2014: General Discussion

Danza91 said:
Enter Valhalla said:
Danza91 said:
Enter Valhalla said:
I would say because ride openings should be based on demand. If the demand isn't there then why waste loads of money on staff and make it harder for the Technical teams to get these rides open for 10am when people simply wont be using them.

So why, as someone who doesn't own an Annual Pass, am I paying the same price for less?


Are you seriously trying to tell me that having 6 rides opening late means that you will get on less?

I didn't suggest I would get on less, I said I'm getting less for my money when prices are no different (and will no doubt continue to rise).

My thoughts have been pretty much summarised by Sam and Ben.


How are you getting less for your money? You're getting on the same number of rides :/

I'm sorry, I'm genuinely not trying to start an argument here, I just don't understand your point. You're getting the same amount of rides for your money, opening a few an hour late just means you get to the ride and say "oh it's closed, I'll go on this ride next to it instead and come back later" I've done this at many parks around the world where stagerred openings are in operation, it didn't bother me at all.
 

Sam

TS Member
Enter Valhalla said:
I've done this at many parks around the world where stagerred openings are in operation, it didn't bother me at all.

Unfortunately, you haven't been to enough parks if you think that staggered opening and closing is a good way to run a world-class theme park (as Alton Towers ostensibly is).

Maybe it's the done thing at places like PortAventura and the Six Flags parks, but it simply doesn't cut any ice at the top-tier parks. Alton will never be able to join that elusive bracket if they pull off money saving wheezes like this. :)
 

CoasterCrazyChris

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Nemesis
Can't say I really care much that these particular rides will open late. However it is a pain not being able to use the sky ride first thing to get to forbidden valley quickly. Must be really annoying if you have mobility issues are are not aware of the late opening.

Looks like we never really left the 'dark days' that the park reentered in 2011.

Cuts to opening hours, late ride openings, closed food outlets, upselling, lack of maintenance and constantly increasing prices. I don't think we will ever see the back of these cost cutting measures so long as Merlin are in charge.
 
Sam said:
Enter Valhalla said:
I've done this at many parks around the world where stagerred openings are in operation, it didn't bother me at all.

Unfortunately, you haven't been to enough parks if you think that staggered opening and closing is a good way to run a world-class theme park (as Alton Towers ostensibly is).

Maybe it's the done thing at places like PortAventura and the Six Flags parks, but it simply doesn't cut any ice at the top-tier parks. Alton will never be able to join that elusive bracket if they pull off money saving wheezes like this. :)

How on earth is this a sign that I've not been to enough parks?! Or were you just using this as an opportunity to brag that you've been to more than me?

I've seen late openings done well at Gardaland, Busch Gardens Tampa, Islands of Adventure, Disneyland Paris, Oakwood and, dare I say it, PortAventura (only done well at PortAventura prior to 2010 before they got carried away with it, admittedly PA's stagerred openings are terrible now). I've also seen it done badly at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Chessington.

If done well it can be a great way to control costs whilst causing minimal disruption to guests.
 

Danza91

TS Member
Enter Valhalla said:
Sam said:
Enter Valhalla said:
I've done this at many parks around the world where stagerred openings are in operation, it didn't bother me at all.

Unfortunately, you haven't been to enough parks if you think that staggered opening and closing is a good way to run a world-class theme park (as Alton Towers ostensibly is).

Maybe it's the done thing at places like PortAventura and the Six Flags parks, but it simply doesn't cut any ice at the top-tier parks. Alton will never be able to join that elusive bracket if they pull off money saving wheezes like this. :)

If done well it can be a great way to control costs whilst causing minimal disruption to guests.

Which Alton Towers won't avoid by closing the SkyRide. It's going to cause grief for people with mobility issues and as a result, start their day in a bad way, hence the less for your money.

On top of that, some of the closures just make things awkward for planning your day now, especially in FV.
 

Scott

Former TS Team Member
Favourite Ride
Nemesis
Hex, Terra and Ripsaw don't really bother me as they rarely attract a queue until this sort of time anyway. I would have thought that Battle Galleons would have been a more obvious cost-cutting choice though. I sometimes wonder why it is even open on certain days due to the weather.

