UK theme parks from another point of view!

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 18
 
AstroDan

2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 9:18 pm

Health Warning:
I hate to post these kinds of threads, but I am afraid for my own sanity I am going to post it to get it off my chest. Consider it a rant, consider it whatever you want. And, I am sorry to those of you who don't like the negativity, if you don't - then stop reading now.

2011: The Honest Truth
Along with many members of this forum and countless others around Britain, I have been visiting Alton Towers since my childhood - when I was just 6 years old. Back in 1990, few would have believed the amazing transformations that would take Alton Towers into the forefront of theme and leisure parks around Europe and, to a degree, the world. Fast forward 21 years, and we're here today - in the 2011 season. Owned by a company who prides itself on being second "only to Disney" and attracting tens of millions of people to its attractions around the world. The independence Alton Towers one enjoyed in the 1980's and through much of the 1990's (even under the early part of Tussauds reign) has, for the most part, evaporated and investments are now controlled from on high from an office, somewhere in Poole.

Nobody could ever criticize Alton Towers for failing to invest in new developments. In terms of new attractions, the park has done rather well for itself. However, unfortunately - I don't think things are quite so shiny these days. In fact, I am rather worried about the way Alton Towers seems to be headed - beseiged by a frantic money making ethic which seems to be as in your face as a cold wash in the morning.

Rides and Attractions development
Merlin started off promisingly, with Mutiny Bay being announced in 2007 (back when I served on the inaugural enthusiast Customer Council). Although Mutiny Bay meant that the arguably more pressing matter of a Black Hole tent replacement was shelved, few would deny that the overall package of Mutiny Bay breathed new life into what was a lost area of the park with no draw whatsoever. However, the area remains home to a failed - but beautiful - Mack Splash Battle, which nobody ever rides, a dozen games stands with attendants keen to shout at passers by, a bland games arcade, several food stands, a pleasant but basic theatre stage, a couple of reasonable kids/family rides (one of which, Marauders Mayhem, hasn't had a repaint and looks dire - check out that blue flooring) and a completely out of place, past it Flume ride. The aquarium addition for 2009 on the other hand - bingo. That's what you call quality. So yes, Mutiny Bay has ended up much where it's predecessor left off. With a handful of rides that either nobody really wants to go on or something so dated that it makes you feel ill just looking at it.

Moving over to other Merlin investments, there's Cloud Cuckoo Land. Repainted for 2011 - one of the only success stories I would argue for the new season. It looks vibrant and fresh, but it's a shame they didn't feel the need to repaint the floor of the Toadstool. Dino footprints returning indeed. And, as pleasant as the area is, it's still a rehash of old rides and let's face it - can't compete in the slightest with what Blackpool are offering this year, and nor with Thomas Land at Drayton and, presumably, Peppa Pig down at Paultons. Clearly, even a proper entrance for the Toadstool was beyond them - check out what Chessington managed with Monkey Swinger. Obviously, CCL was a cheaper development than Wild Asia, but it shows that Merlin aren't too keen to be consistent and make sure that what's at Alton - is always the very best.

Then we're on to Th13teen of course. The most hyped coaster I can recall to think of that ultimately failed to live up to what Alton billed it as. The discussion on Th13teen has gone over hundreds of pages, and I am not here to start another - but why Alton felt the need to pretend it was something it quite simply isn't, I still can't muster the reason for to this day.

And that's that really - in terms of attraction development. In 5 seasons, Merlin still haven't given us a thrill ride, still haven't replaced Black Hole, still haven't sorted out crumbling wrecks such as the Blade and the Flume. You have to ask... why? Perhaps they just don't care, perhaps they do - perhaps somebody, somewhere is content to let the park just mosey along. And then, of course, there's the failed 4D project for 2011 which wasn't even replaced by a last minute new ride together with the horrid SBNO Beastie.

