Last Thursday, the Diamond Theme Park Awards 2017 were awarded. The Diamond Theme Park Awards are the Oscars for the theme park industry from the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands & Luxembourg) and are traditionally awarded each year at the start of the new season. It is organised by the people behind parkworld.be and pretparkbeest.be. Parkworld is a website (in Dutch) that brings information about theme and animal parks, and Pretparkbeest (also in Dutch) is a website that offers news and articles about theme parks.
2017 marked the seventh edition of the awards and yet again the awards were proven to be very popular by Belgian and Dutch theme parks and their fans. Walibi Belgium was the host of the ceremony that kept place last Thursday. In total 22 awards were given away. Two of those awards were solely chosen by a jury consisting of theme and animal park fan sites and persons connected to the industry. A full list of the jury can be found here. The same jury made the list of nominees for each award, afterwards theme park fans had to opportunity to vote themselves. Those votes count for 50 %, the other 50% is decided by the jury. This way of working should prevent the bigger parks taking all the awards just because they have more fans on social media. This year more than 47.000 fans voted for the awards! Which is more than the edition from last year.
Of course it is no surprise Dutch theme park the Efteling took away the most nominees, they were nominated for 11 awards! Also Plopsaland De Panne took away that amount of nominations, closely followed by Bellewaerde with 9 nominations. Bellewaerde taking away that amount of nominations can be called a bit of a surprise since the park is considered by most fans as faded glory, though since the Diamond Theme Park Awards also awards animal parks, Bellewaerde can also be nominated for those awards which should explain the 9 nominations they have.
But of course nominations are just nominations, it’s all about cashing the nominations and win awards! So who won what? The most awards are only for Benelux parks but there are also some awards for European parks outside of the Benelux.
- Best theme park: Efteling (Netherlands)
No surprise here, the Efteling is the biggest theme park from the Benelux, it attracts more than 4 million visitors a year. An astonishing number which no other Benelux theme park comes close to.
- Most child friendly park: Plopsaland De Panne (Belgium)
Plopsaland De Panne is owned by Studio 100 and their target audiences are families with young children. So that they win this award is not really a surprise, but on some points their reputation as a child park covers some points that they could do better when it comes to child friendliness. Like minimum height, little children can ride more rides in Walibi Belgium for example than they can in Plopsaland. Also the Efteling could’ve taken this award, but congratulations for Plopsaland De Panne.
- Best roller coaster: Goliath from Walibi Holland (Netherlands)
With roller coasters like Troy, Goliath, Joris en de draak, Baron,… it seemed very probable this award would go to a Dutch theme park. Eventually the Intamin mega coaster Goliath from Walibi Holland won it. A good choice, Goliath is a thrilling ride with a bunch of ejector air time and a great Stengel dive element.
- Best water ride: De vliegende Hollander from the Efteling (Netherlands)
De vliegende Hollander from the Efteling was chosen as best water ride from the Benelux. That can be interpreted as a choice for the total package, since the water coaster offers a dark ride part, a roller coaster part and a water ride part. When it comes to wetness, Walibi Belgiums Radja River or Pulsar would have been the more logical choices.
Most spectacular ride: Sledge Hammer from Bobbejaanland (Belgium)Most spectacular ride can be interpreted on many ways,basically it is an award for the best thrill ride. No surprise that Sledge Hammer wins this one, Bobbejaanland shocked the industry when it opened this giant frisbee in 2004. Thrill rides of this size are not very common in Europe so with Sledge Hammer Bobbejaanland has a great eye catcher and crowd puller.
- Best animal park: Pairi Daiza (Belgium)
The Diamond Theme Park Awards also award animal parks, and really no one can be surprised that Pairi Daiza took the award for best animal park. The Belgian animal park invests a lot in theming and athmosphere experience and that pays off in increasing media attendance and rising attendance numbers. Even if you are not into animal parks Pairi Daiza is a must-do to visit, since the atmosphere is so great you can have great day only walking around there without looking at the animals.
- Most beautiful animal enclosure: the tiger temple from Pairi Daiza (Belgium)
Hence the praise for Pairi Daiza being very beautiful and atmospheric, it needs no explanation they won the award for most beautiful animal enclosure too.
- Best adventure inside an animal park: Bus safari from Safaripark Beekse Bergen (Netherlands)
Ha, an animal park award Pairi Daiza didn’t take home! This award awards the best ride in a zoo, Bus safari from Dutch Safaripark Beekse Bergen won this award. Bus safari is basically what the names says: you do a safari in a bus. There are two routes which features different kind of animals an during the safari a ranger gives an explanation about the animals you see.
- Best contribution: CRC from Zoo Antwerpen (Belgium)
This award is for the best contribution to animal research and shelter, because we can’t forget animal parks have not only an entertainment purpose, but also a scientific one. The Centre for Research and Conservation from the Antwerp Zoo won this award. CRC invests in scientific studies for conservation of nature and endangered species. A purpose than can’t be stressed enough how important it is!
- Most beautiful birth: African elephant (Safaripark Beekse Bergen), amur leopard (Bellewaerde) & giant Panda (Pairi Daiza)
This award was a jury only category, which means it was solely chosen by the jury. The award goes to three births in three different animal parks. All three are endangered species so births from these species are very special and the newborns will find a warm home in their animal parks.