Sky ride is a terrible move though and I bloody well hope they change their mind. It's an important artery to the park and is absolutely essential for many people to get around the park. It's frankly ridiculous that it doesn't open at 10 this year and I really hope they change this.

All of this 'I don't mind this but I hate this' shouldn't even be happening though. Late openings are a precedent for more and more and I don't agree with the idea of a theme park opening certain attractions late. The opening time is 10am. All the rides and attractions should open then. I can't think of many (if any) other paid entry attractions where things don't open at the stated opening time....
 
I can see where people are coming from with Skyride. As I've said, Ripsaw, Sub Terra, Hex and Battle Galleons would have been a better choice. Or maybe CATCF as that requires a huge number of staff to operate.
 

DiogoJ42

TS Member
Favourite Ride
The Metropolitan Line
I remember back in the dark days of DIC, when reduced opening hours was first introduced. After Kelpie and I had booked a midweek hotel stay, the cuts were announced, which included the Skyride not opening at all except at weekends.
Naturally, we complained, and the reply we got was [not a word perfect quote, but close enough]
The skyride is not intended for transportation. It is a family attraction in it's own right.

So there you go. We are not supposed to use the Skyride as a quick way round the park. It is not there to help those with mobility problems have a more bearable day. It's only supposed to be a way to view the gardens. Silly us!
 

Dar

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Taron
At a park where you pay for each ride individually, like Liseberg or BPB, I can accept staggered opening. You only pay for each ride as you want to ride it and can enjoy the "ambience" of the park in the mean time.

However, at a park like Alton or Phantasialand, you're paying for an overall service with all the rides as part of the "deal". It wouldn't be so bad if the park was actually open for a reasonable amount of time, 8 hours isn't.

I think this is another sign of the park being considered a business venture more than a customer-based attraction. When money taken and other KPIs are used instead of actual guest feedback and enjoyment as the basis for decisions, something is very wrong.
 

Alastair

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Indiana Jones Adventure
I don't know why everyone's fretting, they'll reverse this (the Skyride closures at least) within the week. It can almost be counted upon given the past record with these kinds of announcements :p
 

Ian

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Dizz, Bobby’s Yarn Land 🧶
Personally I have no issue with any of these, except for SkyRide.

Having taken a wheelchair around the park I can honestly say that it is a vital transport link for these guests. Traveling from Mutiny Bay to Forbidden Valley on foot/wheel is an incredibly exerting task, as the whole journey is uphill more or less. You don't really appreciate it as much on foot, but the slope from Mutiny Bay into Katanga is actually very steep, and I think even a wheelchair user with the greatest upper body strength would agree that it is a difficult one to deal with, especially when there is a significant flow of guests moving that way, as there tends to be early on.

One of the easiest routes around the park with a wheelchair or pushchair if you ask me is to hop on the Skyride to Forbidden Valley first thing, then work back down the hill to Towers Street, calling off at the various attractions along the way. Then take the SkyRide again from Towers Strest over to Cloud Cuckoo Land, as again, it places you at the other highpoint of the park, and allows you to work back down the hill to be as easily accessible as possible.

So some may argue 'so just don't go their until after 11?' Well personally I consider that to be entirely the wrong attitude. These guests (Both disabled and families) have paid good money to be at the park, so how is it fair that they are suddenly having dictated what they can and cannot do and at what time? Why should this group of visitors have to wait whilst others not in this situation are free to enjoy the more inaccessible regions of the park? This is not something like a rider restriction on a coaster, which is enforced with good reason and justification. No, this is a situation which can be entirely avoided, and all parties kept happy by simply leaving the SkyRide as is, and is entirely self-inflicted by the park.

Alton by its very nature is not an accessible park (And yes, I'm looking at you here especially X-Sector!). However, being forward thinking as they were in the early days, this was taken into consideration, hence why the SkyRide system exists. It was built for a reason!

