In this Chapter, the author intends to discuss the background of the research, the purpose of the study, and the research questions of the study. The analytical approaches applicable in this work will be clarified further as well as the outline of the research.
1.1 Background of the Thesis
The theme park business has been developing over the years since the nineteenth century. However, the theme park industry experienced mega growth after the opening of Disneyland in California in 1955, which is the first amusement park to be built in Disneyland Resort in Anaheim,Calfornia (Milman et al.,2010). The theme parks businesses have grown because they are recreational sites that give pleasure to customers day by day. Additionally, these parks also strive to boost tourism, build the economy, and promote education, leisure, and entertainment facilities for various age groups. By the year 2010, more than 189.1 million people had visited theme parks across the world (Williams,2011).
However, the theme park industry in Europe is not as competitive as the one in the U.S., and only two parks reach the highest annual visits, over 5 million, Disneyland Paris (10.2 million,2005), and Blackpool Pleasure Beach (6 million visits in 2005) (Groote, 2007). The European theme park industry comprises of approximately 307 theme parks today, and this figure has risen steadily from the past. The theme parks host approximately 149.5 million visitors annually (D & J International Consulting & Morisetti Associates, 2014).
Many tourists visit theme parks with expectations that they will enjoy the visit with delight and pleasure. Positive emotions and experience relate to customer satisfaction, which then influences them to visit the place another time, increasing the customer rate of return. Therefore, the increasing demand for amusement parks has led to high development with new entertainment and facilities and extending their services within catering and accommodation. This industry is about pleasing and fulfilling the needs of customers, so it is essential to look into the customer satisfaction and study how certain theme parks in our case Dino Parc Rasnov handle and optimize its use to develop the management of the park.
Therefore, our study will be built around a specific project called Dino Parc, built from European Funds, an investment worth of 4.7 million€. It is the biggest park with a dinosaur theme in eastern Europe, an innovative and unique project in Romania (Marica, 2015). It has gained much popularity over the past few years, making it into the top 5 tourist destinations in Romania, approximately 1.5 million visitors per year (Mircea, 2018). The park is strategically placed next to the citadel of Rasnov, which is a significant tourist attraction. The theme park lies on a land of four hectares in a natural environment. It has 100 exposed dinosaurs made of unique resin and fibreglass. The dinosaurs are reproduced according to the latest discovery, on a scale of one to one, are guaranteed to be there for 50 years. The park also has a restaurant, 9D and 360-degree cinema and contains the largest ever dinosaur that ever lived on earth (45 meters long) (Marica, 2015).
However, with the rise of popularity and increasing visitors, the park is facing a considerable challenge; higher the number of visitors results in the same level of expectations and the difficulty of achieving higher customer satisfaction. Additionally, effective optimization of customer satisfaction will lead to a higher rate of return, sale growth in the short and long term. Dissatisfaction will result in low sales and decreasing number of visitors, which will lead to poor performance.
1.2 Purpose of the study
The purpose of this thesis is the study of the various factors that are likely to influence customer satisfaction within Dino Parc Rasnov. Dino Parc Rasnov was established in June 2015. It is also the only theme park of dinosaurs and the largest in Southeast Europe. Over the first two years of operation, about 700,0000 visitors visited the park. Since Dino Parc is a young park, it suitable for the study of the factors influencing customer satisfaction in the theme park industry.
Furthermore, the study intends to present how management optimizes these factors to improve customer satisfaction and increase the rate of return, adding value to the experience of the theme park (Marica,2015). The destination Romania, Rasnov, was chosen as an ideal theme park given its convenience in terms of availability of data and primary information access which are crucial for analyzing factors of interest, such as the corresponding measurement of satisfaction.
Moreover, the need to study the theme park industry in southern Europe is also to enable them to cope with the demands of customer satisfaction. With the understanding of the park's management desire to know their clients' perceptions, and what drives visitors into and out of attraction parks, was also vital in choosing this study. Also, the theme park manager's accessibility of feedback is essential to estimate peak visitor visits. Consequently, the use of information helps for future planning of theme park features and effective management.
- To achieve the aim, the following research questions must be answered:
- What are the primary customer satisfaction factors that Dino Parc considers?
- How does customer satisfaction impact the performance of Dino Parc?
- What are the measures for customer satisfaction inside Dino Parc?
- How can customer satisfaction be used and optimized for further development within Dino Parc?
1.3 Analytical approach
To fully understand the topic, this thesis will maximize on primary sources. Through the primary sources, this thesis will explore an overview of the general theme park industry focusing on the history, present trends, success factors and an explanation of its main characteristics. Moreover, the definition and the measurements of customer satisfaction and its optimization will be discussed together with the major factors that affect customer satisfaction and present how management will respond.
The primary research involves the collection of first-hand data through interviews with the CEO and general manager of the park, employees, and the marketing team. The aim is to find out whether the issues explained in the literature are aligned with the current situations in Dino Parc. Moreover, the interviews will help to determine whether the theme parks have their methods to handle and optimize customer satisfaction to improve the quality of services. With the obtained data and information from the interviews, further processing will be done to obtain clean, reliable, and applicable information for the industry of theme parks and specifically the Dino Parc.
1.4 Outline of the thesis
The thesis has the following parts: introduction, literature review, methodology, findings, conclusion and recommendations. In the introduction of this thesis, an overview of the topic and the background of the thesis were evaluated. The purpose of this study is to answer the four main research questions, which are the pillars of this research. Furthermore, the analytical approach will be shown. The second part of the thesis is a literature review, where various subjects relating to the thesis will be reviewed following the subtopics: theme park industry, customer satisfaction, customer satisfaction in theme park market and European theme park industry. Here, deeper discussions on why customer satisfaction is essential regarding the performance of an organization and in what ways can affect it and how they should be optimized by the management of the theme park.
In the methodology part of the thesis, the author will use interviews as a data collection method. Nonetheless, the author will explain the nature of the interviews and the development of the interview questions. The author will also explain the data collection process and how the data will be analyzed. Moreover, the finding will be presented in Chapter Four of the thesis. This will involve assessments of the interview questions outcome. After discussing the findings, in the last part, the thesis will give conclusions and recommendations. The outcome will be the list of customers satisfaction factors and the suggestions of the optimization of visitor satisfaction from the management perspective.
2. Literature Review
Herein, the author will present an overview of theme parks, the development of and customer satisfaction will be defined and discussed further. Additionally, customer satisfaction in the theme parks and the factors affecting it will also be discussed. In the last part of this review, the state of the European theme park industry will be presented.
2.1 Theme Parks and its characteristics
A theme park can be defined an outdoor attraction site that can combine rides and shows that are designed around a central theme and there also charges in terms of pay-one-price fees for admission to the visitors (Goulding,2003). The theme park is part of the global attraction industry (Milman, 2010). The occupied space for the theme park must be huge, given that it involves outdoor and entertainment innovativeness. The industry has a long history, which is traced to 19th-century pleasure grounds, and as time passes, it was developed into a more sophisticated theme park with varieties of entertainment enterprises (Weinstein, 1996).
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