Black Forest Chateau
SITUATED in the beautiful Black Forest areaof southern Germany in Rust/Baden, Europa Park lies close to the French and Swiss borders on the site of an old castle park and still features the Balthasar Castle built in 1442.
Originally opened in 1975 by the Mack family, owner of the famous Mack Rides amusement ride manufacturing company, on an area of 16 hectares, the park today covers 70 hectares and is made up of 12 European themed areas, which feature more than 100 attractions and shows, the majority carefully integrated into the architecture and theming of the individual areas. The various countries represented include Germany (of course!), Italy, France, Greece, Switzerland, England, Holland, Scandinavia, Portugal, Austria and Spain, while other areas featured include a main entrance plaza, Children’s World, Adventure Land and Chocoland.
Many of these different areas have been added as Europa Park has grown in its 33-year history, while in addition to the park and its numerous attractions, a whole new part of the business has been created with the building of four themed resort hotels. But more of those later.
Today, Europa Park employs more than 3,000 staff during the main season and entertains over four million guests annually, having broken this barrier for the first time at the end of 2007. Indeed, it is recognised as the most popular tourist destination in Germany after the Cologne Cathedral. Visitors come to enjoy a host of rides, attractions, live entertainment and gastronomic delights all wrapped up in a high quality package delivered with superb efficiency and dedication by all staff, a mindset that emanates right from the top.
Over 74 million guests have passed through the park’s gates since it opened and significantly a huge 78 per cent of these are repeat visitors. Currently, first time visitors make up 22 per cent of the attendance figures and 28 per cent of all visitors stay for more than one day.
Families make up 70 per cent of the overall attendance, half of which is drawn from Germany. Visitors from Switzerland make up 21 per cent of the visitors and those from France a further 18 per cent, with the remainder coming from other countries.
The majority of the main ride attractions are supplied by Mack Rides and the park is something of a shop window for the company’s products, having opened as just such a showcase under the direction of Franz Mack and sons Roland and Jürgen. Despite some sceptics to the idea of a leisure park in Rust/Baden when it was built, attendance figures in the first year of operation confirmed its potential with 250,000 visitors coming through the gates. Perhaps some of the doubters thought that the construction of exclusive serviced offices or golf courses was a better investment, but the leisure park project proved to be a much bigger money-spinner. The second year, attendance figures reached 700,000 and in 1978, one million guests visited the park.
Attractions available in 1975 included the Balthasar Castle, magical garden, Panorama Train, Mississippi Steamer, Silverstone racetrack, monorail, mini golf and Fairytale Alley, to name but a few. One of the most significant years in the venue’s development was the opening in 1982 of the Italian themed area which marked the beginning of the European themed concept and the creation of numerous different areas all themed on European countries.
Prior to this, other attractions added in the early years included the Oldtimers, mini scooter, Tirol Log Flume and the Red Baron, while in 1984 the Alpine Train Enzian was commissioned, followed a year later by the Swiss Bob Run. The years 1984 to 1995 saw significant growth at Europa Park, with numerous new attractions being added during this period alongside the development of many new themed areas based on different European countries. Among these were Holland (1984), England (1988), France (1990), Scandinavia (1992), Spain (1994) and Germany (1996), while among the rides and attractions added during this time were Pirates in Batavia (1987), Eurosat (1989) and Fjord Rafting (1991).
A totally new direction for the park came in 1995 with the opening of the first hotel on the site, the Spanish themed El Andaluz adjacent to the Spain area. This marked the beginning of a new era and came about as a result of the wider entertainment offering being provided and the resulting longer stays by visitors. Demand for hotel rooms in the area increased and in its first year, the El Andaluz enjoyed an occupancy rate of 87 per cent.
Not surprisingly, with such a demand, a second hotel was added, the Castillo Alcazar, in 1999 and by 2000 the total occupancy rate had increased to 97.7 per cent. In that same year, Europa Park drew a record attendance of three million visitors and its popularity was further confirmed when, in 2001/2002, it became Germany’s first leisure park to introduce a winter season.
During an opening period of six weeks over Christmas and New Year, 180,000 people visited – and winter opening became another firm fixture.
Demand for multi-day stays continued to grow, as did the demand for more hotel rooms, and in 2004 a third hotel, the superb Colosseo, designed in Roman-Italian style, was added to become the largest individual hotel in Baden-Wuerttemberg. Together with the El Andaluz and the Castillo Alcazar, Europa Park now offered the largest hotel resort in Germany and in just its first year, the new hotel reached an occupancy rate of 95 per cent.
Indeed, with more rooms available, more guests took the opportunity to stay for several days and in 2004 Europa Park registered approximately 320,000 overnight stays. In 2007 the number of beds available increased even further with the opening of the park’s fourth four-star hotel, the Santa Isabel, designed in the style of an ancient Portuguese monastery. During this time, of course, further additions were also made to the theme park itself, with major attractions such as the Euro-Mir coaster, the Silver Star coaster and the Atlantica Super Splash all being introduced, along with others such as the Globe Theatre and the Magic Cinema 4D.
2001 saw the opening of the Greece area which features attractions such as the water coaster Poseidon, the Pegasus coaster (opened in 2006) and the Atlantis Adventure (2007). Last year also saw a new type of facility being added to the Europa Park offering in the shape of the Science House, built just outside the main entrance on an area of 1,000sq.m. Here visitors can explore over 80 interactive experimentation stations and learn more about science and technology.
Open all year round, school classes, families and individuals are able to visit the Science House on its own or buy a combined ticket for this and the park.
Bringing the story right up to date, the 2008 season has seen the introduction of two new rides in the England themed area, namely the London Bus and the Crazy Taxi, both from Italian manufacturer Zamperla, along with the Restaurant Bamboe Baai within the Pirates in Batavia ride and a new restaurant in the Santa Isabel hotel.
In addition to all those outlined already, other major elements of Europa Park include a total transformation of the park for Halloween when literally tens of thousands of pumpkins and a host of decorative effects are brought in, overnight, to dress and theme the park for an unique Halloween experience. As well as this, the park is becoming increasingly used as a venue for TV productions, a designated stage area having been created for such occasions, while another major part of the business, founded in 1998, is ‘confertainment’ for corporate clients, who make use of a range of conference and function rooms on the site.
Europa Park’s development will, of course, continue, and already plans are confirmed for a further major expansion of the park on a 15 hectare area which will open in 2009 (see Europe news on p12).
Exciting plans are clearly afoot for the future and with younger members of the Mack family now involved in the management team, the huge success the park has enjoyed since it first opened in 1975 looks set to continue indefinitely.