UK theme parks from another point of view!

 
AstroDan

Re: Merlin interview

Sun Dec 26, 2010 10:23 pm

I think it's marvellous that Merlin recognise how great EP is.

:D :D
 
rickydoodle
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Re: Merlin interview

Mon Dec 27, 2010 3:13 am

"Sam""][quote=""haydn!" wrote:
Also, overreaction on the museum comments or what? He was asked what he thought the government had done to help the tourism industry, and his answer was, however brutal, very honest. He was not insulting free museums, he was insulted the governments one sided approach to the tourism industry. Free museums and lottery funded public sector owned attractions are competition to all private sector attractions. The fact the government has neglected to help the private tourism sector when it's chosen to bail out other private sector markets and businesses is an insult to Merlin and it's private sector competitors. Especially when you consider the significant impact tourism has on the UK economy.

The government subsides free museums as they are educational. The benefit the nation's future, they raise the overall knowledge of the nation. They allow people of any background to better themselves through education.
[/quote]
I agree completely with haydn!, 100%. People are looking far too much into that comment and at the end of the day it was a fair comment.

Free entry to national museums was instigated less than 10 years ago, before then you had to pay. He simply stated that there was additional competition when trying to attract day visitors. Regardless of whether they are educational or not, the point stands. It's only made more infuriating for owners/operators when European/American parks are given significant tax breaks/VAT reductions.

For the record, government/lottery funded attractions were both highlighted as playing a part towards the closures of Loudoun Castle & Pleasureland Southport by their owners.
Last edited by rickydoodle on Mon Dec 27, 2010 1:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
Dormiens-Dave

Re: Merlin interview

Mon Dec 27, 2010 11:36 am

I dont know about loudon but government or millenium projects had nothing to do with southport closing down. There are no significant projects in the area and southport i believe was still in marginal profit. The blame for southport closure lies firmly in the hands of Amanda Thompson.
 
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Re: Merlin interview

Mon Dec 27, 2010 1:23 pm

^ Regardless, I was just saying it's not the first time it has been mentioned and nobody flipped about it.
 
Dormiens-Dave

Re: Merlin interview

Mon Dec 27, 2010 2:00 pm

Indeed and i agree with you. Merlins just not popular at the mo. I think the carpark furie is a focus on peoples displeasure over other things such as the poor excuse for a coaster thirteen was and the way older parts of the park are rotting without any investment or care
 
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Re: Merlin buy Sydney attractions

Sun Jan 02, 2011 10:16 pm

Just a heads up on this topic, Merlin are planning to brand the aquariums they've brought once the contracts have finally been signed and gone threw to the one and only SEALIFE™ of course! :D
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Adz
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Re: Merlin buy Sydney attractions

Mon Jan 03, 2011 8:03 pm

[Edited because actually yes that was a bit mean..]

I'll be curious to see exactly how far Merlin go with the Eye/Sealife/Madame Tussauds/Dungeons brands.. I'm surprised they've not used 'Earth Explorer' a bit more.
Last edited by Adz on Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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[Archive]

Re: Merlin buy Sydney attractions

Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:05 pm

It NEVER crossed my mind that Merlin may brand an aquarium they just bought with an existing successful aquarium brand they already owned. That's mind blowing insider information. You win the thread!
And the point of this sarcasm is what exactly? Nobody was talking directly to you, so you had no need to jump in and unnecessarily show off your 'wit'. :roll:
 
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Re: Merlin buy Sydney attractions

Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:38 pm

You know what, you're right.
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Emrys
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Re: Merlin buy Sydney attractions

Fri Jan 07, 2011 1:09 am

Sorry to sound completely ignorant, but what was that about Merlin leasing Towers after buying it? Did they essentially aquaire Tussaurds, then sell Alton Towers land and keep the brand and managing rights? Or sell it off and basically pay rent?
 
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Re: Why is each merlin park ran differantly?

Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:27 pm

in my opinion, the differences in park management style result in many misunderstandings, and in some cases a sense of disorganization.
I have had the pleasure of visiting Alton Towers many times this year, and in my experience it is among the best run parks in the Merlin group, however I have found the parks no smoking scheme, to be totally ineffective. Not once in any of my visits to Alton Towers in 2010 (and there were many) did I see a member of staff walked by someone who was smoking outside of a designated smoking area and tell them to stop, in my opinion it's pointless having a rule if you won't enforce it.
I had the pleasure of visiting Chessington world of adventure and Legoland Windsor this summer, and I found Legoland to be satisfactory and exactly as I expected, however my visit to Chessington was less than satisfactory. Living in Derbyshire I used to visit the American adventure theme park for a day out both because it isn't local and because it was cheaper at the time, however I found the feeling at Chessington to be a poor man's version of the American adventure, it felt like it had been built and then left to rot with no attention paid to maintenance. I also found the layout at Chessington to be misleading and confusing, definitely not the best layout for enjoying a trouble-free day out.
Since I have been critical of Chessington and its management I should at least report my experiences of Legoland. In general I found the park to be of the same high standards I remember from childhood visit, however there were obvious signs that maintenance of the Lego Village or mini land?was not as high quality as I recall from the days of the Lego ownership and management. The wasp problem was evident however at the time of my visit it did not appear to be a major problem, just the usual swamping of wasps around food venues and bins, although it was evident to us that less was being done to combat the problem that Alton Towers and even Chessington!

I have not had the opportunity to experience Thorpe Park so I cannot comment on the management organization of that Park, however I did hear from many people that we should have visited this park as opposed to Chessington, I seriously hope that I will have the opportunity to visit this park in 2011.

In all I have found that most of the parts at least succeed in managing day-to-day operations without issue, however maintenance of the main and even development of beans could be better in almost all parks, but that's just the critical mind of the modern consumer.
Long live Towers times! And many thanks for such a great site!
 
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Sam
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Competition in UK theme parks: are Merlin a monopoly?

Sun Jan 23, 2011 3:29 pm

Hello all,

A few weeks ago, I sent off an e-mail to the competition commission, inspired by a post by Astrodan where he theorized that the UK is lagging so far behind Germany in terms of new additions because every major German park is owned by a different company, and compete against each other. This is the e-mail I sent:

"Sam" wrote:
Dear Sir/Madam,

I would like to make an enquiry and complaint about the current state of the UK theme park industry. First, I would be grateful if you could supply me with any information regarding any current or past investigations into this industry. As a theme park enthusiast, as a group we have noticed and debated the reasons behind a gulf between a lack of investment in the UK industry compared to the thriving European and American industries.

We have recognised a common link. In nearly every other large country in the world with multiple major theme parks, there is a healthy diversity of ownership and no company dominates the market. This drives a huge amount of innovation, meaning many years of increasing quality additions and increasing visitor numbers. For example in Germany, the competition between Europa Park, Phantasialand and Heide Park has resulted in some of the greatest attractions and park improvements seen in the industry. In Holland, we have noticed that the country's major theme park Efteling were starting to stagnate in the 90's in terms of investment, similar to the way the UK parks have been stagnating recently. With the arrival of nearby Toverland as a serious competitor, installing major attractions, Efteling's monopoly was broken and they suddenly invested hugely in the park, creating some of the industries most admired new attractions.

In the United States, the competition between the Six Flags theme park chain, the Cedar Fair chain, the Disney chain and the Universal Chain, as well as a huge number of independent parks means there is a constant race for improvement between parks, adding in more exciting, innovative, taller and faster thrill rides more frequently to keep up with their rivals. In France, again every major theme park is owned separately, meaning a rivalry between Parc Asterix and Disneyland Paris has seen both parks race to add in immersive well-themed experiences in recent years.

The UK I believe is the only major country where the theme park market is completely dominated by one company, Merlin Entertainments. According to this* report, the 2009 report being the most recent available, from the industry association the Themed Entertainment Association, all four UK parks (Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Legoland Windsor & Chessington World of Adventures) in Europe's top 20 most visited parks are operated or owned by Merlin. I don't have specific UK statistics for the rest of Merlin's UK portfolio and UK visitor attraction visitor numbers as a whole, but I'm sure you will have access to them.

I believe that the UK's 4 most visited theme parks all belonging to one company (they also own many more tourist attractions in the UK) is hugely stifling innovation. There is really only one UK park that can compete, Pleasure Beach Blackpool. Unfortunately, due to their location, Blackpool's general image, and their vast quantity of historical rides that prevent new development, they don't act as effective competition, as they are essentially aiming at different markets.

Many other UK parks are struggling such as Camelot, Lightwater Valley, Oakwood, Fantasy Island, Pleasurewood Hills, Pleasure Island and Drayton Manor adding in cheap, low-quality additions, below the standards of their European counterparts as it's all they can afford. This gives Merlin little incentive for producing high quality attractions of their own, with enthusiasts generally regarding Alton Towers' new "Th13teen" rollercoaster and Thorpe Park's "SAW: The Ride" as being vastly inferior in terms of scenery and theming, build quality and length to new rides being built in America, Europe and Asia's top theme parks. Meanwhile in London, one of the world's largest cities, theme park visitors have to travel hundreds of miles to get to a theme park not owned by Merlin, as Legoland Windsor, Chessington World of Adventures and Thorpe Park are the only nearby major parks. This results in no competition for the lucrative London market, and since the purchase of Thorpe Park by Merlin's predecessor Tussauds in 1999, the investment in Chessington World of Adventures and Legoland Windsor has dropped dramatically.

