Dreamworld: An uncertain future for Gold Coast theme park

A phenomenon known as ABD is sweeping south-east Queensland.

And it's unwelcome news for tourism and government authorities alike.

Talk to families of school-aged children, and you'll hear this phrase repeatedly: "Anywhere but Dreamworld."

Once the winner of national tourism awards, the park is now poison to parents.

Next week, we'll be among the 12 million visitors who annually go to the Goldie, but the children aren't interested in the fireworks, laser shows, or even the certified Lego store, which are part of attempts to entice travellers back.

"There's no WAY I'm going there," Grace says, adamantly. "Yeah Mum," Taj adds. "That accident on the river ride was terrible. Remember how we went on the same ride a couple of months before? I'd be too scared to go there again."

Australia has some of the most stringent safety requirements in the world.

But the unusual nature of the October accident remains in so many minds: the safety inspection less than a month before; repeated reports of problems with the water pumping system; and parent company Ardent Leisure's response to the crisis.

It seems these factors are coagulating to act as an almighty deterrent. Car parks remain half-empty, according to both local media and locals, despite offers of cut-price tickets and free kids' meals.

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This uncertainty will continue until we know the results of the Workplace Health and Safety investigation and coronial inquest, which could take years.

While few theme parks go out of business after fatal accidents, there are some salient examples of those that struggled to stay afloat. Luna Park closed for three years after the 1979 Ghost Train blaze that killed six children and one adult. In The UK, Battersea Park Fun Fair shut down for two years, after five children died on the Big Dipper. And in the US, Action Park – home to a wave pool nicknamed the "grave pool" – ceased to operate, following a series of lawsuits.

Dreamworld chief executive Craig Davidson says, "we have to focus on the future".

But with each subsequent incident reported breathlessly – such as thrill seekers dangling from the top of the Giant Drop after a sensor malfunction last month – the future might be the stuff of nightmares for Ardent Leisure.

Especially if parents keep spending their dollars anywhere but Dreamworld.

tracey.spicer@fairfaxmedia.com.au

See also: The 50 best family holiday destinations

See also: World's first Frozen theme park to open at Hong Kong Disneyland

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