Cuts 2015: How the consistency of the product is being eroded.

thefatone

TS Member
If you're considerably well-versed in business practices, then you'd know what Private Equity does. Which is not what you're saying.

Add this to what they've already shown - trying to float previously, withdrew because of economic conditions, then consistently look to sell off regardless of how the parks have done (they've lowered their holdings 3 separate times since 2011), shows that your understanding is incorrect. They wouldn't be continually reducing in bits if they wanted to keep hold during the double digit growth period.

Not trying to argue, just showing that your knowledge isn't that sound.
 

Tom

TS Member
If you're considerably well-versed in business practices, then you'd know what Private Equity does. Which is not what you're saying.

Add this to what they've already shown - trying to float previously, withdrew because of economic conditions, then consistently look to sell off regardless of how the parks have done (they've lowered their holdings 3 separate times since 2011), shows that your understanding is incorrect. They wouldn't be continually reducing in bits if they wanted to keep hold during the double digit growth period.

Not trying to argue, just showing that your knowledge isn't that sound.

I simply find your position flawed, because while I accept that PE's have goals and targets (and are invested for short or defined periods), you are completely ruling out the possibility of a revision/extension of any-previously set target exit date/figures on the basis that 10%+ year-on-year compounded growth of investment.

All I've ever said is that they have determined that the current rate of growth is unlikely to be sustained. There's no talk of rats leaving a sinking ship or suchlike.

If you can accept that they would likely have stayed invested for a while longer if they thought the above rates of growth could be sustained, I don't think really disagree.
 

Alex23

TS Member
Private Equity companies usually invest in roughly 5 year cycles and they wanted to dilute their stake around that time, now that the market has picked up it makes sense to sell off whilst the price is good.
 

KyleFandango

TS Member
A Couple of recurring themes always seem to bounce back no matter what comments I’ve ever seen on here.


Merlin bashing: It's like the cool thing to do. This big bad company that wants to ruin Alton Towers and do nothing for the guests. Absolute horse poo. Merlin has invested so much into the resort since taking over, actually made a plan to drive it forward into the new era and actually survive amongst hard financial times. Everyone always goes on about tussauds this and tussauds that. I worked for them and it was a joke. Health and safety standards around the resort were a lot worse, staff attitude complaints were always on these types of forums daily and it was like a zoo where if we threw the word magic around enough it would hide how bad it was structured.


Rose tinted glasses because there were a few and I mean few managers who would come and modycoddle 'some enthusiast groups' and treat them differently from guests who paid just as much and deserved as much attention. Don't get me wrong passionate people for a park can be an asset but in the last few years coming on here the positive ratio for anything done is 1 possitive comment to 100 bad. That’s not being enthusiastic about anything. Will you agree with everything implemented, no. As a company they serve the many and not the few, your expectations sometimes don’t fit into a financially stable model. I could wish the ruins to be back to they were in the 1800's but money doesn’t just appear.


Opening times: Who does this affect during these weeks.... honestly no one. On days with a 4:30 ride close I can assure you there will be what, 4000 people on the park. You will get the same amount of ride time in effect due to their being no queues. Come on a 5pm day and queues will be longer so lees rides. On the 4.30 days it's pretty much empty so actually the resort is probably losing money just running all those rides that day. I'd say the only people who complain are unreasonable people who don't see the costs involved.


Rides and investment: If we were not careful with expenditure where else would the money come from to invest on such an amazing scale each year. Oh right money just apears from the moon. We would have to leave poor sir algenon up their mining forever if some people were in charge ;)


I've been kyle fandango. Thank you and goodnight.
 

Dar

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Taron
If they didn't devalue their brand so much with so many vouchers, offers, and loss-leading annual passes, maybe there would be more cash available to not be so useless?
 

Benzin

TS Member
Merlin bashing: It's like the cool thing to do. This big bad company that wants to ruin Alton Towers and do nothing for the guests. Absolute horse poo. Merlin has invested so much into the resort since taking over, actually made a plan to drive it forward into the new era and actually survive amongst hard financial times. Everyone always goes on about tussauds this and tussauds that. I worked for them and it was a joke. Health and safety standards around the resort were a lot worse, staff attitude complaints were always on these types of forums daily and it was like a zoo where if we threw the word magic around enough it would hide how bad it was structured.

