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The Queen Mary: Multiple Attractions and Events On-Board
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The Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif., is a unique venue: a seasonal amusement park, with its Dark Harbor Halloween Event and the holiday season Chill Event; an historic ship with a variety of attractions all year long including ghost tours, historic tours, exhibitions, and film attractions. It’s also a hotel, restaurant and bar, and hosts a famous Southern California brunch every Sunday. The historic boat is a tourist destination in and of itself.

According to Brian Luallen, director of entertainment and events, the Queen Mary hosts mini-special events such as concerts and is host to both permanent, traveling, and temporary exhibitions.

“Our new offerings include Their Finest Hours, an exhibition focusing on the relationship between Winston Churchill and the Queen Mary, and featuring original sets from the Academy Award winning film The Darkest Hours, starring Gary Oldman,” Luallen says. “It just opened along with the film in January, and we had the director, Joe Wright, as well as star Gary Oldman in attendance. It’s been a major hit for us.”

Coming up in April, the ship is opening a new feature in their 4D theater. “The film is Sharks, and it includes stunning 3D footage of sharks in the wild along with practical special effects like wind, and water splashes and bubbles,” he attests.

Tours of the ship are also offered: an historic tour focusing on the ship’s years as a sailing vessel and troop transport in WWII, and a variety of ghost tours that focus on the ship’s unique position of being noted – in Time Magazine no less – as one of the ten most haunted places in the world.

And speaking of haunting, for 2018’s Halloween event, the ship will introduce brand new mazes and iconic characters. “We’ll debut that information in July. I can’t reveal it yet,” Luallen relates. “There is an annual Halloween-themed convention called Midsummer Scream and we’ll do our reveal at that point. But I will say that the sinister new character will be based on the Queen Mary’s history, as is true of most of our characters.”

Luallen describes the annual Halloween event as featuring eight separate maze attractions and over 300 cast members every night. “We also have massive pyrotechnic displays and traveling entertainment on four different stages including sword swallowers, aerialists, and a fire troop that breathes and spins fire and gets incredibly close to the audience - all set to music. We also offer some adult fun with unique special cocktails served in our potion bars,” he adds. “This past year we debuted an ice bar experience called The Meat Locker where guests encounter our gruesome chef in a 7 degree frozen environment for a flight of unique gourmet vodkas,” he notes. “This year we’ll also have two small speakeasies that we will be incorporating into the Halloween mazes. You’ll have to follow clues online to figure out how to get access to them while visiting the event.” That idea is new, incorporating digital technology into the scary mix.

Designs for this year’s winter Chill event are still being finalized, but Luallen says “Chill is Southern California’s biggest annual holiday event each year,featuring an all new unique winter attractions found nowhere else in California.” He notes that past year events have included giant themed ice sculpture displays and what he terms “America’s first ice adventure park. The adventure park has small skating rinks joined to it and a variety of activities. You can skate between five themed countries, which last year were Germany, Switzerland, Russia, China, Holland, and the American North Pole. In each area we have different activities, such as ice curling in Russia, and ice bumper boats in Switzerland. We also had ice tricycles in China, and fireworks over the Chinese pavilion on Sundays. We can’t say yet what our new countries will be this year, except that they’re really cool.”

When it comes to marketing, Luallen says the Queen Mary utilizes digital marketing and social media, but also puts a “tremendous amount” into posters, billboards, train and bus wraps, as well as conventional TV and radio advertising. “The real essence of mass marketing exposure is to create awareness, so that when people think ‘what are we going to do today?’ they think of us,” he explains. “In Los Angeles, we do as much as we can in every avenue to take advantage of that; it’s challenging here because there are so many choices.” He adds that the Queen Mary also does direct marketing to their consumer databases, information that they’ve set up over the years. The attraction presents unique offers to welcome past visitors back to attend whatever new offering is available.

Luallen says attendance is up this year, continuing a five-year trend of admissions growth. Pricing varies from project to project for events and attractions. “Our events are limited time offerings so we discount less through those. But for our year ‘round attractions, we have a robust discount strategy that utilizes promotional offerings to lead us through our shoulder months.” He adds that “We also use a discount strategy to maximize our attendance, for instance, if we know we are going to be particularly busy for a weekend but want to distribute capacity through other days of the week, we will use social media, a third party site like Groupon,or an email blast to attract people on those less-crowded days.”

The Queen Mary first came to Long Beach 50 years ago this past December, and has seen over 50 million guests since that time. “These days we see roughly 1.8 million guests per year throughout the property, due in large part to our marketing strategy and our special event programs. Over the years, many people have tried different things to identify what might draw people to the Queen Mary, and at first the attraction struggled by being too much of an events facility or a museum-style attraction,” he attests. “We’ve been successful by aggressively, holistically marketing the Queen Mary events, the attractions, museum, and hotel.” Luallen believes that having this unified strategy has allowed a far more successful operation than what existed before Evolution Hospitality took over managing the venue 5 ½ years ago. “We have grown revenue and attendance every year since then,” he reports.
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