27 May 2024 World leisure: news, training & property
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Attractions Management
2024 issue 1

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Leisure Management - Rodolphe Bouin

Theme parks

Rodolphe Bouin

As French future-themed attraction Futuroscope prepares to open a new waterpark as part of its €300m development plans, its CEO speaks to Magali Robathan

Bouin succeeded Dominique Hummel as president of Futuroscope in 2018 Image: Futuroscope
Futuroscope launched the Chasseurs de Tornades attraction in 2022 Image: Futuroscope
The themed Station Cosmos Hotel opened in 2022 Image: Futuroscope
The 10 year plan committed €300m to Futuroscope’s expansion Image: Futuroscope
Image: Futuroscope
Aquascope will feature four different areas including an immersion zone Image: Futuroscope
Étincelle: the Curse of the Black Opal was launched in 2023 Image: Futuroscope

Just over three years ago, in October 2020, Futuroscope revealed its development plans for the coming decade. With the aim of moving from a day trip theme park to a short break resort destination, the planned €300m investment included a new waterpark, three major new attractions and a hotel complex comprised of two themed hotel offerings.

The first new attraction in the plan opened in 2022 in the shape of the €21m Chasseurs de Tornades, a tornado-themed dynamic motion theatre by Dynamic Attractions.

The same year saw the launch of the €19m, 76 room space-themed Station Cosmos hotel – a key part of the plan to attract visitors from further afield and encourage them to stay longer – as well as the Space Loop restaurant, which delivers guests’ food via a clever rail system.

The summer of 2023 saw the launch of Hotel Ecolodgee, Futuroscope’s second themed hotel offering. Located near the entrance to the park, this offering comprises 120 wooden lodges on stilts spread across a 3.8 hectare landscaped park.

This year will see the opening of Aquascope, a new waterpark with a maximum capacity of 1,500 people offering ‘aqua digital experiences’ that will allow guests to swim through and play with images projected onto the water. The park will feature four different zones – a ‘sensations’ area with eight waterslides, an immersion zone featuring the aqua digital offering, a play area aimed at younger children and an outdoor space with an open air pool and beach.

How was 2023 for Futuroscope?
We expect to have broken the two million visitor barrier in 2023, and the €130 million barrier in terms of turnover, thanks to an increase in visitor spending that’s been confirmed over the last two years. We’re where we promised our shareholders we’d be, despite the unfortunate episode of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s the secret of Futuroscope’s success?
Futuroscope has always been an unusual park. It was built five years before Disney arrived in France, at a time when the leisure park market didn’t exist in this country. Its creator René Monory was a local politician who anticipated the advent of the leisure industry. His aim was to develop employment in this predominantly rural region.

Monory carried out all the work and succeeded in convincing people of his innovative project.

Futuroscope is now part of Compagnie des Alpes, but we’ve kept our DNA. Innovation and creativity are at the heart of what we do. This year we’re creating a waterpark unlike anything that’s been done before in Europe.

What can you tell us about the new waterpark?
We’re opening Aquascope in the summer of 2024. It will be an indoor waterpark open whenever Futuroscope is open – around 285 days a year. The park will offer highly original aqua-digital experiences based on mapping projected on the water.

The waterpark will feature four different areas: A sensations area, with eight slides of different levels; an immersion zone, with a unique experience that will give the impression of swimming inside an image; a children’s area with games and slides suitable for children aged three and over; and a summer outdoor area with a beautiful swimming pool and beach. For each zone we’re working with a different service provider specialising in that specific field.

The waterpark will have its own ticket office and will be able to accommodate a maximum of 1,500 people at any one time.

What are your plans for 2024? And what about the longer term plans for the next five to ten years?
The aim of our 2020-2030 €30 million investment plan is to position Futuroscope as a destination for short-term stays – not just a theme park – and to attract more visitors from further afield, including neighbouring countries – mainly Spain, Switzerland and Belgium.

In order to do this, we’ve divided the investment between the historic park (around €200 million) and the new area at the gateway of the park (around €100 million), with the new area featuring our two themed hotels, the Space Loop experiential restaurant, the new Aquascope waterpark and a plaza to link them all together.

The growth in visitor numbers between 2017 and 2019 required us to build new attractions with a greater capacity than in the past (1,000/hour compared with 700/hour) and therefore to invest more in these new rides. We invested €20 million in 2020 in our first coaster, Objectif Mars, and €21 million in 2022 in our tornado-themed simulator ride Chasseurs de Tornades. This compares to a €14 million investment in the Extraordinaire Voyage flying theatre attraction in 2017, which was our biggest ever investment at the time.

What are the biggest challenges and biggest opportunities for Futuroscope?
The biggest challenge is constantly coming up with new ideas to renew and develop the park. At Futuroscope we never do the same attraction twice and we feature attractions that are different from those that can be found elsewhere in France, so we’re constantly innovating.

As well as being our biggest challenge, this is also our biggest opportunity, because we offer something that you can’t find anywhere else.

About Futuroscope

Futuroscope is the brainchild of French politician René Monory, who wanted to create jobs and interest in the Poitiers region and had the idea for a leisure and science park focused on technology, science and discovery.

Initially conceived as an educational attraction, the facility opened in 1987 as a theme park and edutainment venue, featuring Kinémax, the Pavillon du Futuroscope and a play zone.

Located 6 miles from Poitiers in western France, the futuristic-themed park features 40 different attractions based on  multimedia, cinematographic, and audiovisual technology. Highlights include 3D and 4D cinemas, a rollercoaster, and live shows. Rides include the Gyrotour, which offers guests 360° panoramic views of the park from 150ft in the air, the new Chasseurs de Tornades Tornado-themed flying theatre and the Destination Mars rollercoaster.

In 2019, Futuroscope launched Futuropolis, a children’s theme park that allows young visitors to play at being drivers, sports stars, gardeners, archaeologists, firefighters, and inventors. Rides in this area include a waterpark with floating trampolines, an electric car track and Rescue Academy, where children learn to pilot their own rescue boat.

In 2024, Futuroscope is launching its new waterpark, Aquascope.

Image: Futuroscope

Originally published in Attractions Management 2024 issue 1

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