2021: Opening date & Tickets Onsale

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by AT86, 14th Oct 2020.

  1. Thameslink Rail

    Thameslink Rail TowersStreet Member

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    The problem as I understand it is that Alton Towers costs roughly the same to run regardless of how many people are in it. However, the more people they get in the more they will get in restaurant and shop profit so putting in a cheap season pass will get people to visit more than they would otherwise at no extra cost to the park but giving the park more money from restaurants and shops. This was mostly fine until this season where there is suddenly a limit in the number of people who can visit, the cheap season pass business model falls apart and we are left with the mess that happened this season.
     
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    Posted 2nd Nov 2020
    #61
  2. AT86

    AT86 TowersStreet Member

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    Museums often operate in this way due to gift aid rules, essentially they can claim more back off the government as a charity, this is completely different to the Merlin cheap season pass approach of ‘pay for a day come back all season’.

    For me the cheap season passes simply puts the message out that park is only worth £55 for a full season of visits. This is devaluing the brand and will keep the park stuck in a rut in terms of revenue and investments.

    Coupled with the fact Covid has reduced the capacity of the parks causing the headaches this year in terms of complaints from season pass holders it seems like the perfect time to scrap this model.

    I guess it worked in the days of Merlin being public when they needed to show the shareholders visitor numbers growing (even if it was from visitors who had paid barely anything). Things are different on many fronts now.
     
    Posted 2nd Nov 2020
    #62
  3. jon81uk

    jon81uk TowersStreet Member

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    How many times in a year would you realistically visit the Black Country Museum? It doesn't change significantly really so most people would probably only go twice I guess. Also the costs of running the museum are fairly fixed.

    Theme parks do have levels where more guests mean more costs. Quiet days means one train operation, lowering costs, also you can do without entrance hosts (do height checks at the platform if the queue is short) and you don't need a batching host etc.

    Moderate days then yes if running two trains on all coasters then costs are similar irrespective of the number of guests and they would want to get as many as possible while staff costs can be minimsed.

    On very busy days you want as many paying customers as possible as you need a lot more staff, batching needs to be done well, extra entertainment is needed, additional hosts in case of emergencies etc.

    There will be a sweet spot of the right number of paying guests and right number of passholders. But as you say, more passholders were trying to visit this year than there was capacity for while maintaining a decent number of full price guests.
     
    Matt N and skyscraper like this.
    Posted 2nd Nov 2020
    #63
  4. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    It is, as has been suggested by some others, all about the value of the brand.

    Alton Towers is, unquestionably, the UK's premier theme park. Yes - Legoland has a fair bit of prestige too, but theyre fairly and squarely in the young family market. Alton Towers is *the* all-round go-to attraction across the UK, with full national appeal.

    The main problem that Alton Towers has that the headline gate price (of £55 ish) is what people see and talk about. Therefore, they expect the park to give off that kind of "premier" experience. But it can't. Why not? It's not hard to work out. When the average guest is probably worth somewhere around £15 per person during an average season, it makes it plainly obvious why the park is strapped for cash, can't fix basic things like a trommel and can't make sure every ride gets repaint as and when they are really due. Compare that with the situation at Europa-Park, where pretty much every guest is paying around €50 for their day. There are few discounts, and an annual pass costs around 4 x the day price.

    Alton Towers has used a flawed model for over a decade now - and the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed it.

    With a fairer admissions model, better positioned annual passes that aren't used as a marketing vehicle - the park will suddenly start to see guest revenue per head pick up.
     
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    Posted 2nd Nov 2020
    #64
  5. jon81uk

    jon81uk TowersStreet Member

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    I agree that Alton Towers pricing model is flawed and the 2for1 culture has been going for a long time, but that really resulted in a £25-27 entry price for most people, so only a £7-9 saving on the current online price.
    Although as you say this results in the belief that the park is a £50 product and guests think they are getting a good deal at half price, even when that half price is actually close to the "real" price of entry. But the park was managing investment well enough and these seem to work, the average £25 entry price seems OK.

    Its only been four years of the £50/55 season pass though which is what is creating the much lower (as you say probably around £15 average entry price).
    They could quite easily return to the 2016 and earlier pricing model, or even better reduce further the reliance on vouchers to be redeemed on the day and if they really need vouchers for marketing offer £5 or something off the online price, or something.
     