Interestingly, Merlin's UK investments can be compared directly with those at Merlin's European parks. Compared to the two recent major rollercoaster additions to UK Merlin parks which have used cheap models designed for smaller parks, the addition of next years "Krake" and "X-Raptor" to Heide Park and Gardaland respectively show a complete difference to their UK counterparts - much larger and higher quality model from Swiss company Bolliger & Mabillard and also very well themed.

Gate prices have also been increasing rapidly. This makes Legoland one of the most expensive theme park days out in Europe, which is not matched by the level of quality of investment at the attraction in recent years. UK theme park visitors pay some of the highest prices in Europe, while getting some of the poorest service, and poorest investment.

I would ask that you please look into my complaint about this industry, and consider its implications for the UK's leisure industry. Thankyou for your time.

Sam Gregory

*http://www.themeit.com/etea/2009report.pdf


Yesterday I finally got a response. The response was that they interpreted my request for information on any previous investigations as a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

The act does contain some clauses that allows the Competition Commission to deny a FoI Act request. The e-mail reply contained a lot of waffle I didn't really understand, I think this is the main crux of the matter though:

"Competition Commission" wrote:
The disclosure of the type of information you have requested would be likely to cause harm to the affairs of individuals or the legitimate business of undertakings where that might not be warranted.


So, even if they have conducted investigations into UK theme parks in the past, they can't even tell me if they have or not, nevermind actually showing me the investigations. :roll:

Do Merlin have it sewed up? They're such a big company I wouldn't be surprised if the Competition Commission was scared of losing the revenue they must bring in.

The end of the letter stated they would keep my letter on file for use in any future investigations of this type. :)
 
Blaze

Re: Competition in UK theme parks: are Merlin a monopoly?

Sun Jan 23, 2011 4:00 pm

But Tussauds/Merlin were not around forever, so small parks can't just blame the company. Tussauds/Merlin arn't this evil, faceless entity that went round maniacally picking some parks to make great over night and leave the rest in mediocrity, laughing sinisterly as it went. They bought parks with pottential and carefully spent money to improve them. No one would have done any different. If LWV hadn't almost bankrupted themselves with The Ultimate and managed to turn into a large, big league park, their actions would have been the same as Tussauds/Merlin and PBB. They probably would have infact been bought by Tussauds.

Nothing anyone can do will change the course of history and it's impacts on today. Disbanding Merlin would not suddenly even the playing field. Little parks won't suddenly be free to become huge, they will still struggle on, and the Merlin parks would for a while stay as they are, but without the backing they would start to decline, ever faster and faster until eventually collapsing and becoming just as mediocre as the rest. Surely it is better to have a few parks miles better than the rest than have them all in the same state of half-decency? Besides, if Merlin were moved out of the way, there would always be someone else who would come along. I'm pretty sure Six Flags Staffordshire is something much, much worse than even in a Merlinophobe such as yourself's wildest nightmares?
 
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Re: Competition in UK theme parks: are Merlin a monopoly?

Sun Jan 23, 2011 4:09 pm

I'm now starting to have a lingering suspicion of Merlin. I don't know why, but it looks like they're up to something, whenever this is good or bad, we'll find out sooner or later... :-$ :-k
Death of the UK theme park industry? Still we're on a par with the Belgians!
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DiogoJ42

Re: Competition in UK theme parks: are Merlin a monopoly?

Sun Jan 23, 2011 4:14 pm

As you said, Sam, Merlin have a monopoly in the UK. The only real parks that can compete are BPB and (at a push) Mingerland. :no:

Maybe if we all write to the Monopoly Commission and complain they will have to look into it? Of course, if we are successful, it would probably mean an end to the MAP, so maybe we should just shut up and get on with our lives :roll:
 
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Re: Competition in UK theme parks: are Merlin a monopoly?

Sun Jan 23, 2011 4:26 pm

however they are highly unlikly to look at just competition between theme parks they would look at the whole tourist attraction market and when you look at tourist attractions as a whole in the UK then merlin dont have a monopoly. Theme parks competete agaist all other tourist related attractions and thats the way the competition commission would look at it.

Plus if there was an issue it would have been raised when merlin purchased Tussuads.
 
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Sam
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Re: Competition in UK theme parks: are Merlin a monopoly?