Merlin are better than the times of Tussauds under DIC, BUT that is very much in the boat of damning with faint praise... Indeed, the recent operational budget cuts that we've seen from Merlin on Towers is a little bit similar to those days of DIC in the first place...

Merlin might have invested in the parks, but have the investments been of a good standard? Or have they invested in the right things? Those are the questions that are asked...

Rose tinted glasses because there were a few and I mean few managers who would come and modycoddle 'some enthusiast groups' and treat them differently from guests who paid just as much and deserved as much attention. Don't get me wrong passionate people for a park can be an asset but in the last few years coming on here the positive ratio for anything done is 1 possitive comment to 100 bad. That’s not being enthusiastic about anything. Will you agree with everything implemented, no. As a company they serve the many and not the few, your expectations sometimes don’t fit into a financially stable model. I could wish the ruins to be back to they were in the 1800's but money doesn’t just appear.

What things are we meant to be positive about? Re-painting buildings or rides should be done on a relatively regular basis, same thing goes for basic maintenance...

Say if Nemesis' station was fixed this season, there would be some positivity towards it, however, I would say that things that should be done routinely do not deserve a certain level of praise...

People are positive about the refurb of the Gothic Tower, but there are a fair amount of other things falling apart not related to the ruins...

Opening times: Who does this affect during these weeks.... honestly no one. On days with a 4:30 ride close I can assure you there will be what, 4000 people on the park. You will get the same amount of ride time in effect due to their being no queues. Come on a 5pm day and queues will be longer so lees rides. On the 4.30 days it's pretty much empty so actually the resort is probably losing money just running all those rides that day. I'd say the only people who complain are unreasonable people who don't see the costs involved.

Cutting operating hours affects the 4000 people attending the park... So it affects THOSE people... And with random days where the park closes earlier devalues the branding a little bit, and presumably makes fewer people want to visit midweek because of the shorter hours, especially as the price of entry doesn't change... Perceived value for money is a big player, and shortening the midweek days affects this perception quite negatively...

Rides and investment: If we were not careful with expenditure where else would the money come from to invest on such an amazing scale each year. Oh right money just apears from the moon. We would have to leave poor sir algenon up their mining forever if some people were in charge ;)

There are much smaller parks across the world with tiny budgets that produce higher levels of quality that Merlin stuff... No-one is expecting high levels of investment year in, year out, however cutting budgets to the bare minimum and a fair amount of lack of investing into infrastructure improvements and the awful quality of some low level investments means that you do have to wonder where the money goes...

Maybe if Merlin stopped investing in crap Midway additions on a regular basis there'd be more money for the parks...
 

Rob

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance
Benzin has already answered your points but I feel the need to answer them myself also.

Merlin bashing: It's like the cool thing to do. This big bad company that wants to ruin Alton Towers and do nothing for the guests. Absolute horse poo. Merlin has invested so much into the resort since taking over, actually made a plan to drive it forward into the new era and actually survive amongst hard financial times. Everyone always goes on about tussauds this and tussauds that. I worked for them and it was a joke. Health and safety standards around the resort were a lot worse, staff attitude complaints were always on these types of forums daily and it was like a zoo where if we threw the word magic around enough it would hide how bad it was structured.

You are right. Merlin has invested a lot into the resort since 2008. I cannot fault the levels of investment for new attractions that Merlin have given Alton Towers, it has been fantastic. But there is a lot more to running a theme park than buying new rides etc. I also agree with you that Merlin have made a plan to drive forward the future of the resort, increase the number of short breaks. Wonderful.

However over the last few years I have seen myself, with my own eyes and experience, the park go in one direction. That direction is down. Areas of the park (Dark Forest, Nemesis station, Spinball queue features) look more run down now than they ever have. Taking away CBeebies Land and Ice Age/CCL, all new investments have had dark themes. Dark themes all around the park give the park a more miserable feel, especially in the often dull British weather.