Entertainment
Harking back once more now to the 80's and 90's, Alton used to offer a show programme much like major parks across Europe. Ice shows, music shows, kids shows, parades, fountain displays, animal displays... you name it. Time does indeed move on, and at one stage Alton didn't offer a show at all. So credit must go out to the park for adding two shows from 2008. Both low budget affairs and strictly aimed at the kids visiting the park, but nevertheless shows. Oh how we all looked forward to a leap in quality as time moved on. Why then, come 2011 have we still got two cheap shows, still just for the kids - with absolutely no progress made whatsoever in this area? Obviously, much like the ride/attraction development, Alton can just mosey along.

Of course, it's not all doom and gloom here - Scarefest and the fireworks are success stories. But remember, the first Scarefest - which was planned before Merlin took over and delivered shortly into their reign, had more attractions and lasted a week longer. Although Scarefest is still a great event, and who can't love the lighting efforts made last season, it's still not expanded much at all and costs an arm and a leg to visit those mazes. Fireworks, OK - hands up here. That really is world class. There isn't much else in the theme park aside from the fleeting appearance of Sonic, or the shark - even the Wraiths seem to have left Dark Forest now. Haven't seen them for a while...

Money Grabbing
The first thing you encounter these days upon walking in to the park is... "WANNA GET A QUENCHER FOR £6" shouted at you. Literally, the very moment you walk in. Charming. Then you battle the Picsolve photographers wielding their cameras at you, then there's the shoddy DVD wristbands "FREE" they shout. Then another Quencher for sale and then Fastrack paraded around in front of you all day. Ride staff even seem well informed on what you need to do to purchase fastrack and presumably are now trained to upsell at every opportunity, too. Not to mention the ridiculous (£8) cost of a photo from Picsolve, stupendous charges for games at HB stands (£2/£3 a go for a basketball shot), obscene charges for certain food items (hot dog, £4.35) and prices rising faster than VAT and inflation put together! It's quite literally a gauntlet at Alton Towers these days. Remember... it's 50p now to send your photo to Towers Street! Used to be free... not to mention parking at £6.

General appearance
Alton is blessed with a beautiful landscape, envied the world over by theme parks. So let's not bother painting the Rita queueline - black and white shining through. Let's not bother painting the Th13teen queue fences so we have more graffiti. Let's add pratically themeless food sales units to queuelines (Rapids, Flume, Air). Whilst other parks local to Alton paint rides and attractions - including their tracks - Alton just let them fade further and further into Oblivion. No pun intended of course, but you get the point. You can't blame managers of different areas - they clearly aren't being given the budgets needed to do a world class job. So again, Alton being left to mosey along while G Force down the road - crap coaster it maybe, but hey - it's been freshly painted! Whilst the world rate B&M's at Alton, just fade. Anway, in danger of repeating myself... let's move on. Need I say more about the situation with Fanta and Oblivion ? We get no attractions, nothing at ALL - and they decide to rip apart an incredible experience by adding shoddy looking orange logo's to the ride all over the place? Oh, what a fabulous job! How "tummy bubbling fun" and "less serious" really adds to the Oblivion experience. Great job. Who on earth decides this rubbish!?

Lost souls
Morwenna - love her or hate her - she was a true public figure, vying for Alton to be out there at every given opportunity. JP - he was always out and aboutm engaging with all of us, as was Russell Barnes now and then. Who is the current "group" of managers that have taken the mantle? I bet people can hardly name them.

So, over and out?
What is to happen, who knows. But with the way Merlin seem intent on screwing every last penny out of people - they'll end up hitting the floor. Guest numbers will decrease when they see that there's no reason to return to Alton - no new ride, just inflating costs and no major improvements. You hope for a "quiet" year in terms of development so they do up the park. Like that has happened. I care more deeply about Alton Towers than I care to imagine - the place is the life blood of theme parks in Britain, and it matters to me so much. The times I have there and have had are some of the best in my life - but I fear, just at the moment, something nasty is happening. Something very nasty - and I wish, wish to the high heaven, that someone, somewhere, realises what is going on and puts a stop to it. For if they don't, the parks reputation will falter and suffer. Of course... I will still visit. I love the place too much. But I would love to see it rebound.