It's not just the disabled guests and those with prams and pushchairs this affects though. Think about the families with young children (Under 7s mainly). Children can tire quickly, especially after a considerable amount of walking, which is always going to happen at Alton - A park where you can quite easily do a couple of miles in a day. An hour may not seem a lot, but to a child it can be enough. That trip on foot they have to make from Towers Street to Cloud Cuckoo Land will certainly take something out of them, and as the end of the day draws nearer they will become tired and irritable. For some families by this point it will probably be enough for them to call it quits for the day, potentially leaving the park earlier, and ultimately getting less out of their day.

I understand why Alton have chosen to axe SkyRide. The number of staff required to run the system is high, so it's always an easy target. I note how the majority of these attractions are those with a high demand on staff resources, and I can live with that. SkyRide however is a big no. If staffing is such an issue then by all means close some bits like maybe Twirling Toadstool, Battle Galleons, and maybe even Duel at a push. But not a fundamental park link. It's seems to me as if they've taken the view that having less high staffed attractions closed is better than closing a couple more smaller ones, which is probably right, as a long list probably looks worse than a short one, but it's the lack of consideration with SkyRide which annoys me.

In an ideal world everything should be open at 10, but I appreciate that cuts do need to be made from time to time. I just wish they'd think about the guests a little in the process, rather than just the budget savings. What needs to be remembered here is that, no matter what Alton want to call it SkyRide is not just another ride. It's an essential part of the park infrastructure, which many of their guests are reliant on to enjoy and make the most of their day.
 

Bob

TS Member
The idea of opening Nemesis, Blade and chosen attractions that side of the park for 9am ERT, goes directly against the rides chosen that are opening late. Which begs the question, why have ERT at all in the Valley if you have to make two separate trips back there just to get on everything (what with Air opening at 10, then Ripsaw and Sub Terra at 11).
 

BarryZola

TS Member
With this line-up most people will just go to X-Sector and have a couple of bashes on Oblivion and then queue for the Smiler, or just queue for the Smiler straight away. I used to make the effort to go over to Nemesis for a bit first thing but I don't know if I can be bothered to rush around any more.
 

IanB

TS Member
Might as well move ERT to 10am and open the park at 11am if you think the delayed opening is a good idea.

All rides on the park should be available from 10am. If that means hiring more staff to make it happen, than so be it, or at least keeping staffing levels the same as last year.

This is another annoying example of how badly Merlin is running its Theme Park division, there is enough revenue generated by Towers, that money is available to have these rides open, but when its taken from Towers and split between the other parks, Towers suffers.

I could be wrong and this is pure speculation, but my understanding of the budget and how Towers is set-up, was that sub companies are no longer going to be able to shift their profit around to avoid tax, so that means Merlin will now be paying more tax, as profit Alton Towers makes, can not be moved to another part of the company which did not make any profit to reduce the amount of tax that is paid.
Link

There are two things I can see Merlin doing because of this, cutting costs further to reduce any impact, or spending more as it can not move the profit about for tax benefits any more. Sadly, it looks like they have chosen option one.

I just wish Merlin would put its focus on Customers first, ensuring people had the best visit they could have. I wish they would realise that spending a little more, and giving customers a magical day out, will benefit the bottom line far more than cutting corners, and trying to save money here and there.

No matter what Towers says, Skyride is a vital means of allowing customers to travel around the park easily.

Rip Saw might not be a big pull at 10am, but people still went on it, and even more people who did not want to go on the big rides would stand around watching people on it. This is one of those non ride experiences that keeps people busy, and stops them being stood around bored waiting for those on other rides to finish.

Sub-Terra is 2 years old this year, and its already been cut. It is the perfect pre story for guests coming to ride Nemesis, and it sets up the story for Nemesis. Nemesis is celebrating 20 years this year, so this ride should really be opening at 10am to give guests the full Nemesis experience. The fact that Nemesis is 20 years old, and it has had no TLC applied to it this closed season is another embarrassment for Merlin. As Disney has shown with its older rides, Big Thunder Mountain, when you give it some TLC, you can bring it up to a modern day standard. Sadly for Nemesis, while she is celebrating her 20th Birthday, the station, track, queue line and surrounding area are looking in a dire state.

