View from the top of the water slide at Morey's Piers in New Jersey

NextGen Waterparks for the Largest Market: Adults

This is the first in a series of brief observations following this year’s IAAPA show (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions). I’ve enjoyed going to IAAPA for more than twenty years.

Here’s the observation: I could be wrong, but it still seems as though waterparks and many of their designers still haven't discovered the adult market. I first wrote about developing adult-oriented waterparks and waterpark features twenty years ago.

Here’s why: in the US, there are more than twice as many adult swimmers as there are swimmers who are children. How could that be? Households with children age 12 and under are just 21% of all households. Even when the bar rises to age 18 and under, almost 70% of all US households don't include children.

I have great children myself, two under 18, but you've got to be pretty myopic to miss the adult market.

When it comes to destination water attractions, the opportunity is even greater: adults without children travel more frequently, all year round (not just when school is out), plus, they spend more per capita on vacations.

Think about those TV ads for all-inclusive resorts that we see this time of the year – especially in northern cities. The ads feature beautiful beaches, swim up bars and gorgeous pools, and except for the family-oriented resorts, they don’t feature children. What do they know?

This has had an impact on southern city resorts from Phoenix to San Antonio, to all of Florida which have added extensive outdoor mini-waterparks as their primary magnet asset – although these new water features are often still child-oriented.

Here’s a valuable parallel: In the “mostly adult” US, golf participation hover today around 6% to 7%, a little more than a third of golfs peak in 2000. Swimming participation, which still doesn't include all visitors to pools or waterparks, is a higher 16% to 17%. The stat on just “going to the beach” tops 21%. Simply put, aquatics are the new golf – with broad based appeal to women and all minority groups -important as minority births have topped Caucasian births since 2014 and are expected to only increase in the years ahead.

My advice, keep building for the many millions of US kids, but start building for the adults too. It's time for adult-oriented indoor waterparks, and more outdoor ones that target adults too.

This matters to adults in your community, and those traveling to resorts and regional and destination attractions too. There’s a special opportunity here for casinos as they already target adults and will want to give them more reasons to visit as gaming moves online.

Link to Dan's host page.