2011 is flat. Simple as that. What drive and vision is there at Alton Towers this year? I fail to see much at all. Thank god for Nemesis and that beautiful mansion.

Finally. I would like to remind Alton Towers and, moreso, Merlin, that the park and resort have a reputation to keep. One of the biggest reputations of any park in Europe.

To all the people who have responded to this topic with comments or just acknowledgement of your support through the thanks button, we would like to invite you to submit your details into our official mail that will be forwarded to the Alton Towers Director. Please click here for details.

Thank you for your support. - Crofty :)
 
Dormiens-Dave

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 9:27 pm

As though you where writing from my own heart Dan... it says something when a 3 day meet weekends best day is not at Alton Towers but Drayton Manor

If it wasn't for the gardens, towers and the superior staffing i would give up now
 
User avatar
Mike
TT Member
TT Member
Posts: 737
Joined: April 2007
Location: Ramsgate/Bedford
Contact:

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 9:35 pm

Astrodan, it says something that you've had 12 'thanks' in 15 minutes - I 100% agree! It's a shame, as I had high hopes for this season, but like Dave, I enjoyed Drayton far more than Towers at the weekend...

Again, it's only really Nemmie, plus the unique atmosphere you get from the park, and also the open spaces, that keep me coming back...it says a lot that apart from TTF meets, and maybe the occasional visit with friends, I have little inclination to choose Alton over Chessington, which is half the distance, whereas certainly a couple of years ago I'd always make the extra effort to visit Alton Towers instead.
Last edited by Mike on Wed May 04, 2011 9:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Image

Thanks to Ian for the sig!
 
DiogoJ42

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 9:36 pm

:clap:
Bravo Dan. You have managed to sum up what most of us are thinking, in an amazingly well worded post.

These are the reasons why there is so much "Merlin bashing" on the forum at the moment. What was once the best park in the UK is being left to rot at an alarming rate. If only us MAP holders could have a "vote of no confidence" and oust the current management team!

I feel the problem stems from Merlin's world-wide aquisitions. They are buying up every crappy attraction they can get their hands on across the globe. But this means that they never actually make any money: any profit is immediately spent on buying some games arcade in Tibet. What we need is for the UK attractions to be separated off from the rest of the world... and NOT buy any more!

But anyway, there's not much I can add to your already epic post mate. Hat's off! :W
Last edited by DiogoJ42 on Wed May 04, 2011 9:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
Hark

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 9:37 pm

Well said Astro! Couldn't agree more with you. It seems Alton Towers don't care about regular visitors or indeed anything unless their numbers look good. They seem to be more about hitting their KPIs and Performance Metrics than providing a good day out! Things we spot on a regular basis like the decaying themeing and general 'shoddyness' will never get done as in Alton Towers eyes "If people who visit one day per year they'll never notice it". They've completely gone off track and missed the whole 'magic' and 'fantastical escapism' thing completely.

The current management couldn't run a pissup in a brewery to be honest and I've rarely seen him. Don't get me wrong since Merlin has been part of the grand scheme of things we have seen some decent things. This year however has been dreadful potentially even worse than 2007! We moaned then but at least we had a Dung Heap & A Haunted Hollow.

Something really needs to change at Alton and I hope potentially with the introduction of a PROPER thrill ride and not a cheap ponsey let down version of one (Th13teen) we may once again see a changing point. These things unfortunately won't happen overnight, but the managers do need to listen to our views and those of the general public.

In some cases a weekend to Portaventura in Spain would be cheaper than having a weekend at the Alton Towers Resort?! What sort of logic is that...?

The Management need a kick up the backside in my opinion! You'd have never had this 10-13 years ago!
 
Pennywise
TT Member
TT Member
Posts: 2851
Joined: January 2009

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 9:39 pm

I really, really hate myself for agreeing with pretty much everything you've written (though I can't help but think that the money Drayton spent on re-painting G-Force would have been better spent on a second train). I've generally done my best to defend each of the park's individual decisions over the last couple of years, no matter how bad, but when you put it all like that...

