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Disneyland, Asterix, Futuroscope... Why theme parks invest so much in themed hotels

Royal.

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Disneyland, Asterix, Futuroscope... Why theme parks invest so much in themed hotels

Royal. This is the key word that guides the philosophy of the Disneyland Hotel, reopened on January 25 after several years of work which transformed it into a “timeless castle” paying homage to the royal characters from the Disney catalog. In the hotel which sits at the entrance to the Marne-la-Vallée amusement park and which aims to be the most immersive in Europe, princesses and princes are everywhere: in the corridors greeting visitors, in painting with above the beds in the rooms, and even in the hotel boutique, where dozens of children transform themselves every day by buying their dress or knight costume in the tailor area.

Royal, the service hopes to be also in this five-star establishment - unique for a leisure park on the Old Continent. Concierge service, spa, well-stocked all-you-can-eat buffet (additional charge) and even a gourmet restaurant at 120 euros per menu... to eat in the ballroom of Beauty and the Beast. Not to mention the suites, also themed, located in a space independent of the hotel which has its own access to the park.

“It’s more than a lick of paint on the walls: we went back to concrete to start over,” says Tom Muller, set designer at Walt Disney Imagineering Paris. The leisure complex has focused heavily on the renovation of this high-end and immersive hotel to reaffirm its position as the European leader in theme parks. In 2021, he had already completely redesigned his New York hotel, a five-minute walk from the parks, by theming it around the Marvel universe.

On the other hand, competition is getting tougher. If Disneyland is ahead with its 5,700 rooms built since its inception in 1992, the other French parks have massively converted to hotels in recent years. At Parc Astérix (Oise) for example, we made do with a small hotel of 100 rooms for 20 years, before initiating an investment plan in 2017 to increase the capacity to 450 rooms with two new hotels and extension of the first. The latest born in 2020, Les Quais de Lutèce, takes immersion to the maximum in a street in Paris in the time of the Gauls.

In Puy du Fou (Vendée), six hotels have sprung up since 2007, immersing visitors in a Gallo-Roman villa, a medieval citadel, or even the Marly estate. The Futuroscope (Vienna), which already had 1,500 rooms near the park, also launched with two themed hotels in 2022 and 2023. Substantial investments, often equivalent to those made for the biggest attractions: the latest hotel in 'Asterix (32 million euros) cost almost as much as the new Toutatis zone inaugurated in 2023 and its record roller coaster (36 million).

Having hotels near its amusement park, apart from the giants Disney, Europa-Park and PortAventura, “this was rarely done”, recognizes Arnaud Bennet, president of Snelac, which represents the profession, and boss of Pal (Allier ). If they are embarking on this strategy, it is first and foremost because their market is booming: since the pandemic, the parks have been breaking attendance records every year. Visitors are increasingly fond of this type of outing, and are looking for accommodation to spend their stay there. Especially since the continuous addition of new things makes it more and more difficult to visit in one day.

Thanks to hotels, the parks are able to attract a much wider clientele, who can afford to travel further because they stay to sleep on site. Nicolas de Villiers, president of Puy du Fou, observed “an evolution in visitors” with the hotels, with the arrival of customers from Lyon, Lille or Marseille, who were quite far from the Vendée park.

And it even works beyond borders: Parc Astérix reaches “15% foreign visitors, compared to barely 8% a few years ago,” points out its deputy general director Guy Vassel. “We have 20% Swiss in our accommodation at Pal,” confirms Arnaud Bennet. They would never have come without the hotel!” At Futuroscope, certain visits to the park “were even triggered by the desire to see the Station Cosmos hotel,” assures boss Rodolphe Bouin.

Also readTornado chasers at Futuroscope: what is the “best attraction in the world” really worth?

A visitor who stays at the hotel is also a visitor who spends more. Not only because he stays longer, but also because having more time to enjoy the park, he is more willing to take his time between two attractions to stroll through the shops or take a snack break. “Satisfaction ratings are significantly higher among visitors who have stayed at the hotel,” adds Rodolphe Bouin. The theming allows you to continue the immersion of the day outside the park in the evening for a global experience.

Accommodation in leisure parks has a occupancy rate that would put the hotel industry to shame: 97% for Station Cosmos, 98% for Puy du Fou hotels... And even, regularly, full weekends, even whole weeks in the summer. “We are totally saturated, it’s difficult to meet demand,” smiles Arnaud Bennet.

For parks, this also helps smooth out attendance peaks by encouraging visitors to choose less popular dates. Having a well-filled hotel also means ensuring a daily minimum of customers who have planned their visit date in advance to guarantee sufficient attendance in the park, so that the day is profitable, even rainy.

Not to mention that the hotel is a profitable product in itself: unlike a new attraction, it is not an additional burden on the park's operating budget. Most of the parks that close in winter even manage to keep their hotels running during the off-peak period by hosting business seminars.

Everyone intends to continue this strategy. At Puy du Fou, we are “preparing future hotels”, slips Nicolas de Villiers, when Rodolphe Bouin confirms “thinking about a third hotel” at Futuroscope. Parc Astérix has already confirmed that a fourth hotel “on the theme of Asterix’s travels” should open in 2026. A fifth is even already in consideration.

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