Recently food offerings have become more limited. Menus have been slashed whilst prices have increased. The best example of menu slashing is Mexican Cantina which used to be my favourite eatery with varied options; now you can have a burrito, or a burrito or if you fancy, a burrito.

You talk about everyone always going on about the Tussauds era. Do they? I never visited the park in what is regarded as the golden Tussauds era so am not able to comment on any differences. For me just looking at the Merlin era things have progressively got worse. Also I doubt you saying "staff attitude complaints were always on these types of forums daily" is true; seeing as I don't think forums like these existed in the mid-90s.

Rose tinted glasses because there were a few and I mean few managers who would come and modycoddle 'some enthusiast groups' and treat them differently from guests who paid just as much and deserved as much attention. Don't get me wrong passionate people for a park can be an asset but in the last few years coming on here the positive ratio for anything done is 1 possitive comment to 100 bad. That’s not being enthusiastic about anything. Will you agree with everything implemented, no. As a company they serve the many and not the few, your expectations sometimes don’t fit into a financially stable model. I could wish the ruins to be back to they were in the 1800's but money doesn’t just appear.

We do not want to be treated my management. Sure it is nice when it does happen but it is not something we expect at all. So that has nothing to do with it. Many of us on here are not just Alton Towers enthusiasts but theme park enthusiasts in general. We are passionate about theme parks and this means being critical of parks that are not performing to the best of their abilities. Alton Towers is not being operated by Merlin in a way that pleases us. Therefore we are critical. Enthusiam does not equal positivity. What is the point in being blindly positive (or negative for that matter) just because you are an enthusiast? More often than not it is the enthusiasm that leads to the criticism - that is why it bothers us. [/quote]

Praise and positivty can be found where it is due though. The Smiler was well recieved on the whole (apart from the fact it was poorly planned and constructed). Ents have been praised recently for various improvements. Most would agree that CBeebies Land, whilst lacking in a few rides, is brilliant and just what the park needed.

Opening times: Who does this affect during these weeks.... honestly no one. On days with a 4:30 ride close I can assure you there will be what, 4000 people on the park. You will get the same amount of ride time in effect due to their being no queues. Come on a 5pm day and queues will be longer so lees rides. On the 4.30 days it's pretty much empty so actually the resort is probably losing money just running all those rides that day. I'd say the only people who complain are unreasonable people who don't see the costs involved.

Alton Towers is a major theme park. Take a look at the opening hours of other major theme parks in Europe: Disneyland Paris, Europa Park, PortAventura, Phantasialand, Liseberg. I'm pretty sure none of them shut beofre 5pm. Therefore why should Towers? It's not as if the park is in dire financial straits and struggling to survive with guests numbers plummeting. No, it is because Merlin decide to cut Alton Towers' operational budget after what was a successful season for the park. Therefore cuts such as earlier closing times are forced upon the park. Yes the days that the park closed at 4.30pm are going to be very quiet days but for me it is more the principal of it.[/quote]

Rides and investment: If we were not careful with expenditure where else would the money come from to invest on such an amazing scale each year. Oh right money just apears from the moon. We would have to leave poor sir algenon up their mining forever if some people were in charge ;)

Of course. You could never run a theme park by spending lots of money on new rides, operations, maintenance, general year round imrovements, random little projects here and there that do not generate any revenue etc and be successful at the same time. It just doesn't work! Oh wait, actually it does: Rust.

Merlin have their way of running theme parks and it is simple. Invest money in things that provide a direct financial return. The key word there is direct. Merlin do not look at potential indirect returns, they cut the budgets for departments that can generate these. Is things the right way to run a theme park? Not if you want it to be the best it can be.

Maybe if Merlin stopped investing in crap Midway additions on a regular basis there'd be more money for the parks...

I don't actually agree with this though. New Midway attractions are relatively cheap to implement because of the standard monels Merlin have but generate a lot of revenue and profit. If anything it is the Midaywas that make the money for the theme parks.

