UK theme parks from another point of view!

 
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Robert.W
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Wed Aug 08, 2018 3:52 pm

Ahhh, I read that last night. Very interesting article! Some of Varney's comments did actually make me laugh though...

And interesting to hear his opinion on the Disney trackless dark rides. How he was in complete awe at what Disney had created – that, Mr Varney, is the level that Merlin should be creating rides at. That's how you should want your guests to feel whilst experiencing your attractions. In order to catch the Mouse, you have to be better than the Mouse, and at the moment, Merlin are terribly far behind.

A trackless dark ride would work really well in Duel's place...
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AltonOperator
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Wed Aug 08, 2018 8:44 pm

Robert.W wrote:
And interesting to hear his opinion on the Disney trackless dark rides. How he was in complete awe at what Disney had created – that, Mr Varney, is the level that Merlin should be creating rides at. That's how you should want your guests to feel whilst experiencing your attractions. In order to catch the Mouse, you have to be better than the Mouse, and at the moment, Merlin are terribly far behind.

We know from successes like Wicker Man that they would have no problem creating masterpieces like Disney do its just that they need to give the parks something to work with! Just chill out with the SeaLifes and Legolands for just a bit and pump some money into the parks. Firstly, with some serious clean up, getting everything up to scratch and then building some incredible attractions like we know they are capable of!
Hopefully Varney will be compelled to do something after he's said all these things!
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Swarm Chris
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:19 pm

Robert.W wrote:
In order to catch the Mouse, you have to be better than the Mouse, and at the moment, Merlin are terribly far behind.

Sadly though, this is practically impossible at least in terms of the resort parks, despite the marketing speak they use to say how they're the second largest operator behind only Disney. The income Disney is playing with is far beyond anything Merlin could ever hope for. Sadly improving Alton to beat Disneyland Paris attraction-wise, would give pitiful return on investment. Let's not forget that DLP until recently had all the same issues of poor investment and terrible upkeep that we see at Alton, and is only improving after Disney came in and bought it out fully.

AltonOperator wrote:
We know from successes like Wickerman that they would have no problem creating masterpieces like Disney do its just that they need to give the parks something to work with! just chill out with the SeaLifes and Legolands for just a bit and pump some money into the parks. Firstly with some serious clean up, getting everything up to scratch and then building some incredible attractions like we know they are capable of!
Hopefully Varney will be compelled to do something after he's said all these things


Their current strategy is very risk averse and is a long term plan. Build in as many regions as possible, with varying types of attraction, so that they're covered regardless of any regional or local issue, such as weather and economic issues. Having read the formation of the company and how they seemingly got a little too close to it all failing very early on with director assets at risk, I have more respect for the way the company overall operates with attempting to get long term stability. The issue we see is that the UK and the European operation as a whole, aren't the focus at the moment and so get thrown a few scraps in comparison. Interestingly, if they think the pound is going to remain devalued and lead to people coming here for cheaper holidays, then we may see more investment. There is also the benefit that by having more income being generated abroad, they will also do well on the exchange rate converting back into pounds, making investing in the UK cheaper.
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lewis97
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Mon Oct 22, 2018 8:08 pm

After having somewhat recovered from the previous record low in January this year, Merlin's share price has now reached a new all time low following the response to last week's trading update.

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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Tue Oct 23, 2018 10:02 am

What could this mean for the future of Merlin? If anything at all..
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Tue Oct 23, 2018 7:19 pm

Can anyone explain why this happened I watched the whole Interim Update video, the only bad thing was that Legoland growth decreased by 0.3% because they decided to take a year with no major CAPEX and no Lego movie whilst the rest of the chain continues to grow and 9% growth in the RTP chain because strong performance from Wicker Man and Peppa Pig Lands (No mention of Thorpe or Chessy though).

Also Nick Varney spoke about bringing cost cutting to a halt in the chain as well as 372 new rooms next year.

I really don’t understand why the share price plummeted.
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Tue Oct 23, 2018 7:42 pm

Merlin should have had very strong results for their theme park with the hot weather but they didn't. Merlin isn't providing the growth shareholders want 
 
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Tue Oct 23, 2018 9:46 pm

My educated guess is that shareholders have lost (or are losing trust) in Merlin Management. On paper they seem to be doing pretty well but, really, they aren't. Visits to all the theme parks (apart from Legoland I understand) are down when they should have recovered. Midways aren't doing that well either. Merlin should be a lot bigger business than they are.
 
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Wed Oct 24, 2018 10:27 am

Surely Wicker Man should prove to the group what is needed for future growth?

A decent ride, with a decent theme and backstory will bring in the crowds. Alton have a winner on their hands and more "Wicker projects" are needed throughout their parks, every year!

In an ideal world, we really should see a new coaster/major investment every three years. Four is good, but with Alton pushing this to 5 years, this is certainly pushing the boundaries.

Thorpe have suffered in recent years. Ghost Train didn't fill the spot and really 2016 should have been a coaster!
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Wed Oct 24, 2018 2:40 pm

I think what doesn’t help Alton Towers is that people don’t want to keep going from one coaster to another, I have friends who hate coasters but love flat rides, which is slowly becoming a struggle due to queue times and removals of flats.

I know this subject is talked about a lot but if Merlin invested more flats to the Towers, visitor numbers would increase, and queue times would be scattered due to this.
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Wed Oct 24, 2018 3:24 pm

Share prices seem only linked to the short term growth. Last year's, well profits are down, but hey we've expanded hugely and are still making money, was characterised as being bad. Medium term as a company, Merlin to me seems to be looking reasonably good, so long as they eventually stop spreading themselves so thin. A question was asked about what could happen if share prices keep falling, well maybe a leadership challenge. But I do seem to remember that when the share prices dropped last year, management people sunk a reasonable amount of money into the company.

