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Record-breaking roller coasters, XXL water park, themed hotels... Europa-Park's recipe for remaining a leader in amusement parks

Trains propelled vertically, from the roof of the station, directly in a loop, before performing numerous - and intense - zigzagging figures in a setting reminiscent of Croatia.

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Record-breaking roller coasters, XXL water park, themed hotels... Europa-Park's recipe for remaining a leader in amusement parks

Trains propelled vertically, from the roof of the station, directly in a loop, before performing numerous - and intense - zigzagging figures in a setting reminiscent of Croatia... Voltron Nevera, the park's highly anticipated new roller coaster German amusement park Europa-Park, has already attracted 100,000 passengers a week after its inauguration on April 26. The queue rarely drops below 60 minutes, filled with visitors eager to test this unique coaster in the world. An investment worth several tens of millions of euros (the exact amount of which is kept secret) vital for a park which, in a booming sector, intends to defend its place as number 2 in Europe.

Less than an hour from Strasbourg, lost in the German countryside between the Rhine and the Black Forest, Europa-Park attracts nearly 6 million visitors per year, twice as many as Parc Astérix. A feat in a European leisure park market crushed by the giant Disneyland Paris and its 15 million visitors. Here too, the mascot (Ed Euromaus) is a mouse, and he is not afraid to confront Mickey. Voted the best leisure park in the world eight times, Europa-Park has seen its attendance increase by 40% since 2010. It is even in the top 20 of the most popular parks in the world, despite being trusted by Disney and Universal. Deciphering a success that cannot be denied.

Behind Europa-Park, there is a family history: that of the Macks. Ride builders established for more than two centuries in a village in the Black Forest who decided, in the early 1970s, to open an amusement park which would serve as a showroom to present their products. A trip to Disney World in Florida in 1972 was a shock for Franz Mack and his son, Roland, who brought back some good ideas. Europa-Park opened in Rust, a small village near the French-German border, in 1975. The theme of Europe "quickly imposed itself, because we were at the crossroads of three countries, Germany, France and Switzerland,” recalls Roland Mack.

The park invites you to stroll through different thematic zones, each taking up the architecture and clichés of a country from the Old Continent. Long before the Schengen area, the Macks introduced Europe without borders. It grows over the years, with new neighborhoods and above all new attractions unique in the world. Spinning roller coaster, shaped like a bobsleigh, which ends in the water... Faithful to the original idea of ​​being a showcase for the family ride construction business, Europa-Park presents numerous prototypes of new products that plans to market Mack Rides.

“It’s good for our customers to be able to try before signing,” emphasizes Roland Mack. But we are also the ones taking all the risks. If it doesn’t work, we can’t turn against the manufacturer!” The park's latest coaster, Voltron Nevera, is no exception to the rule since it is a new model. “The vibrating rail, the turntable, the screens… If there are so many special effects in this attraction, it is above all to show potential customers everything they can do,” analyzes François Petit, president from Parcs Actus, a community of enthusiasts.

In almost 50 years, Europa-Park has developed an impressive collection of thrilling attractions (Blue Fire, Wodan, Silver Star, etc.) but also family attractions with tasteful decor (Arthur, Pirates of Batavia, Voletarium, etc.), without count the dozens of activities for the little ones. With an entry ticket between 61.50 euros and 69.50 euros for an adult (depending on the date) for around a hundred activities, “the value for money is pretty crazy,” says François Petit. And when most parks have rather developed the family side or the sensations, here, “there is something for all tastes: small children as well as young adults as well as parents all have something to occupy themselves”, points out Maxime Guény , editor-in-chief of Parks and Recreation magazine.

Europa-Park places great emphasis on the family side, “because it is families who bring in the most turnover,” explains François Petit. “They eat, spend money in the shops, take time for a snack…” But the big roller coasters are an essential cog in the machine, a powerful marketing tool that helps establish its image as a juggernaut and attract an audience of teenagers and young adults. “In every family, there is a teenager who will want to test their limits by riding the coaster, so it ultimately reaches a fairly wide audience,” notes Maxime Guény.

Also read “It’s a real competition”: between amusement parks, the roller coaster war is declared

Very early on, well before its competitors, the park also developed a range of themed hotels to accommodate its visitors. “We need it, because we are not really next to a big city,” underlines Roland Mack. The first opened in 1995; 30 years later, there are six, or 5,800 beds. A strategy which allowed the park to expand its catchment area by bringing its visitors from further afield, but also to become a real destination, as the number of attractions grew and it became impossible to do everything in one A day. A direct TGV line from Paris and Strasbourg, set up in 2022, should also allow it to attract more French people, who already represent 19% of the park's customers.

To support this strategy, Europa-Park invested 180 million euros in 2019 in Rulantica, an indoor aquatic theme park, which can operate all year round, accompanied by a hotel, a few hundred meters from the historic park. It allows you to complete your day after the attractions close, or even to extend visitors' stay a little. “We want to offer an offer of two to three days for families,” agrees Roland Mack, who says he wants to “build two more new hotels next to Rulantica and expand it.” In 2022, the water park welcomed 900,000 visitors, according to the Theme Index, which counts attendance at leisure sites.

Also read: Disneyland, Asterix, Futuroscope... Why amusement parks invest so much in themed hotels

Such investments “are taking a major risk,” recognizes the patriarch. “But we can afford it because we are a family business. We don't think like a shareholder: we don't want to make a profit but to grow the company and be able to pass it on to future generations." Roland Mack, his brother Jürgen and their respective children Michael, Ann-Kathrin, Thomas and Frederik, are all partners in the management of the company. “At least the decisions are quick,” smiles Roland Mack. But you need rigorous organization so that things don’t go in all directions.”

The family has coped with challenges, such as the two major fires that hit the park in 2018 and 2023, destroying historic attractions, fortunately without causing any casualties. Twists of fate - both fires were accidental - which Europa-Park was able to take advantage of: the Scandinavian district, destroyed in 2018, was rebuilt in barely two years and the new version of the Pirates of Batavia attraction became the one of the best in the park. As for the Diamond Cave, which went up in smoke last June, it is due to reopen on May 14, less than a year after its destruction.

Difficulties that do not make the Macks deviate from their course: investing again and again in new features or the renewal of their attractions to attract visitors - and above all to keep them coming back, 80% of them are not there yet. first visit. Roland Mack promises for 2025 a “new ride in the center of the park, for the 50th anniversary”. After that ? “We still have room to grow, and we’re going to grow.”

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