Marketing expert says Dreamworld should 'completely take on the blame' to rebuilt trust

Flowers at Dreamworld, where four people were killed following an accident on the Thunder River Rapids ride at the Gold Coast. Photo / Getty
Flowers at Dreamworld, where four people were killed following an accident on the Thunder River Rapids ride at the Gold Coast. Photo / Getty

Dreamworld is treading water after four horrific deaths on one of the popular fun park's rides this week, and a professor of marketing says the company will have difficulty rebounding from the tragedy.

University of Canterbury Associate Professor of marketing Ekant Veer said it was a dangerous time for Dreamworld and its shareholders.

The company had to show people that they were to blame, but could still be trusted - a "difficult paradox" to overcome.

"Theme parks are built on the premise that they're meant to be a bit scary, but they have to be safe," Veer said.

"If they break that premise, then the perception that there isn't safety means people won't attend, and will look for other places to entertain themselves.

"It will be very difficult to rebound from that."

LISTEN: Canterbury University Marketing expert Ekant Veer speaks to Rachel Smalley about Dreamworld reopening

Veer said it didn't take much for trust to be completely broken: "Especially because we're talking about a place where you take your kids.

"A lot of parents out there will be starting to think it's just not worth it, it's too dangerous, even if the investigation finds it was a freak accident and there's nothing that Dreamworld could have done to prevent or foresee ... People will still have the perception that this is not a safe place to go."

He said the repercussions of the disaster would be difficult for all theme parks in the future.

"They're in a really difficult position, because if it turns out to be a random event that they couldn't have foreseen, then they're completely absolved from blame.

"But it doesn't make people feel safe, because that sort of thing could happen with any theme park," Veer said.

"If they find out it's human error, they will look like they're trying pass on the blame to someone else.

"The only way to really rebuild the brand and the trust is to ensure that this will never happen again and to completely take on the blame."

In a statement released yesterday, Dreamworld stressed at that at the time of the accident the park was "fully compliant with all required safety certifications".

"The Thunder River Rapids ride had successfully completed its annual mechanical and structural safety engineering inspection on September 29."

The statement said the check was done by an external engineering firm, and details of the check will be shared with the Coroner and workplace safety investigators.

Dreamworld will reopen at 11am tomorrow for a memorial day, following a private ceremony for staff, friends and emergency services involved in the accident.

ABC reporter Michael Rowland told NZME that the park would likely remain open from tomorrow.

He said the park's management would've made it clear in its statement if the reopening was going to be a one-off.

- NZ Herald

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