The tourism industry has sort of almost gone backwards. Where travelling abroad became more viable in the 1950s and 1960s and slowly over the decades to follow seaside resorts started to decline we're now in a new decade where staying on home land is the cheaper and more viable option.
It's a tricky one to call as while days out at Alton are cheaper than say, going to Spain for a weekend (this would be based on a package holiday, which is what most people use). It is still cheaper to go to somewhere like Haven Holidays in Cornwall for a weekend. It's all down to what the vast majority want. In fact I'd say a weekend at a Haven camp outside Blackpool is great value, you get to stay in a caravan, go to the Pleasure Beach if wish, go to the Tower and other attractions, and have a beach on your doorstep. My family did this a dew years ago, we had 3 night, 4 days at a Haven camp, visited all the attractions around Balckpool as well as the Pleasure Beach and at the time it did work out near the same, even cheaper than a 2 night, 3 day stay at Alton Towers.
I think we have to remember with the theme park industry that it is still a relatively new industry in the UK. It hasn't been around as long as seaside resorts and package holidays so for the British public at least, theme parks are an exciting part of tourism. Alton Towers in itself is an entertainments venue, built to please and pack a persons day for a decent price.
Merlin seem not to be suffering that much. Although saying that they are acquiring more attractions around the world year on year, increasing prices and making budget cuts so they may 'look' figures wise like they are not suffering although in reality they could be suffering quite a lot. It's quite easy to make the figures look good, especially for a giant operator like Merlin, although they are damaging their attractions slowly. What will happen in say, 5 or 10 years time? How much of an impact will Merlin's current actions have on the UK industry?
Seaside resorts fell, theme parks could quite easily do the same.