:)
 

Ketz

TS Member
One of my annoyance is that Merlin have and still do run well some maintained parks, Lego parks are all presented and upadated annually, in every aspect. Cbeebies land this year had some little updates and that was only a year old.

It seems Merlin only update and maintian things when they are contractually enforced to do so, or they have to do due to competition, like the cuurently well maintained Lego Florida
 

jon81uk

TS Member
Can't be bothered with a long post quoting everything but a few points on above topics.

I think a lot of the park operations under Merlin is no different to under Tussauds. The feel of the parks in the 90s was very different, but I think even without Merlin buying out Tussauds the park would be very similar now to what is actually is.

On the issue of dark themes, if you look at Alton Towers, the only new dark theme was Dark Forest. I know Thorpe Park also has a lot of destruction theming, but on AT alone I don't think the majority of recent investment was dark themed. Mutiny Bay is average, not too dark, not overly colourful, exactly what you expect for a pirate area. Cuckooland and CBeebies are deliberately overly bright. The Smiler, isn't really dark, the clinical feel is about light and shade and in my opinion does follow on from Oblivions theming. So out of four main investments since Merlin take over (CBeebies, Forest, Mutiny, Smiler) only one is truly dark.

Investment wise, they won't build a new theme park, unless its Lego. There isn't a big future in non-IP based parks, hence why the new London park has Paramount, BBC Aardman etc all on board. If we didn't have Merlin/Tussauds investment, then AT would have turned into Drayton Manor really.

On opening hours, I'm not gonna moan too much about the 20 days or so they are doing 4:30pm closes, as long as they keep the weekend hours longer, who cares about Monday-Wednesday. What they need to do is open 10am to 8pm all summer, maybe adding extra ents at the end of the day to push people to stayover.
 

Rob

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance
On the issue of dark themes, if you look at Alton Towers, the only new dark theme was Dark Forest. I know Thorpe Park also has a lot of destruction theming, but on AT alone I don't think the majority of recent investment was dark themed. Mutiny Bay is average, not too dark, not overly colourful, exactly what you expect for a pirate area. Cuckooland and CBeebies are deliberately overly bright. The Smiler, isn't really dark, the clinical feel is about light and shade and in my opinion does follow on from Oblivions theming. So out of four main investments since Merlin take over (CBeebies, Forest, Mutiny, Smiler) only one is truly dark.

I disagree:
  • Dark Forest - obviously dark
  • The Smiler - certainly a darker theme with more exposed concrete than your eyes can take
  • Sub-Terra - dark
  • Mutiny Bay - certainly not bright and jolly
  • CCL - bright!
  • CBeebies- bright!
It is not just an Alton Towers issue. Merlin have also given us The Swarm, SAW, Raptor, Krake and Flug der Dämonen - major thrill investments with dark themes. They lack creativity when it comes to thrill additions, there is no understanding that thrill rides can have happier/brighter themes.

:)
 

Benzin

TS Member
One of my annoyance is that Merlin have and still do run well some maintained parks, Lego parks are all presented and upadated annually, in every aspect. Cbeebies land this year had some little updates and that was only a year old.

It seems Merlin only update and maintian things when they are contractually enforced to do so, or they have to do due to competition, like the cuurently well maintained Lego Florida

The state of the Minilands makes me beg to differ from this opinion... Especially Windsors...
 

jon81uk

TS Member
I disagree:
  • Dark Forest - obviously dark
  • The Smiler - certainly a darker theme with more exposed concrete than your eyes can take
  • Sub-Terra - dark
  • Mutiny Bay - certainly not bright and jolly
  • CCL - bright!
  • CBeebies- bright!
It is not just an Alton Towers issue. Merlin have also given us The Swarm, SAW, Raptor, Krake and Flug der Dämonen - major thrill investments with dark themes. They lack creativity when it comes to thrill additions, there is no understanding that thrill rides can have happier/brighter themes.

:)

My main point is that The Smiler and Sub-Terra are extensions of exisiting themes, X Sector & Forbidden Valley didn't really change so they are largely products of Tussaud's studios / John Wardley that have been adapted slightly.

