Visitors are slowly returning to Dreamworld in the wake of last year’s tragedy and the park will soon launch an advertising blitz to lure people back ahead of the Easter holidays.
Dreamworld’s parent company Ardent Leisure made a loss of $49 million in the first half of the financial year after slashing the theme park’s value by more than $90 million.
Its theme parks business, which also includes the adjacent Whitewater World, recorded a $16.6 million slump in revenue to $41.8 million following the death of four people on the Thunder River Rapids ride in October.
Ardent shares plunged 22 per cent on the news, which came alongside a sharp cut in the company’s interim dividend.
The shares dropped 47 cents to $1.69, and have fallen 34 per cent since the fatal accident.
Dreamworld and WhiteWater World were closed for 45 days and many key attractions were reopened weeks later after undergoing multiple safety checks. The Thunder River Rapids ride has been permanently closed.
Ardent chief executive Deborah Thomas says there are signs of a turnaround in visitor numbers, indicating a brighter future for the theme park.
Visitor numbers slumped more than 63 per cent after the park’s reopening in December, and are down 35.5 per cent so far in February.
“The trend in visitation is obviously in the right direction,” Ms Thomas told AAP.
Less than 10 per cent of the park’s pass holders took up a refund offer in the wake of the tragedy.
The April school holidays will be the real test for the park, Ms Thomas said, and flagged an aggressive advertising campaign to bring in visitors.
“We’ll be working towards driving visitation towards April and that should give us a good indication of how we’re tracking, as will the June-July school holidays.”
Admission prices will also be lifted back to normal levels in April.
The biggest factor in Dreamworld’s recovery is time, Ms Thomas said, with the experience of the Six Flags corporation in the United States showing recovery from a tragedy is possible.
“I did talk to the executive chairman of Six Flags not long after this tragedy and they had a death at one of their parks in Texas. He said 24 months later it’s one of the highest performing parks in their portfolio,” Ms Thomas said.
“People take time to heal and it’s important – which is part of what we’ve been doing as our strategy in having this multi-tiered safety and operational review – to restore confidence and trust in Dreamworld and the theme park sector in general.”
DREAMWORLD DRAGS ON ARDENT
* Half-year loss of $49.4m, vs a $22.7m profit
* Revenue down 5 pct to $317m
* Interim dividend down 5 cents to 2 cents a share, unfranked.