    Posted 3rd Nov 2020
    #65
  6. Plastic Person

    Plastic Person TowersStreet Member

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    Nobody could have anticipated back in March that this unusual and truncated season would be one of the most stable and creative that the park has had in years, and I suspect also the most profitable, with events and extended opening hours signalling guest spend. Reasonable queues and great operations, too. The only guests left displeased are passholders, which I admit is not particularly fair or the fault of the passholders themselves. Nonetheless, as a once-a-season visitor who grew disillusioned with the park's attitude and standards, I'd rather they adopted a model more akin to EP or even BPB.

    Another thing that's been clear this year is the gulf in standards between Alton Towers and its Southern sisters. Although it is treated deservedly as their premier park, I often wonder if the only thing stopping Alton from progressing back into the champions league of European parks is Merlin bureaucracy and funding models. The Smiler and Wicker Man are both excellent examples of strong original brands, and I feel the management and creative team should be afforded more freedom.
     
    Last edited: 3rd Nov 2020
    Posted 3rd Nov 2020
    #66
  7. Matt.GC

    Matt.GC TowersStreet Member

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    Let's not forget that this "reduced capacity" that is being talked about really shines a light on the flaws of their current discounting business model. Why has the park capacity been lowered to the level it is during Covid? Because there aren't enough attractions and restaurants to handle bigger crowds. Had they had more places open for people eat at and more attractions and queue lines to hold people in, the higher the park capacity could have been. They don't have enough restaurants and attractions for the size of the park because you can buy a season pass for £55.

    So they're stuck in a situation where they've promised so many people entry to the park for so low a price, yet have had to cap numbers at a low level due to the amount of attractions and catering options they've taken away that goes hand in hand with said low price and people are surprised they've had difficulty finding availablity to get in with these bargain basement passes.

    I don't get this argument as well that if a day ticket on a day the park is rammed cost a few quid more it would "price people out" of going. With variable pricing, there could be potentially rather cheap days to visit. Also, you pay for what you get. There are plenty of options out there, if you want a few rides you can go to a cheaper park. With all the cut backs to the guest experience over the years, Alton is becoming one of these cheaper parks. This is effectively leaving the UK with plenty of mid market theme parks and no premier theme park option.

    No one is asking for a "price hike", just an end to heavy discounting. £55 season passes are insane and massively undercut parks with lesser offerings. The giveaway passes have served their purpose of regaining park patronage post Smiler, but are now a drain on park finances. Of course Alton would be poor value if you charged EP prices tomorrow, because the park isn't good enough to charge that amount. But continually letting people visit whenever they want for almost free will only lead to the park quality diminishing even further. Alton need a sensible pricing strategy now they seem to be gaining public confidence back, and reinvest this back into the park experience.

    Sent from my VOG-L29 using Tapatalk
     
    Posted 3rd Nov 2020
    #67
  8. Last price increases will price some people out of going and that's reality and isn't that point when it comes to some people on board. They want less people there so they have shorter waits. Anyway, visiting on a cheaper day isn't an option for many as those cheaper days are week days where they may work.

    I think some people just want to make excuses for Alton Towers being a poor quality park so blame the season pass holder. Its all down to the lack of real care from the management, regardless of the season pass holder or not. its not as if those people who go all the time would instead buy lots of day tickets instead or that don't spend money when they are in the park.

    AT don't care about the overall quality - good enough is good enough.
     
    Posted 4th Nov 2020
    #68
  9. jon81uk

    jon81uk TowersStreet Member

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    But the lack of real care about the park is what has led to the discounted passes. The lack of care from the management is shown in that they think that shows and flat rides aren't important as long as we discount the price of entry enough.

    No one is blaming passholders for buying a discounted ticket, its management for setting the price that low for the last three seasons.

    I think the online price is about right of £34 off-peak and £38 peak, although that is getting high so I'm not advocating further day ticket price increases. But a single park annual pass should be closer to the cost of three visits, so at least £90.
     
    Last edited: 4th Nov 2020
    Matt.GC likes this.
    Posted 4th Nov 2020
    #69
  10. I don't understand why people think increasing the price of season passes is improve the product. It will just reduce the amount of pass holders which will make life easier for some posters. But it won't do anything to improve AT.

    I would still say that £35 is too high for AT, but if you are going once every few years then it might be okay.
     