Hex is my second favourite ride on park, it has a fantastic story, it feels like you are joining in and experiencing part of Alton Towers history. No other ride I have been on makes me feel as connected and involved with the history of the park as Hex does. While it does not get that big a queue in the morning, it is still going to be sad wondering past the area, and seeing the doors closed.

Ian
 

thefatone

TS Member
D4n said:
Battle Galleons, Ripsaw, Twirling Toadstool, Duel would have made much more sense to me if these changes are 'necessary' (which, of course, they're not. It's disgusting). Ah well.
Thing is I think they've gone for heavy staffing rather than closure of all small rides (Battle Galleons uses an entire 2 staff and is heavily prominant at the entrance, so closing that does nothing to anything).
Hex - 5 staff, Ripsaw - 2 (But out of the way and noone rides it before 11), Sub Terra - 11 or so.

Skyride is an issue, however alongside the team you see in front you've also got the entire skyride rescue team having to be on park whilst in operation. So that must have the highest costs of anything. Pretty sure skyride used to be closed in huge swathes BEFORE the cuts in 2011 anyway (Pre-09 we're on about). Even if that's no excuse, the skyride has always been subject to reduced operating hours.
 

spinba11

TS Member
pre-09 Skyride never opened on off-peak days, and I only use the monorail 3 or 4 times a year but if that didn't open until 9:30am I won't be like "It's only opening 1 hour later".
 

jon81uk

TS Member
I agree that keeping the Skyride closed is a bad decision for mobility reasons, that should open 10am on the dot, so ERT guests have to walk but then everyone can use it from 10am.

Selective ride opening on weekdays outside of school holidays is fine I think, but maybe make it a whole area so you don't need to go back again, eg open all of Cloud Cuckoo Land later. Although if it was Cloud Cuckoo Land opening 30mins later no-one would notice as it takes that long to walk across the park (if you have kids anyway)!
 
Dar said:
I think this is another sign of the park being considered a business venture more than a customer-based attraction. When money taken and other KPIs are used instead of actual guest feedback and enjoyment as the basis for decisions, something is very wrong.

Well the park are a business. Why's that such a problem. If they're opening these rides at 10am and getting barely anyone riding them in the first hour is it really worth paying all that money in staffing costs every day? I would say no.

It's interesting that you mention KPIs rather than guest feedback. If the park are still recieving positive KPIs even with these late openings, then that is the closest indication that, on the wholem guests don't mind. You say they're ignoring actual guest feedback, but KPIs are the best indication of how guests as a whole feel. If you mean "actual guest feedback" as one or two individula complaints, then I would point out, having spent 10 years working face to face with customers in the leisure industry, that there are some people who will literally complain about ANYTHING. One time at Thorpe Park, I overheard a man complaining to a staff member about having to share a boat on Storm Surge when the queue was an hour and a half, I overheard a man complaining about the length of the queue on Infusion when the only queue was in the air gates, his complaint was that there was only one train, this being on a day when there were only around 200 people on park. In the nicest possible way, some individual feedback from guests is just sillyness from people who like to complain. However if KPIs are affected by any decision that a park makes, this is when changes need to be made. If opening rides late does not affect KPIs and they don't get mass complaints about it, then it makes perfect business sense to do it if you ask me.

Ian said:
In an ideal world everything should be open at 10, but I appreciate that cuts do need to be made from time to time. I just wish they'd think about the guests a little in the process, rather than just the budget savings. What needs to be remembered here is that, no matter what Alton want to call it SkyRide is not just another ride. It's an essential part of the park infrastructure, which many of their guests are reliant on to enjoy and make the most of their day.

Having given it some consideration, some very valid points are made about Skyride, so maybe Battle Galleons and CATCF would have been better options for 11am openings.

spinba11 said:
pre-09 Skyride never opened on off-peak days, and I only use the monorail 3 or 4 times a year but if that didn't open until 9:30am I won't be like "It's only opening 1 hour later".