I agree that overall across the Merlin resort theme parks a theme of destruction is prevailent, but generally Alton Towers is the least affected park. :)
 

Ketz

TS Member
The state of the Minilands makes me beg to differ from this opinion... Especially Windsors...

I though on my visit last week it didn't look bad, plenty of new additions since my last visit a number of years ago, everything was working bar one train which was working again later in the day
 

thefatone

TS Member
I think a lot of the park operations under Merlin is no different to under Tussauds. The feel of the parks in the 90s was very different, but I think even without Merlin buying out Tussauds the park would be very similar now to what is actually is.
It is different to late tussauds - and you can see that. We actually have entertainments again (didn't end of tussauds), they don't force as many sponsorships on you (and Qline tvs have gone), until last year rides opened fully (they didn't in tussauds era). The area food outlets have signage relevant to the area they're in rather than generic tussauds donuts/hotdogs etc.

Late tussauds cared only about building cheap rollercoasters and selling burgers. Merlin is better than that, even if they're doing badly with budgets at present.
 

James

TS Founding Member
they don't force as many sponsorships on you

obvdw11_-1-_595_towerstreet_sign_clean.jpg


timthumb.php


obvdw11_-13-_595_towerstreet_sign_clean.jpg


fantob.jpg


omgno_zpsihzue6eh.png
 

James

TS Founding Member
Merlin have improved Towers in many areas since 2007. Although since 2011 things seem to be getting worse again. There's no arguing they invest a lot into Towers, although how these investments are executed is questionable.

I feel we're going through the Merlin 'dark days', it's not as bad as DIC Tussauds but it doesn't feel like things are getting much better beyond new investments.
 

Rob

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance
I'd almost forgotten how extensive the Fanta vandalism of Oblivion was. It's one of the few times you can actually say thank god for Nick Varney!

:)
 

AstroDan

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance, Cedar Point
Many of the comments raised by Kyle Fandango are completely out of touch.

Since Merlin took over:

- worse opening hours (4.30pm closes, abolished 7.00pm's in summer, small/medium/large thresholds all increased)
- less seasonal events (nothing at Easter or summer holidays, Scarefest is 1 week shorter)
- entrance price which have risen by massively above inflation
- themed areas which are more dilapidated (Dark Forest in particular)
- inadequately refurbished hotels (rooms in ATH need a massive overhaul - the speed of refurbishment is too slow)

Some things are better though:

- high levels of monetary investment in new attractions (generally this has been excellent since 2008)
- more on park shows for children (CBeebies Land; although Pirate Show has become stale since 2013)

I don't think anybody claims that Alton Towers were better off under DIC-led Tussauds.

But since those days, members on this forum have enlarged their experiences of parks internationally, and when you compare everything OTHER than new ride investment, Alton Towers is really the poorer than many of our neighbours across Europe.

The resort needs a massive injection of cash so the management at Alton Towers can do what they know they need to.
 
Last edited:

James

TS Founding Member
From TowersStreet Facebook page.
Dark Forest (Rita, Th13teen), Hex and Cloud Cuckoo Land seem to now open at 11am and Nemesis Sub Terra, Ripsaw, The Flume and Congo River Rapids open at midday. What do you make of these operational changes?
1513729_843074949096284_8533645608431987084_n.jpg

PortAventura called, they want their terrible operations back...

I'm personally not surprised this has happened, although I am surprised they've gone straight in with operational cuts (as opposed to introducing cuts gradually). As sad as it is to say, at least there has been some thought and they've gone for the areas that are generally quieter in the morning. Although for the UKs premier theme park this is diabolical to say the least. I can forgive them with the water rides and Sub-Terra to a certain extent. Although keeping two whole areas (including two major coasters) closed for the morning? Dear oh dear. I hope this annoys guests and has a negative impact on Towers and Merlin. Sadly I doubt it will and come next year we will see these areas closed until 12pm.
 

Jonathan

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Helix <3
SRQs have also apparently been closed on Rita (not overly fussed, as it's often longer than the main queue anyway), and Nemesis. I'm starting to get concerned as to how bad these cuts are going to get now.
 
Top