    Posted 4th Nov 2020
    #70
  11. Plastic Person

    Plastic Person TowersStreet Member

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    But without season pass holders for just a short period, we've seen the quality of service, operations and length of opening hours improve at the park. This would surely continue if the guest spend and philosophy was different and less dependent on pass holders?

    I agree that it would take a radical shift in attitude from Merlin to give Alton Towers the freedom and the capital to return to its glory years or rival EP, Phantasialand or Efteling, but if anything would motivate that, it would be improved cashflow. There are people in relatively powerful positions at the park who would not squander that opportunity.

    If I still visited the park regularly, I would of course take advantage of the generous Season Pass offer. But I would also pay more, or at least equivalent to what I used to regardless, for a more premium experience. It's a misanthropic assumption that people only want this change to "make life easier".
     
    Last edited: 4th Nov 2020
    Posted 4th Nov 2020
    #71
  12. Kraken27

    Kraken27 TowersStreet Member

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    I completely agree that Towers / Merlin have relied on BOGOF vouchers to bolster visitor numbers at their attractions for way too many years. It has got to the stage where unless there is not a BOGOF voucher available, members of the general public probably won't visit as it's in their mindset that Towers is not worth £55 a head (which it isn't - Europa Park is though). Back in the days of the monorail it was very common for odd-numbered groups with vouchers to be asking around for any other odd numbered groups outside the station / in the queue to a voucher could be used, to the benefit of both groups.

    Back in the early 2000's - can't remember the exact year... it wasn't 2002 when Air opened though, so probably 2001 or 2003 - Ralph & the powers that be at Tussauds as it was then decided there would be no BOGOF vouchers offered that year. Towers were trying to re-position as a one [full] price park, with discount available only for online bookings. The first three or four weeks of the season, including the all-important Easter holidays, were a disaster with way below budgeted attendance. BOGOF's re-appeared very fast in all the normal places, e.g. Kelloggs.

    Towers do not have the infrastructure or number of rides to cope with high visitor attendance. Europa Park do. I remember a manager I know at Europa Park telling me that even if a guest visits on a very busy day, they will expect to get on at least 10 rides during the day. If they don't and go to Guest Services to complain, they'll get a full refund - i.e. not be fobbed off with a free fastrack.

    The on-park spend of a once / twice a year guest will more than likely be higher - as they will quite possibly buy souvenirs on their visits. AP holders just look at that years collection in Towers trading at the start of season and possibly don't look again, unless it is a special event such as Oktoberfest / Scarefest. Of course, the AP discount dents the profit margin a little further too. On the food & beverage front, if an AP holder visits a unit at the start of season & finds the quality of the food to be wanting, they'll probably not bother visiting that unit for the rest of the season. Non-passholders without this knowledge will visit as they're hungry and pay full-whack.

    Given that it looks like we are almost certainly going to have social distancing & reduced park capacity running into at least the start of next season, they need to reduce the number of passholders rapidly & maximise the revenue per guest. Charging the vast majority of guests to enter the park is an obvious good start here.
     
    Posted 4th Nov 2020
    #72
  13. All of your assumptions are wishful thinking and without evidence. You think getting rid of passholders was why they had better service and longer hours. Not because they had more visitors because people can't leave the country due to covid. All the gains will be gone when people are able to go places they really want to go. They won't have the same number of day pass when people are able to travel again.

    I would say some of the posters here are misanthropic in the way they believe that someone people who have paid a certain amount arent worthy of being in AT of all places because of what they have paid.
     
    Posted 5th Nov 2020
    #73
  14. jon81uk

    jon81uk TowersStreet Member

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    Nobody has a problem with season/annual passholders. It is the discount £55 price that is the issue. Passholders are worthwhile to the park, but at that price they likely are not making any money so it is poor long term planning by AT.

    Yes as far as we all know there has been more guests this year, but the park was at reduced capacity so there will have been some days that would normally have been even busier. But the park was able to specify with the booking system the ratio of passholders to day guests.
     
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    Posted 5th Nov 2020
    #74
  15. pluk

    pluk TowersStreet Member

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    It's got nothing to do with any visitor on any personal level, if they've paid whatever is on offer to get in why would I care? I've paid little to nothing to visit before with a big smile on my face.