Thanks for this spinba11, I was sure AT used to close it for the whole day at quiet times, I thought maybe I was going mad. If they used to do this as a regular thing but then stopped, this would suggest that many complaints were recieved so the decision was reverted. I highly doubt that opening it 1 hour late is going to generate anywhere near as many complaints, but I guess for people with mobility issues it is needed for that hour.

IanB said:
Might as well move ERT to 10am and open the park at 11am if you think the delayed opening is a good idea.

All rides on the park should be available from 10am. If that means hiring more staff to make it happen, than so be it, or at least keeping staffing levels the same as last year.

This is another annoying example of how badly Merlin is running its Theme Park division, there is enough revenue generated by Towers, that money is available to have these rides open, but when its taken from Towers and split between the other parks, Towers suffers.

So you really think that it's worth opening a ride which requires 5-10 staff to run for an hour when less than 10 people are going to ride it? I can't say I share this view and I have seen days where the park is this quiet.

It's not as simple as "just hire those staff". Each park department has daily staffing budgets based on number of guests in the park and they need to be able to justify how may staff they bring in and why. I can imagine that the Rides Operations Managers will have a tough time trying to explain to their bosses why they have 5 staff opening a ride which isn't even getting hourly throughputs in double figures. If they used your argument of "well everything should open at 10", this wouldn't wash. In the same way that F&B units don't all open at 10am, it's to show that they are doing what they can to meet their allocated staffing budgets based on guest demand and footfall.

You're probably going to say "well they should think of their guests", well I would say that, with the exception of maybe Skyride they are. These are rides which are known for not being busy first thing and I must emphasise that this is only a very small selection of the park's rides and it's only for an hour. I've been to parks where less that half the park is open in the first hour and some rides don't open until 12:00, in light of these experiences, what AT plan to do is pretty minimal I would say.


IanB said:
I just wish Merlin would put its focus on Customers first, ensuring people had the best visit they could have. I wish they would realise that spending a little more, and giving customers a magical day out, will benefit the bottom line far more than cutting corners, and trying to save money here and there.

I would say they still are putting their customers first. Apart from Skyride I doubt this will generate mass complaints. All businesses have to save money here and there, it's just how it works. Opening less popular rides at 11am makes far more sense than opening major coasters late like Blackpool do. Alton Towers still offers one of the most magical days out in the UK, opening a few rides an hour after official opening isn't going to change that. Let's not forget that, unlike any other UK parks, we always see two trains on Nemesis and Rita even on off peak days and the other coasters all run pretty close to maximum capacity, short of maybe one or two Oblivion shuttles. Other parks simply don't do this and run rides at extremely low capacity on quiet days. It's a credit to Towers that they still make the effort and this is done for no reason other than guest experience.


IanB said:
Rip Saw might not be a big pull at 10am, but people still went on it, and even more people who did not want to go on the big rides would stand around watching people on it. This is one of those non ride experiences that keeps people busy, and stops them being stood around bored waiting for those on other rides to finish.

Sub-Terra is 2 years old this year, and its already been cut. It is the perfect pre story for guests coming to ride Nemesis, and it sets up the story for Nemesis. Nemesis is celebrating 20 years this year, so this ride should really be opening at 10am to give guests the full Nemesis experience. The fact that Nemesis is 20 years old, and it has had no TLC applied to it this closed season is another embarrassment for Merlin. As Disney has shown with its older rides, Big Thunder Mountain, when you give it some TLC, you can bring it up to a modern day standard. Sadly for Nemesis, while she is celebrating her 20th Birthday, the station, track, queue line and surrounding area are looking in a dire state.

Hex is my second favourite ride on park, it has a fantastic story, it feels like you are joining in and experiencing part of Alton Towers history. No other ride I have been on makes me feel as connected and involved with the history of the park as Hex does. While it does not get that big a queue in the morning, it is still going to be sad wondering past the area, and seeing the doors closed.