Obligatory: The above was not advice and is simply my opinion and shouldn't be used outside of general discussion of the company. There may be inaccuracies and all sorts in what I've said. Don't go buying shares unless you're happy to lose all your money. :)

However, some of the fairly amateurish marketing that I've seen across the Merlin companies, particularly via their online presences, look like they could start causing them problems. The Advertising Standards Agency ruled today that a Tweet by Merlin, via Alton, was misleading and told not to do it again. The Tweet offered kids go free, for a price that seemingly didn't exist, and that it was actually cheaper to stay without kids.

I can think of a handful of similar issues across the park, which seem like they have the potential to give Merlin a headache from advertising authorities. Thorpe's randomly changing car park price, which I've noted is not always up-to-date online or via tweets. Thorpe's declaration of the park being open via website and confirmation Tweets, that then subsequently turn out to be untrue. Thorpe's declaration that all mazes will be open at midday as part of its initial Fright Night advertisements, which then quietly changed to 3pm and 6pm before anything opened. Advertisement of an attraction that will be part of the full Fright Night lineup, which was only ever intended to be there for 4 days. Then my current issue, free DigiPass with a PMAP renewal, where twice I've gone to get it and twice I've failed as they couldn't find what they needed to do it. These are all in the last 2 months and just at one park. I can also throw in Alton refusing to sell rooms with MAP discount at the start of the season, due to "technical issues". Or Legoland refusing entry to any MAP holders due to capacity limits reached before the park opened, but providing no mechanism for passholders to secure an entry. Or an Annual Pass, which only lasts 3 months and quietly has its name and Ts&C's changed to reflect this short lifetime a few weeks after it goes on sale.

Leaving yourself wide open to the potential for regulators to start sniffing around, is really not a great idea. Especially when they target the top level company, seemingly ignoring the internal structure, so it would become lots of cases against the same entity. But sadly it seems to me how the company is currently operating.
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Wed Oct 24, 2018 7:44 pm

Growth or large dividends are the big drivers for share price. 

Where's the growth going to come from for Merlin? The Midway attractions aren't proving massive money spinners, you can only build so many Legolands.

I'm not sure any UK parks can truly achieve a resort like Universal or Disneyworld that have year long opening and where you can spend weeks at and not get bored. In theory Thorpe Park could have enough space for an entertainment complex and an indoor water park but would they even get planning permission, let along stump up the cash needed to do build on or fill in the lakes?

At any point another Smiler could happen and decimate sales at parks. Theme parks are high risk, high investment and often have very low profit margins, it's very easy to spook investors 
 
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Sun Oct 28, 2018 11:51 pm

Towers is in dire need of flat rides, cant they go down the lease route and add a couple every few years and just theme them well? Surely this would be a better move to keep things looking fresh in the park.
 
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Thu Feb 28, 2019 7:54 am

Merlin's preliminary results are out today, and overall it appears guest numbers went up and revenue went up. I haven't read much of it, but here is an easy to read at this time of day breakdown of it:

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From a NASDAQ article:

Revenue at its Resort Theme Parks division grew 9.1 percent and was up 6.4 percent at Legoland. The Midway Attractions division saw growth of 1.1 percent with a continued recovery in London trading.
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Thu Feb 28, 2019 9:49 am

I hope this is the start of something positive to come for Merlin. They could really do with the increase of guests and revenue about now, maybe even see the start in bigger budgets for some of the parks.
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Thu Feb 28, 2019 12:49 pm

Excellent news, maybe now would be a good time to spam them on social media commanding that they reinstate the baggage holds? You never know unless you try...
 
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Thu Feb 28, 2019 5:23 pm

Some more analysis of today's results, giving profit for the resort theme parks.

Underlying operating profit rose 39.9% to £51m at Resort Theme Parks. Revenues rose 9.1% to £360m. Performance was driven by rising like-for-like sales, extra attractions in parks and a strong Halloween season. Weather was also more favourable across the UK and Europe.

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With a strong Halloween season being declared a factor, could this be why Fright Nights is being extended at Thorpe Park? I'd really love to see the park have a less shoestring budget for this, and make the park have a site-wide spooky party atmosphere similar to Universal's Halloween Horror Nights.
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Thu Feb 28, 2019 8:33 pm

DeadJack5 wrote:
I hope this is the start of something positive to come for Merlin. They could really do with the increase of guests and revenue about now, maybe even see the start in bigger budgets for some of the parks.

Apart from the fact they announced RTP Capex would be reduced to fund Midway and Legoland development...
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Chris
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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Thu Feb 28, 2019 10:14 pm

Yup! See below.

I want to be positive but it's a depressing outlook.

Just sell the parks to Cedar Fair or someone, please.

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Re: Merlin General Discussion

Thu Feb 28, 2019 10:28 pm

When are Merlin going to understand that you can't keep adding accommodation to the Resort theme parks without also adding new attractions to make people actually want to stay longer! whilst adding a new flat ride may not show a direct return, or show obvious value to investors in the same way a new hotel room can, you simply can't keep failing to invest in smaller attractions as all that will happen is people won't see it worth making a multi day visit to the Resorts.

Surely we have got to the point where there is nothing left to cut in the theme parks. If they cut any more it's going to reach a point where the parks simply do not have enough budget to function on even a basic level. You do have to question just how the higher ups at Merlin seem either incapable of seeing this, or worse, don't seem to care that this is the situation. It does make me wonder if at some point in the next 5-10 years we may see Merlin sell off their Resort Theme Park division, although I understand even this move would be far from straightforward with the land for Alton Towers and Thorpe Park being owned by Nick Leslau and not Merlin.
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