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November 22, 2006

Six Flags' Shapiro Wants Families Not Roller Coasters

Article written by:
Michael Willis
Reporting from IAAPA

Atlanta, GA – Mark Shapiro, the CEO and President of Six Flags delivered his keys for success at the owners and general managers breakfast at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) expo in Atlanta last week. It's not about new rides or new technology, "at the end of the day it's about great service". Great service is one of the many ways Shapiro hopes to improve the world's largest theme park chain. Other strategies for success include providing a welcoming environment for families and finding new ways of generating income.

Mark Shapiro, Six Flags, IAAPA
Mark Shapiro, CEO and President of Six Flags spoke to amusement park owners and general managers at IAAPA.

Shapiro describes the role of Six Flags as storytellers providing "emotional transportation" to their guests. Shapiro hopes that this philosophy, along with a focus on providing a family-friendly environment will be instrumental for the success of Six Flags.

He will create this environment by putting a stop to line cutting, enforcing a no smoking policy and ensuring all park guests wear shirts. Shapiro also hopes to improve customer service by hiring motivating managers and increasing employee incentives and bonus programs.

Shapiro recognizes that Six Flags must continually evolve and stay current with technology to find new sources of revenue. Technology-based revenue generating possibilities include utilizing the time while customers wait in long lines, tapping into the "third screen" of cell phones, and providing ride DVDs instead of still pictures.

There are five points that Shapiro feels are important for the success of any business in the amusement industry: Don't get complacent; Be prepared to market yourself differently; Surround yourself with smart people; Develop strong leaders and don't think of the amusement industry as a mature industry.

Shapiro closed his speech by answering questions from the audience which consisted of amusement park owners and general managers. The audience learned that there will be no admission price increase next season, there are not any decisions regarding the sale of any of the Six Flags theme parks, and that we can expect a "massive presence" from Six Flags at the IAAPA expo next year.

Shapiro also made it clear that his focus for Six Flags is to reduce debt, increase family friendly attractions and to not build any more $20 million roller coasters. Instead of expensive roller coasters, he wants to appeal to thrill-seekers through less expensive rides, citing S&S Power's new Xtreme Swing at Valley Fair.

Shapiro indicated that Six Flags has a tough road ahead as they try to appeal to families, without losing the thrill-seekers along the way.

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