2021 Travel Trend: Sophisticated Theme Parks

Outside of rides and roller coasters, theme parks are experimenting with new approaches to entice visitors

Karl Finn
3 min readJan 8, 2021

Theme and amusement parks are an ever-popular holiday destination. A global poll by YouGov showed that 15 percent of people list theme parks as their favourite holiday choice, more popular than cruises (13%) and winter sports (7%).

As pent-up demand competes with restrictions on movement and safety concerns, thanks to large outdoor spaces and expertise in risk management, theme parks could recover sooner than other areas of the sector.

Grand View Research predicts that in Europe alone the theme park market will reach nearly $647 million by 2027. This optimism is reflected in major openings and investment in new services, which reinforce their reputation as a one-stop destination holiday.

The London Resort is set open in England in 2024. If plans are approved, the park will spread out over 1,245 acres and host up to 12.5 million visitors a year. The designs indicate the developers are banking on more than rollercoasters. The resort will also include luxury hotels, a public-access leisure complex devoted to retail and dining, and a ‘conferention’ (conference and convention) centre for hosting business and entertainment events. The developers specifically mention eSports as an area of focus, capitalizing on this rapidly expanding industry.

There has also been a rise in “historical” theme parks. Puy du Fou creates immersive theatrical experiences in countries “based upon their culture, their heritage, their history”, to quote CEO Nicolas de Villiers. The brand hopes to break ground on four more sites globally by 2030, building on successes in France and Spain. There is an added advantage to refocusing on live experiences, rather than rides. De Villiers notes that, because Puy du Fou operates on a show schedule, staff can predict and manage the flow of visitors, by changing showtimes or adding performances. This is invaluable, from a safety perspective.

Historical sites-turned-attractions like Ancient Kiev and Watermouth Castle, in Ukraine and England respectively, are also leading in this space.

Also seeking to diversify its offer, Kings Island theme park in Ohio has added new cottages and a campground, scheduled to open in the spring of 2021. Named Camp Cedar, amenities will include pools, walking trails, and camping necessities such as laundry facilities, fire pits and grills. The additional services will bolster its reputation as an ideal out-of-doors vacation destination, and by extension safer.

Due to increased demand for at-home entertainment, Japanese video game and anime makers grew in 2020. To keep up momentum now that vaccines are on the horizon, they are investing in real-life experiences based around iconic characters. In 2020, Universal Studios Japan added a sophisticated, VR-led “coaster experience” based around the beloved anime series Attack on Titan. Also coming soon to the resort, the much-hyped opening of Super Nintendo World, which will feature Mario and other fan favourites, as seen in the preview video below.

With the effects of the pandemic looming large, 2021 is set to be a pivotal year for theme parks and the wider travel industry. Across the world, theme park operators are innovating, and making space for fresh approaches, to ensure they remain an attractive vacation choice.

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Hero image courtesy of The London Resort. Video courtesy of Theme Park Insider.



Karl Finn

Writer in London. Currently run events at Google, formerly V&A and Sotheby’s. Founder of Predictedit, a newsletter bringing together trends, research and ideas.