Financial year 2023: Waterparks and spas continue to grow

Europe’s waterparks, leisure pools and spas are still on the upswing: 89.2 per cent of the members surveyed by the European Waterpark Association e.V. (EWA) recorded an increase in visitor numbers in 2023 compared to 2022, with 81.1 per cent even reporting an increase of more than 5 per cent. “For us, this is a clear signal that our guests have recognised the health value of our waterparks, leisure pools and spas and appreciate what we have to offer following the restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic and the energy crisis,” commented the President of the EWA, Upper Austria’s State Minister for Economic Affairs Markus Achleitner, on the pleasing result.

On average, around 360,000 guests visited the waterparks and spas participating in an EWA survey in January 2024 in 2023. The spectrum ranged from 120,000 to 1,190,000 guests per facility, reflecting the great diversity of this type of pool.

The upward trend becomes even clearer when looking at the turnover achieved. 10.8 per cent were able to increase their turnover by a maximum of 5 per cent and 86.5 per cent even reported an increase in turnover of more than 5 per cent. At the same time, only 54.1 per cent of the pools surveyed have implemented an increase in admission prices in 2023. Accordingly, in addition to the effects from the admission price increase, other effects from an increase in guest numbers and ancillary revenue, for example from pool catering, must also be responsible for this success.

The restriction of swimming and bathing opportunities during the pandemic and due to energy-saving measures led to guests recognising the importance of waterparks, leisure pools and spas for health-conscious leisure activities. Accordingly, necessary admission price increases were also accepted due to the cost increases. The pandemic has also made people more aware of holiday and recreational offers close to home.

The development of demand and revenue in 2023 gives waterparks, leisure pools and spas reason to be optimistic about the current financial year. 56.8 per cent of the pools surveyed expect guest numbers to at least stabilise at the same level as the previous year in 2024. 35.1 per cent are even confident that they will be able to increase their visitor numbers in the current year.

When asked about the greatest challenges for the pool industry, the shortage of staff and skilled labour and the development of energy prices are, as expected, at the forefront. However, pool operators are also concerned about the stability of society as a whole, the reduced investment opportunities, especially for municipal pool operators due to the budget situation, and people’s lower budgets for leisure activities due to the general increase in the cost of living.

Overall, however, the expectations of waterpark, leisure pool and thermal spa operators for 2024 are characterised by an optimistic attitude. Fortunately, the results for 2023 also give reason to be optimistic.