Sun Jan 23, 2011 4:28 pm

"DiogoJ42" wrote:
Of course, if we are successful, it would probably mean an end to the MAP, so maybe we should just shut up and get on with our lives :roll:

Yes but if Merlin was broken up then the MAP would come down in price to reflect the lesser number of attractions. I wouldn't mind paying a bit more a year to get into Thorpe or Chessie once or twice a year if competition with Alton Towers and Legoland meant they improved significantly. :)
 
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captain
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Re: Competition in UK theme parks: are Merlin a monopoly?

Sun Jan 23, 2011 4:29 pm

"Blaze" wrote:
Disbanding Merlin would not suddenly even the playing field. Little parks won't suddenly be free to become huge, they will still struggle on, and the Merlin parks would for a while stay as they are, but without the backing they would start to decline, ever faster and faster until eventually collapsing and becoming just as mediocre as the rest.

I think that's pretty much the opposite of Sam's point. By disbanding Merlin and forcing the parks to compete against each other for business, especially the London three, they will have to raise their game or they will be overtaken. They won't be able to carry on installing mediocre, half-themed attractions because if people will favour the parks that provide the better experience.

If one of the parks was to install a truly magnificent coaster, say a Black Mamba, Blue Fire or a Troy, while the others installed a new Thirteen (not the actual rides here, merely rides of similar standards), then the park with the new superb coaster would do better. This would force the others to raise their game and also try install new incredible attractions, for fear of permanently damaging their reputation and losing visitors. Merlin can install substandard attractions because if people choose not to go to one of their parks they will simply go to one of the others, and Merlin still make money. Moreover, it's become a standard that the public expect. A break-up of Merlin might improve standards across the board.

Of course, what I've just said applies mainly to broken-up Merlin parks. Smaller parks will still struggle with limited funds available. However, if the Merlin behemoth was no longer the giant in the industry, it would be far more attractive to invest in small parks than it is now. A new well-themed thrill coaster in any of the smaller parks would vastly increase footfall, and would probably see a return much quicker it would now, especially if it was a standard above what Merlin/Tussauds have done. Although little parks won't suddenly become huge, they will be able to assert themselves more now that 4 parks are effectively not having to compete against each other but now have to try for more business. There will still be a gap, but it should be easier to shrink.

I think the issue would be that although the standard of attractions may improve, the value for the customer could decrease, as getting rid of the MAP could end up costing people far more.
 
Blaze

Re: Competition in UK theme parks: are Merlin a monopoly?

Sun Jan 23, 2011 4:35 pm

Without Merlin, there would be no investment in the current Merlin parks, so they would decline. There would be no backing for new attractions and they won't be able to afford to make any mistakes. They would survive for a while, but they wouldn't be able to expand.

Smaller parks won't neccassarily become large if they install a large, great coaster. Look at LWV. The Ultimate should have thrust them into the big leagues, but instead it still carries on as a small park. It also happens elsewhere, you often find random big, quality rides in little parks.
 
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Re: Competition in UK theme parks: are Merlin a monopoly?

Sun Jan 23, 2011 4:37 pm

I'd say yes and no.

Yes in the sense that Merlin own four of the biggest theme parks in the country. They have the four biggest identities and people will flock to them because of it. Merlin invest in their parks and they invest well, that's why their parks are so big today. Ten years ago for example, Thorpe was pretty much unknown, look how much it has changed now and that's probably thanks to its gamble (Colossus) which has payed off.

Smaller parks NEED to invest if they're going to bring it in. Blackpool needs to realise it's no longer going to be the cultural seaside identity and there appears to be a lot of work going into it this year, I think it will begin to rise in the future. Drayton is another park which is showing some positive signs of investment and if it can market itself as a cheaper alternative to Alton I think it can make some big money. Paultons Park is also on the rise, since 2006 it's added a big coaster, a large flat and it's making Peppa Pig World and it'll certainly bring in the family market. It too needs to advertise itself as a cheaper alternative to Legoland and Chessington to bring in more of its niche market.

Parks like Lightwater Valley, Camelot and Oakwood frankly need to pull their fingers out their arse and take a gamble, or at least they need to advertise themselves. They need to take advantage of the fact that people are going to want to look for cheap days out and cater for it. If they're doing little of nothing, they're going to sit and rot.

Merlin aren't to blame in my opinion, they're not stopping other parks from building attractions, it's the management of the smaller parks who are not taking the risks and are not letting themselves be heard. I reckon Merlin will have to watch out in the next few years because parks like Flamingoland, Paultons and Drayton are going to provide some fierce competition.
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