Here's to a damn good 2012... please. :|
 
User avatar
James
TT Member
TT Member
Posts: 3188
Joined: January 2009
Location: Newport, Wales
Contact:

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 9:41 pm

:clap:

Couldn't agree any more with all of that Dan.

It's the entertainments side of things that has saddened me the most. I've always been passionate about entertainment, it's something I highly admire and care about. I've been to many different types of shows, parades, events etc... in many different countries (not been lucky enough to go to any big US shows yet) yet in Alton's case, a park that had so much entertainment back in the 90s has gone back 10 steps years later with what they offer.

The ice shows and hotel entertainments at Alton is what got me loving the place; they are the reason I am an enthusiast of Alton Towers. I remember really feeling like I was in this magical world with these massive shows that were unlike anything I had ever seen before. The ice shows blew my mind, the different stages each season, the great atmosphere in the ice tent, the magic tricks, the illusions... they really had a Disney-esque feel to them and I think even the entertainments across the park represented this as well. Alton was the Disneyland of the UK.

Let’s compare the shows in the Alton Towers Hotel:
2001: The Magic Makers come out to get everyone in the mood and offer things such as face painting and balloons to guests. Then this is followed by the Pirate Bill and Baby Bear show. Then following this you have the main act of the night the Dickie Hart and Tanya Hyde show, along with a few other vocalists. Also during the day time you had the children’s club and other things such as treasure hunts around the hotel.

2011: The Pirate Bill Show followed by A Band on a Ship and vocalists.

While I think A Band on A Ship are a great band (they really do lift the atmosphere in that hotel incredibly), compared to the entertainment on offer 10 years ago there is nowhere near as much on offer. Also, on “off peak times” there are only the vocalists on stage. I went last night and the evenings just consisted of Stacey, Sophie and Oli singing all night. While I think they’re all good singers it brings in a pretty boring night where there used to be the good old days of variety.

In fact the whole hotel experience has dropped incredibly. Where are the days of mini treasure chests in your hotel rooms to find? Free Fastrack tickets? Savings booklets? Welcome brochures? My family have been visiting as hotel guests for 15 years now and all we’ve seen is all the fantastic perks disappear, the entertainments gone downhill, yet the prices rise and rise.

The theme park entertainment is really dire at present too. All we have is two main shows just aimed at families. Where’s the ice show style shows? There’s no big production show on park and nothing at all for other age groups.

I find it hard to believe Alton is owned by a company “second to Disney” yet everything bears the resemblance of a park that’s ran by someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. In fact, do any of the current management know what they’re doing?

I’m losing faith in the future of the park. Nothing has been done to ensure the park grows or becomes better than it is. The state of the park is becoming more apparent as the years go on too. We’ve lost some great people such as Morwenna; who really put a lot of love into her job and the park.

The current management clearly do not give a toss about the park and are just literally leaving anything that matters to rot yet trying to make any way possible to make more money.

Price rises, lack of maintenance, budget cuts, half done attractions and rethemes, tacky sponsorships, pushes in selling of profitable products and services... God help the future of Alton Towers is all I can say.
 
Big Dave

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 9:46 pm

Thing is, everyone seems to be saying "Your only moaning has there is no new ride". To be honest that is the biggest load of rubbish I have ever heard!

Alton need to sort out the park. Its looking shoddy in places and many areas need to be revamped. Themes are being compromised for the sake of getting a few extra £££ off people.

Someone (not sure who said it) said something like this and it summed it up in one: Don't make investments that will attract loads of visitors all at once, but invest to keep your visitors coming back, time and time again!

I feel that recent marketing and even the development and construction of Th13teen fails in that area. It is a ride that was backed up by loads of OTT marketing, with the sole purpose to get the people through the gates, however as soon as people go on it and realise its a basic family ride with drop element, the ride fails to attract the crowds like it did. Now look at the likes of Nemesis, Oblivion and Air. These even to this day attract huge queues despite being all older rides.

The thing is, it wouldnt take much to get things back on track.

:arrow: Improve themes instead of ruining them
:arrow: Bring back the fun and focus of escapism
:arrow: Establish themselves as being a high class, world leader in the themepark industry, instead of relying on cheap marketing
:arrow: Restore the magic of the park instead of shunning it to one side.
Last edited by Big Dave on Wed May 04, 2011 9:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
Dormiens-Dave

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 9:46 pm

I am seriously considering posting this on the merlin annual pass facebook page... hmmm
 
DiogoJ42

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 9:48 pm

"James" wrote:
All we have is two main shows just aimed at families.

A family show can be enjoyed by all ages. What we have at the moment is aimed squarely at preteens.
 
Hark

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 9:48 pm

"Dormiens-Dave" wrote:
I am seriously considering posting this on the merlin annual pass facebook page... hmmm


Go for it, they're a company that open feedback and what is posted here is something they could really work on and should raise the attention of those higher up.
 
User avatar
Mike
TT Member
TT Member
Posts: 737
Joined: April 2007
Location: Ramsgate/Bedford
Contact:

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 9:49 pm

"Dormiens-Dave" wrote:
I am seriously considering posting this on the merlin annual pass facebook page... hmmm


You should do, or maybe on the Alton Towers fb page, as I think it'd be read by more people whod find it relevent - may be an idea to email a link to the marketing team at Towers too? :) (Says a lot that I have no idea who the head marketing guys are now...)
Image

Thanks to Ian for the sig!
 
DiogoJ42

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 9:50 pm

I wouldn't bother posting it on facebook, they will delete it, just like they do with any critisism. :roll:
 
Dormiens-Dave

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 9:53 pm

Our resident protester Mr Sam Gregory has posted it it seems :D
 
User avatar
James
TT Member
TT Member
Posts: 3188
Joined: January 2009
Location: Newport, Wales
Contact:

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 9:54 pm

"DiogoJ42""][quote=""James" wrote:
All we have is two main shows just aimed at families.

A family show can be enjoyed by all ages. What we have at the moment is aimed squarely at preteens.[/quote]
True. But I personally find the current shows too family orientated. The pirate show I can watch happily although the Go!Go!Go! Show is too child orientated for me.

The current shows are good for the market they are aimed at, but back in the days where you had shows primarily aimed at children, then things such as parades/street shows, actors in EVERY area and of course the in famous ice show that any age could watch it offered a lot of variety for a diverse range of guests. These days the shows are too aimed at a particular market; there's no variety and no choices.
 
DiogoJ42

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 9:56 pm

I'll happily watch the pirate show while eating, but you all know my feelings on Go!Go!Go! already :lol:
 
User avatar
James
TT Member
TT Member
Posts: 3188
Joined: January 2009
Location: Newport, Wales
Contact:

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 9:58 pm

If we really want to get our points across why don't we all write a formal letter to their head office?

Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd,
3 Market Close,
Poole,
BH15 1NQ

Or we could put our heads together and write one collective formal letter to the company. Or even email them: [email protected]

After all it states on the Merlin Entertainments website: "We value all our customers comments."

This is clearly directly a Merlin matter, internal decisions by Alton aside. Its Merlin that is controlling the park and Merlin that is ordering them what they can and can't do. Just to also add, it's Merlin that have employed the current managers to control the park and at the end of the day it's Merlin that takes sole responsibility for the state of their attractions.
Last edited by James on Wed May 04, 2011 10:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
Big Dave

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 10:00 pm

Bearing in mind that at one time, they had an iceshow with world class skaters, which was all choreographed especially for Alton Towers, had soundtrack created just for them! Now look at the quality we get. Shows that are literally made so cheaply that people cringe when they go to see it. If it wasnt for the actors trying the hardest to make the best out of what little they have, I'd be surprised if anyone went to see them.
 
User avatar
Vik
TT Member
TT Member
Posts: 3114
Joined: January 2004
Location: Ellesmere Port
Contact:

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 10:01 pm

There seemed to be so much promise when Merlin took over the reigns. Early signs were promising, and we could reflect on the dark days of the latter Tussauds era which included unthemed installations, 4.30pm closing, Monorail being closed on non peak days (Though that was a very brief affair :P ), and attractions such as Corkscrew, Hex & Ugswinger open for just 4 hours a day, and often had a chuckle, and thank our lucky stars we would never see the likes of such things again.

Unfortunately all the promise of better times has now seemingly evaporated. Everything just seems so corporate, which in turn means everything has gone bland and as stale as one of the burger batches from the Courtyard.

The rot seemed to of began about 2 years ago, but with all the hype surrounding SW6, not just in 2009, but last year as well, a lot of it passed us by.

I do believe that it was the change in management over the last couple of years that have brought about the rot. Previous managers who had great customer focus and knew what the visitors to the park really wanted, and also spent a great deal of time on park, and promoting the park in a positive light have been replaced by what seems to be corporate clones who's only aim is to squeeze as much money out of everyone as possible.

OK, there is a need to make money, and it is a difficult balancing act trying to give guests a wonderful day out and an escape from reality, yet at the same time trying to get them to part with yet more money. Whilst not everything was perfect before, now it seems just blatantly obvious they are only interested in getting the money out of your pocket, and to hell with making sure you have a wonderful day out. Not a brilliant balancing act.

A walk down Towers street at 9 or 10am now seems akin to a trip down a Holiday resort main road, with people constantly trying to sell you something; Starting with the Capsules for £6 stall located slap bang in front of the Turnstiles with the local Market trader putting on their loudest possible voice, then the 'Free' wristbands, Picsolve, Fastrack, pay us some money to get ERT.

There does seem to be a distinct lack of atmosphere this season. Everything looks jaded, worn out, and just rather depressing. The park seems to of lost that buzz of the last few seasons, and all the optimism has simply evaporated. Given there has been no new major attraction taking up peoples time, there has been a distinct lack of effort in attempting at least a general tidy up and touch up of jaded parts. The closed season just gone should of been a time to get to grips with all those little things that need to be done. An opportunity lost me thinks.

I do hope things turn the corner again, and we can look forward to something good next year, and an amazing SW7 in 2013 or '14.

I firmly believe that there needs to be a bit of a shake up at the top end of the management chain, and bring somebody in who has a passion for the leisure industry, passion for theme parks, and a passion to ensure guests get a wonderful, escape from reality day out.

Also, before there is the usual Anti Merlin thing, I believe Dans post is because he, as do I and many others, really do care for the park and also its future, and really want it to succeed on every level. At the moment, we seem to be moving backwards, not even 'Sideways' as has been suggested of late. :P Regardless of who controls the purse strings, be it Merlin or Mandy, we all wish for Alton Towers to move forward and build on its great reputation.
Sent from my ZX81 via Time Travel

Image
 
User avatar
Sam
TT Member
TT Member
Posts: 5557
Joined: May 2008
Location: People's Socialist Republic of Sheffield
Contact:

Re: 2011: The Honest Truth

Wed May 04, 2011 10:02 pm

I'll presume every thank of this post is a name add.

Here's the plan. We'll send off an e-mail signed from as many of us as possible. The e-mail will consist of Astro's post, and then all our names as co-signatures at the end. Write here if you'd like to sign this e-mail and I'll write them below.

Diogo
Mike
Big Dave
James
Sam
JoshM
D4n
Dormiens-Dave
CoasterCrazyChris
ryansstuff
Vik
Chris
Dominique
Magrathea
Crofty
John Harding
towersfreak
Don't_Look_Down
John Drake
Michael
.Will
MattH
TurboJ
Alex (numb3r1towersfan)
Nightfall
QTXAdsy
Colossus
Mankey
Coke
ShadowTD
PeteB
Last edited by Sam on Thu May 05, 2011 2:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 18

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 223 guests