Why should Alton be a "premium" product? Compared to the likes of Disney parks, its hardly Premium is it? Sure, its the nicest of the bunch in the UK but its not premium. By saying it should be premium are we implying that only those who drive posh cars, and earn in excess of £50,000 a year should be able to visit?
Its no wonder admissions are down, and they will be down a lot this year. Read the tripadvisor reviews, everyone slates the parking charge. People complaining of the queues and the price they paid to get in. Stop looking at AT from an enthusiast point of view and look at it from the point of view of the Joe Bloggs family with 2.4 children.
Are they really going to be wanting to pay £500+ for a day in alton towers and a night in the hotel? Erm, no. If AT wants to increase visitor numbers then start charging sensible prices. The hotels are way overpriced for what they are, £20 pp to eat in Splash buffet is extortionate, the waterpark is expensive for what it is, and the theme park isnt open long enough, nor has enough rides to soak up the queues in the summer. As for then expecting people to pay £6 just to visit, its a joke. You say that the majority of people would split this charge by those in the car, but I can hardly see a dad turing around and asking his young sons to cough up £2 each from their pocket money.
Altons main visitor group are families and they are in great danger of loosing this group. I remember that AT once lost a lot of its customers as it was seen as a "teenage" resort. The Haunted House and RMT were developed to start countering this arguement, and it worked. If they are not careful, families will not be able to visit the park and once again the main customer base will be teenagers, mostly on school trips, organised coach trips, or groups who can afford annual passes.
But then look at all the Merlin attractions, unless you have a MAP, and if you were average Joe Bloggs family, they are all expensive. I was amazed on my recent visit to London how a trip for 2 on the London Eye with Fastpass was just shy of £50!!!