansion area for our Icelandic themed area and for our improvements in the infrastructure. But there is still plenty of space left. During the past 35 years, we have always managed to expand the park for our visitors at regular intervals. And we are convinced that we will be able to succeed with this strategy.
We do not have any plans to build another park in the USA, Asia or any other location. Europa-Park is our business. And we will keep investing into this park, which is meanwhile considered one of the most beautiful parks in the world.
Parkworld.be: Last year Blue Fire made its entrance. Were you surprised with so many positive and amazed comments, or were you really expecting the ride to be that good? The rollercoaster is so popular that long waiting lines are unavoidable. I assume this fact is also seen by the park. Are there any plans to introduce a “ticket system” like Disney’s Fast Pass? Or can the capacity of this rollercoaster be increased even more?
Roland Mack: Indeed, I knew from the very beginning that blue fire Megacoaster would be a hit with our visitors. Already when planning the ride, I knew that Mack Rides was going to develop a fantastic and innovative roller coaster. And when I went on the ride for the first time, I was absolutely thrilled! The ride is absolutely fantastic. I just love the feeling when you are catapulted out of the building and into the open. We really put a lot of effort in this ride. For the innovative seats we even worked together with a university. Of course the waiting time is a little longer for this ride, because it´s very popular with our visitors, but I think that it´s absolutely worth it. However, we are not planning to introduce a Fast Pass. But we do offer a Single Rider Lane, in which all individual guests can queue in order to improve the hourly capacity. Also, we opened up our new “GAZPROM theme world – the wonder of Energy”. This novelty is not only a fantastic infotainment hall, but at the same time part of the queue line for blue fire Megacoaster. Like this the visitors can get interesting information about natural gas while waiting to go on the ride.
Parkworld.be: As France and Switzerland are so close by, the second most important language inside the park must be French. Does the staff get special training for this? Or are people hired based on language skills?
Roland Mack: Both! Many of our employees are French. This gives us a big advantage, because they already speak two languages perfectly. But of course it is not absolutely necessary to speak French in order to be able to work here. As our guests are very international, English is a very important language at the park. We also offer French classes of different levels to our employees. Everybody who wants to can participate. The classes usually take place once a week and are organized by our Europa-Park Academy. Moreover, we have developed a special dictionary which is customized for the needs of our staff members.
Parkworld.be: As Europa-Park is a large park, welcoming a lot of people every day, the capacity must be huge, not only for rides and shows, but also for restaurants. How difficult is it to predict if a park needs to run on full capacity? I can imagine that on certain “calm” days not all restaurants are fully staffed. How many people are working for Europa-Park? How important is Europa-Park for the local/German economy?
Roland Mack: Well, of course we have visitor statistics of previous years. This makes it easier for us to decide on whether we have to run all of the attractions, shops and restaurants on full capacity. During holiday times in Germany, France and Switzerland the park is usually well visited, while during regular weekdays we have less visitors. During the past decades we have developed quite a good feeling for this, so that we can predict our visitor numbers pretty well. Over 3,100 people work at Europa-Park during the season. This makes Europa-Park one of the most important employers not only in South Baden but also in the Alsace region in France. Moreover, we have created approximately 8,000 indirect jobs in the region. Therefore, Europa-Park is indeed a very important factor for the local economy.
Parkworld.be: Since 2008-2009 there has been a general financial crisis. How difficult is it for a park to go along with this phenomenon?
Roland Mack: We – and many other German theme parks – were actually among the winners of the economic crisis. I was quite confident already at the beginning of the 2009 season that we will have stable visitor numbers. In fact, we were even able to increase our visitor numbers significantly during the past season. This development is due to several reasons: First of all, we were courageous enough to invest a huge amount into our new rides and innovations. Blue fire Megacoaster for example is a crowd puller and attracted many visitors. Then, we were also very lucky with the weather. Already at the beginning of last year´s summer season, we had perfect weather conditions, which is an important factor. Last but not least, many people decided not to go on a big holiday trip abroad, but to choose locations within the country or nearby. Therefore, many guests have visited Europa-Park and spent a few days here together with the whole family. In my opinion, it is very important for a theme park owner not to be scared when a crisis is approaching. It is essential to invest, improve and offer new experiences for the guests.
Parkworld.be: Europa-Park has become a real resort. Can we expect a name change to “Europa-Resort”? The hotels are not only impressive and nice, they are very stylish. If people would spend multiple days, which hotel would you certainly recommend? For which reasons?
Roland Mack: Actually, if you approach the park by car, you can already see the big new fountain on the access road with a sign that says “Europa-Park Resort”. It is kind of difficult for me to recommend a certain hotel, because it all depends on the guests´ individual wishes. In my opinion, all of our hotels have that certain something. I suppose that I would recommend the Santa Isabel to those guests who are looking for some tranquility, while the Colosseo is certainly ideal for families with children. The Castillo Alcazar has a fantastic theming for fans of the Middle Ages and the El Andaluz features a fantastic ambience and mirrors Spanish lifestyle. As the amenities in each hotel are open to all of our hotel resort guests, I would definitely recommend to make use of this opportunity. Why not visit the wellness & spa area in the Santa Isabel, then have dinner in the Colosseo´s “Antica Roma” restaurant, visit the bar “Buena Vista” on the 9th floor of the Castillo Alcazar and then go to sleep in one of the beautifully themed rooms at hotel El Andaluz?
Parkworld.be: The park is not only a great spot for regular tourists and families, also many coaster clubs have found their way to Europa-Park over the years. How do you feel about these people, exploring the adrenaline all the time? Would you also fit in such a club? The park has received so many awards, too much to name them. Are their some specific awards that you really are proud of, and which is worth mentioning in particular?
Roland Mack: Coaster clubs are actually very important for Europa-Park and for the entire theme park industry. After all, they are coaster specialists. They know a lot about the industry and usually travel around to test new rides. Therefore, it is important for us to keep in touch with their members. Like this we are well informed about the wishes and needs of adrenaline fans. Would I fit into such a club? I do love to ride roller coasters – if not I wouldn´t have built a theme park. But I am afraid that I would not have enough time to go on trips together with other coaster club members. I rather have to take the opportunities as they come… usually on a very short notice. We are very happy that we have been getting so many awards for our rides, theming, hotels and overall conception. All of them are important for us so that we don´t want to point out any specific ones.
Source: Patrick Joossens