Six Flags CEO Slams His Parks As 'Cheap Daycare For Teenagers'

View of Six Flags Mexico
Wikimedia Commons | Drkgk

After a rough couple of years due to a global pandemic, theme parks are looking for a rebound.

While theme parks have attracted all sorts of controversies in the past, the most recent controversy afflicting Six Flags is one of the CEO's own making. Six Flags CEO Selim Bassoul put his foot in his mouth in a big way after some disparaging things he said about the park's guests.

It's been a rough few years for Six Flags.

Aerial view of Six Flags San Antonio
Wikimedia Commons | Bypassers

The company emerged from bankruptcy in 2011 with a renewed focus on its various properties. Nearly a decade of cautious expansion was thrown into jeopardy in 2020 when the company announced that all of its properties would suspend operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CEO Selim Bassoul took over in November of 2021.

Six Flags CEO Selim Bassoul speaking at a conference
twitter | @SelimBessoul

Less than a year after becoming the company's big boss, Bassoul attracted controversy during a call with investors. As part of the company's strategy to become more premium, Bassoul wound up criticizing the very customers who come to his company's parks.

He called the parks a "day care center for teenagers."

Doubling down, Bassoul likened guests to customers of Kmart or Walmart, saying that he wanted them to be more like Target's customers.

"The philosophy of illing our parks was not the right strategy," he said. "We only got the discounter, or we became a day care center for teenagers."

His comments have been roundly criticized.

There's context to what Bassoul said — he wants parks to feel more premium and doesn't want them to use deep discounts to attract customers — he made his comments in a truly tactless manner.

Bassoul's leadership was called into question.

Aside from the classist and elitist undertones of what Bassoul said, his management of the company was also criticized. Twitter users noted some of the struggles Six Flags has experienced in recent years. While not all of these can be directly pinned on Bassoul, the buck does stop with him as CEO.

Are amusement parks going to cater to the elite?

If Disney attractions are any indication, it could be argued that theme parks are already elitist. Bassoul's strategy for Six Flags calls for a more upscale experience, complete with upgrades to restrooms and restaurants — and, of course, admission fees.

So far, the strategy hasn't worked.

While a more upscale version of Six Flags may work out in the end, early results have been bleak as the chain saw guest attendance drop by 22% in the second quarter of 2021.

It was an unforced error.

Bassoul attributed the drop to the elimination of free and discounted tickets. As this tweet points out, it was a case of shooting themselves in the foot: by pricing customers out of their parks, they saw attendance and profits drop as a result.

Bassoul, for his part, blames inflation.

While he graciously acknowledged that Six Flags was a place for the middle class and even the lower-middle class, he blamed the drop in attendance on inflation.

"[Customers] suffered with their utilities at home. They suffered with their pricing at the supermarket. Those people were not able to come," said Bassoul. "And hopefully, if the inflation comes back to normal, I'm hoping that some of those people come back to our parks, and enjoy the new premium-ization and beautification."

What do you think?

Elevated view of Six Flags Amusement Park
reddit | Ooh_Lobotomized

How was your last experience at Six Flags, or at a theme park in general? Do you like things the way they've been, or are you willing to pay a premium? Are the CEO's comments appropriate? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments.