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27 October 2008

Winter Waterpark Woes

This story from the Wisconsin State Journal is clear indication that the times are a'changin'... at least for waterpark resort industry leader Great Wolf Lodge. In November & December of this year, the resort plans to close completely on most Tuesdays & Wednesdays. Not just the indoor waterpark. The whole resort.

The move will allow the 436-room property, which opened in 1997, to "both manage expenses and perform maintenance," said spokesman Steve Shattuck.

"Anyone can appreciate a prudent approach to operational expense management," he said.

No layoffs will be required because there is minimal staffing on those days. Much of the savings will be in utilities, Shattuck said.

Part of the reason it has been slow, said Jeff Coy, a hotel waterpark industry expert based near Phoenix, Ariz., is that the resort has limited convention and meeting space.

Prudent? Perhaps. But this is a game changer. When was the last time you heard of a hotel NOT being open every day? Maybe this is the start of a new model for the industry, or it is possible that this is just an isolated incident mitigated in most areas, as the article suggests, by successful business travel thanks to convention space.

But the entire travel industry is worried, much like the airlines have been publicly recently, that business travel will be reduced in months and years ahead. Rough economic times coupled with progressively easier virtual meeting capabilities may change the business travel market slowly but steadily.

It will be interesting to hear the reaction at the WWA waterpark show in Vegas that starts today...

Read the full article HERE.