    It's got everything to do with a rotten ticket pricing structure that doesn't work in a pandemic, and has huge operational and overall guest experience negativities outside of a pandemic.
     
    jon81uk likes this.
    Posted 5th Nov 2020
    #75
  16. Matt.GC

    Matt.GC TowersStreet Member

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    Twice now the word "assumptions" has been used. We're not assuming, we're theorising for debate purposes. No one knows for sure because we don't have access to the books. We're just linking, with the best information we have, the downgrading in quality at the park with heavy discounting.

    As has already been stated, £35 gets you a lot less elsewhere. £55 certainly does! Why should we want a park that's only worth that?

    I'm not "assuming" as you put it that by charging a more reasonable amount for a season pass would equal more investment in the quality of the park, although I am wishing that strategy should be adopted. I'm just stating that it can't happen when you're letting people in for such a low price. I want this race to the bottom to end.

    Name you're favourite 5 attractions at Towers and I bet you they weren't all built when they were letting people in all season for such a giveaway price. Why should we be happy with Towers only being worth £35 per day, or £55 all season when there are plenty of other options if we want to pay those prices? It's setting and quality of older attractions makes AT an ideal candidate to return to the premier European attraction it once was, especially now this London Resort nonsense is all but forgotten about. I'm not satisfied with a 'Thorpe Park only geographically bigger and in Staffordshire' experience.

    Maybe private Merlin (the fact Merlin were public was their biggest ball and chain) have a business plan for their estate of RTP's and have a wheelbarrow full of borrowed cash ready to invest in Towers and are using virtually free entry tactically in the meantime. This very discussion started over a debate about better operating hours and entertainment in 2020 and projected for next season as well and how we would like the park to develop a better offering going forward.

    But I can't see £55 season passes being sustainable long term without a further degradation in quality. In your own words you don't think Towers is worth more, don't you think that's a sad indictment of where Towers now finds itself?

    Sent from my VOG-L29 using Tapatalk
     
    Posted 5th Nov 2020
    #76
  17. RoyJess

    RoyJess TowersStreet Member

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    I would rather see them up the tickets/pass price and have less visitors on the park, with less queue times and have a more enjoyable day as oppose to cheaper ticket/pass prices with over crowded parks with long queue wait time
     
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    Posted 5th Nov 2020
    #77
  18. jon81uk

    jon81uk TowersStreet Member

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    Also just generally on pricing, Alton Towers has never in the past been "cheap" even with a 2for1 it has still been a medium to high price.
    As a teenager in the 90s my family only visited once as it was a bit expensive for us. But back then I remember watching Peter Rabbit on Ice, a live singing group in Fountain Square (where Woodcutters is now) and getting on a lot of rides that weren't coasters. The fact that outside of CBeebies the park is now mainly coasters is not a good thing.

    As an adult I got a low priced Tussauds pass, I think it was about £90 in 2001 and started visiting a lot more, but probably didn't do more than 10 visits per year between all the attractions. That £90 pass in 2001 would now cost £149 with inflation so Merlin passes have broadly followed inflation if you also consider that there was a jump in prices as more attractions in the combined Merlin group compared to the old Tussauds.

    Also I think the changes in the entertainment offering was noticeable in the documentary the other night. Daisy who they interviewed started at AT as she got a role in the pirate show, but is now just in the traffic patrol. Although walk-round entertainment is great and it is harder to offer socially distanced sit down shows at the moment, its a shame the park hasn't had any formal shows for five seasons now.
     
    Posted 5th Nov 2020
    #78
  19. Many people couldn't afford to go at much higher prices but if they decide as a business to do that. I don't think it will improve the product but if it will make park going better for people here then good for you. I get wishful thinking and hoping I just don't think its realistic. They need more getting rid of those smelly cheapo £55 passholders for sure.

    I don't even have a £55 pass but I'd rather an average AT at its current price than paying £90 entry for an "improved" experience. Its a British theme park for a cheap and cheerful day out. It's in no position to go to Disney prices no matter what it offers. The GBP wouldn't pay that for a "day out".

    Just have to agree to disagree on this. Its not a place I plan on visiting in the next few years due to covid situation, I've got my Blackpool pass and will happily enjoy a day out there.
     
    Posted 5th Nov 2020
    #79
  20. I like your honesty :)
     
    RoyJess likes this.
    Posted 5th Nov 2020
    #80

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