Ripsaw, as you've said is under used in the mornings, as with any water ride, so it makes sense to open it late. It's not just about the staff on the ride, it also gives Engineers more time to focus on getting other rides ready rather than having to rush their morning checks to open a ride for 10am which very few people will use.

Sub-Terra and Hex are both rides which rely heavily on guest reactions and are much better rides when all the seats are full, they are in many ways more like shows than rides. Thorpe Park's decision not to open Saw Alive during the main season was partly for this reason, they weren't getting enough people so guests were going round in groups of two making it less fun. Sub-Terra with only two or three people on, or even only 10, would be a less thrilling experience. On these rides it's all about sharing emotions so having the rides running with half the people on would not be the same. Plus they require loads of staff, so again from a business point of view, it makes sense to delay their openings a bit and save that cost.

Overall on the issue of late openings, I'm all for it. And yes I would actively support a park who decided to open rides late as long as this was a carefully thought out decision based on guest demand. I really don't understand what's so strange about me having this opinion.

Obviouslt if they decided to open big coasters late (like they did last year) I wouldn't support this decision, but opening rides which are less popular first thing at 11am is a decision which I totally supporrt and I'm certainly not going to get worked up about turning up at a ride, seeing a closed sign and saying "oh it's shut, we'll come back in an hour, let's go on this open ride next to it", that's no big deal to me or, I would say, to your average park guest.

I know that there are some people on here who want every park in the world to be run like Europa Park, but to those people I would very politely ask them to come in to the real world. Businesses don't like to waste money and staffing will always be a huge cost. One of the nice things about Europa is that they are one of the few parks in the world who don't seem to worry about costs, however I would say that for parks run by businesses who have strict staffing budgets to keep to (and will be in serious trouble if they over spend) a decision like this is 100% justified. I've seen late openings work well at parks all over the world. I've also seen it doen badly at a few (BPB, PortAventura, Chessington). It's really not as big a deal as alot of people are making out!
 

smudge

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Nemesis
I'm against the skyride decision, but understand the decision about the others. The thing is (with the SkyRide) it will have a negative effect, unlike the other attractions, without the skyride people get knackered making them leave earlier thus spending less money and creating the scope for even more cuts.

The reason I understand (albeit still disappointed about) the delayed opening is because of what the other options are - Thorpe Park. I would cry if all coasters ran on one train on off-peak days - it was soul destroying enough seeing nemmy at FHT - granted, the reason was different.

The water rides I understand, hex, Sub Terra even ripsaw. I would rather see duel included than ripsaw. Or as well as tbh. Hex & Duel have the throughput to cope with the same demand over a shorter period and as someone else has pointed out, you regularly see N:ST empty first thing.

Last point, a lot people arrive on park after 11am due to the Alton's location, therefor this 'cut' won't affect a lot of people.
 

IanB

TS Member
I guess we are just going to have to agree to disagree on this.

Each area should have the budget to have their rides fully open, all day, no matter how many guests are going through. Is this a waste of money, no, as it makes the park feel more alive. The ride operations should not be having to explain to the Managers why they need staff, the Managers should be pushing their bosses for more money for more staff/maintenance/improvements.

With Ripsaw, you have the ride running, and like I said, getting peoples attention, so instead of been sat bored while they are waiting, they are kept entertained.

With Nemesis Sub Terra, you can slow the batching down, have staff interact with guest walking past,again, adding something extra to the day.

When you see rides closed, or rides opening late, it just takes a little of the magic away for me and ruins the atmosphere that you are somewhere magical.

Maybe instead of cutting things, Towers should be promoting the fact that their is shorter queues in the morning, maybe they should be having a promotion on breakfast deals, or free bus transfer that get you to the park for 9.50 so you can be on park at 10am.

I know its a strange concept, but I am sure if they did not try to cut corners, and tried to be positive, they would generate more profit. If they keep cutting things, less people will arrive at 10am, meaning shorter queues on other rides, so you might as well just open the park at 11am like I said in my initial post.

Ian
 
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