- Best waterpark: Tikibad from Duinrell (Netherlands)
There is also one award for water parks, and that one was won by Duinrells Tikibad. Not a surprise, Tikibad is probably the biggest water park in the Benelux and for most visitors the main reason to visit Duinrell.
- E-award (best social media/best website/best app/…): Efteling (Netherlands)
The Efteling is not only the biggest park when it comes to attendance numbers, they have also the biggest amounts of followers on facebook. Over half a million people like the Efteling on the most used social media platform. The also have good free app were you can check the queue times and the park map.
- Best service: Efteling (Netherlands)
Well, you can’t become the biggest park of the Benelux when you have bad service? No surprise that the Efteling wins this awards, next to exciting rides they also offer friendly customer service.
- Park with the best shows and entertainment: Bobbejaanland (Belgium)
A second award for Bobbejaanland, and this time a more surprising one. While the Efteling takes atmosphere experience and thematisation very highly their show Raveleijn is not highly regarded by fans. Plopsaland De Panne also invests a lot in shows and entertainment but probably didn’t take home this award since their shows are aimed at children, which is not the main group of voters for the awards. There is no harm to say Bobbejaanland profited from the misery from the rest.
- Best restaurant: Poort van Azië from Diergaarde Blijdorp (Netherlands)
Spending a day at a park means you’ll probably eat there too. According to the awards you need to be in Diergaarde Blijdorps Poort van Azië restaurant to eat the best food you’ll find in the Benelux parks. The Dutch animal park offers Eastern food like Döner Kebab and Turkish pizza in this restaurant. Yummie!
- Best halloween: Walibi Holland (Netherlands)
Halloween is huge and for some parks, it’s the period they attract the most visitors. More and more parks invest in this event, but which one organises the best halloween event?! Again this year, Walibi Holland took this award home. Every weekend from October, the Dutch park organises fright nights in which the theme park transforms to the home of zombies, demons and freaks. With the figure of Eddy the clown, Walibi Holland has one of the most popular halloween events.
- Spotlight award: Eric Daman (Belgium)
The spotlight award is the second jury only award. This awards a person, park, organisation… that did great things for the theme and animal park industry. Eric Daman is given the spotlight award. The Belgian designer is known for his work for Phantasialand. He worked on Colorado Adventure, Wuze town, River quest, Talocan, Black Mamba, Maus au Chocolat, Chiapas and his most recent masterpiece: Klugheim. He also does general masterplanning for Phantasialand, Mirabilandia, Kongepark and Skanes Djurpark. Further on he worked for indoor attraction parks in Letland, Saudi-Arabia, Russia and Dubai. A resume to be proud of and deserved to be placed into the spotlights!
- Best theme park: Europa Park (Germany)
Europa Park was chosen as Europe’s best theme park in front of the Efteling and Disneyland Paris. Not a shocker since the German park is very beloved alongside Benelux theme park enthusiasts. Europa Park offer a lot of rides suitable for the whole family. Even the big roller coasters are kept family friendly.
Best steel roller coaster: Taron from Phantasialand (Germany)
Only opened last year but no surprise it took home this award. Phantasialands Taron is considered the best steel roller coaster Europe has to offer. With two fast launches, airtime, smoothness, fast direction changes,… all together in an amazing shaped environment makes riding Taron an amazing and unique experience.
- Best wooden roller coaster: Tonnerre de Zeus from Parc Asterix (France)
A bit more of a shocking surprise is the winner of the best wooden roller coaster award, Tonnerre de Zeus from Parc Asterix has beaten Troy, Wodan and even new wooden roller coaster Wildfire from Kolmarden! That last one was the big favorite but hence it was more closed than open due to permit issues and complaining neighbors not a lot of people have gotten the chance to ride it. Tonnerre de Zeus was one of the first big wooden roller coasters in Europe and was long considered the best, until modern GCI’s like Troy and Wodan were built. It seems like the public went nostalgic and wanted to spotlight an old great one, placed in the shadows by newer and bigger ones.
- Best ride/show: Tower of terror from Walt Disney Studios Park (France)
This award was for all other rides that deserved an award. Nominees contained water rides like Walhalla from Blackpool, dark rides like Droomvlucht from the Efteling and thrill rides like Tower of terror from Walt Disney Studios Park. The latter one won it. The combination of free fall and dark ride is proven a strong concept. The popularity of Tower of terror makes us hope Disney won’t revamp the Paris version into a Guardians of the galaxy theme.
- Best new 2016: Themed area of Klugheim from Phantasialand (Germany)
2016 was a great year when it comes of new rides and zones in European theme parks. Walibi Holland opened Lost Gravity and the Belgian Walibi park opened Pulsar, both new and unique roller coasters from Mack. RMC finally made it’s European debute with Wildfire in the Swedish animal- and theme park Kolmarden. There were plenty of option to chose from, but at the end the whole themed area of Klugheim from Phantasialand won the award. A rightfull winner since the Germans shocked the theme park industry with the level of theming they put into Klugheim. Next to that the area contains two new roller coasters, from which one is considered to be the best of Europe.
Want to know more? Go to the Diamond Theme Park Awards official website (available in Dutch, French, English and German). If voting is open again for next year edition, you’ll be the first to know on Theme Park World!