UK Merlin park guest figures through the years

Discussion in 'European Parks and Attractions' started by AT86, 17th May 2021.

  1. AT86

    AT86 TowersStreet Member

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    As part of the consultation for Chessington's new coaster Merlin have included the below graph which shows visitor figures for their UK parks over the years.

    I don't think this has been released before in quite so much detail and I thought it may be of interest and could put a lot of decisions that have been made into context. It also differs a fair bit from the other source of visitor numbers which is the yearly TEA report which tends to be based on best guesses for Merlin parks since they haven't publicly released gate figures.

    Sorry it isn't that clear - the original document isn't the best quality.

    Green = Alton Towers
    Dark Blue = Legoland
    Light Blue = Chessington
    Red = Thorpe Park

    [​IMG]


    The things that strike me are that attendance at Alton Towers in 2019 was back up to 2013 levels, and just how low it got back in the dark years of 2016/7.

    Also it appears Thorpe Park is the least visited Merlin park, not Chessington as I thought based on the TEA report with steady declines since 2011 to around the 1.5million mark.
     
    Last edited: 17th May 2021
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    Posted 17th May 2021
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  2. Thameslink Rail

    Thameslink Rail TowersStreet Member

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    It's interesting how many conflicting numbers there are, most sources say that Legoland is still the most visited park in Britain but this chart disagrees. As for Thorpe Park, the park probably feels a lot busier than it actually is because it has relatively few rides and attractions and what it does have is mostly low capacity.
     
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  3. AT86

    AT86 TowersStreet Member

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    In terms of reliability this source (direct from Merlin) is about as good as it gets. As it is part of a planning application any whiff of false/incorrect data would be misleading the planning authority which I doubt they would risk.
     
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  4. jon81uk

    jon81uk TowersStreet Member

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    Just copying what I said in the other thread

    Here is a link to that image https://www.cwoa-consultation.com/proposals?lightbox=dataItem-komw1163

    I find it very interesting how great a year all the parks had in 2010, that Chessington had almost no investment in the 2000s and the massive benefit Colossus had to Thorpe and then again with Saw.
    Also that Wickerman really did bring the rebound back to Alton, but it looks like the Smiler incident also affected numbers at Thorpe too, with DBGT really not bringing anyone back in
     
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  5. Heidi

    Heidi TowersStreet Member

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    Really interesting graph thank you for sharing! Two interesting things to me are that huge drop after 1998 for AT, and the popularity of chessington before it got overtook by thorpe, weird thinking it was ever more popular to be honest.
     
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  6. jon81uk

    jon81uk TowersStreet Member

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    Before Tussauds took over Thorpe they were heavily invested into Chessington, but that site is harder to develop so I think they saw Thorpe as the easier place to turn into a big theme park. It’s just a shame they didn’t do many smaller bits a chessington to keep it going and instead it’s a bit mediocre compared to the 90s.
     
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  7. Enter Valhalla

    Enter Valhalla TowersStreet Member

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    Merlin (and Tussauds) do seem to struggle to make a success of operating both Thorpe and Chessington together. Where Chessington’s figures have increased, Thorpe’s have simultaneously fallen. It really does seem like it has to be one or the other for them.
     
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  8. Rick

    Rick TowersStreet Member

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    The TEA report is absolute bobbins.
     
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  9. Rob

    Rob TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Very interesting to see this, and I am sure it will please @Matt N!

    Up until 2010, Alton Towers had always been way out ahead of the other parks. But they are really all much closer together now. It would have been interesting to have seen what would have happened with Alton Towers' guest numbers in 2020 had it been a normal year as the upward trend was looking encouraging.

    This really demonstrates how bad things were at Alton Towers in 2016 and 2017; below 2 million guests for the first time since 1991.
     
    Posted 18th May 2021
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  10. Matt.GC

    Matt.GC TowersStreet Member

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    Oooh I love this kind of stuff, it's just as well that it's part of what I do for a living!

    @Heidi has already made an important point about post 1998 that I also found interesting to see as I remember that as being the peak experience the park offered between Oblivion and Splash Landings. Interesting stuff, the economy was booming around that time as well and the 911 attacks had an adverse effect on international travel in the same period.

    As for the rest, I'm baffled as to why, when they have these figures to look at whenever they want, they continue to make the decisions that they do. I get that this just looks at attendance rather than margin as well but this graph does seem to back up many of the things we normally talk about.

    Sent from my VOG-L29 using Tapatalk
     
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  11. Heidi

    Heidi TowersStreet Member

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    Having a dig and currently the only stand out bad decision which could correlate with the 1998 drop is the opening of cred Street in 1997 with the Infamous Nickolodeon Outta Control attraction, but honestly as bad as that seems to be I don't think it really justifies the big drop, any other ideas?
     
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  12. jon81uk

    jon81uk TowersStreet Member

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    It's odd that Oblivion opened in 1998 but didn't have a lasting effect. Hex was added in 2000 too (but isn't shown on the graph).
    Its also possible that its generally because the family attractions stopped expanding. There were lots of good things in the 90s, Haunted House, Runaway Train, Toyland Tours, Peter Rabbit etc as we went into the 2000s those were no longer new and I think with Nickelodeon not really working the park didn't get anything decent (except Hex) for non-thrills for a long time.
    I'm speculating of course but it did feel like the mood in the park was different in the late 90s and early 2000s compared to the mid-90s.
    Charlie & the choc factory in 2006 followed by Mutiny Bay in 2007 started to add more family attractions back I think.
     
    Last edited: 18th May 2021
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  13. Heidi

    Heidi TowersStreet Member

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    The lack of impact from Oblivion is quite crazy to me! Obviously I wasn't there to witness it but I know the huge advertising campaign and strange gimmicks for it and being a local a lot of family and friends have stories of queueing up for hours for it when it opened so I never would have predicted it would have been followed by a drop in numbers before I saw this chart. Someone correct me if I'm wrong but from what you've said it would seem like to me during this time period AT were in a sort of transitionary period from a family, magical all round kind of theme park to more of a thrill park, but hadn't yet solidified their place as such with only really Nemesis and Oblivion as their flagship thrill rides? Just speculation again of course.

    Side note I've always been way more interested in the more English/Arts/Humanities subjects and this is probably the most I've been excited about anything remotely maths-y in years hahaha, if my GCSE maths teacher had put a graph of theme park guest numbers in front of me I definitely would have paid more attention
     
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  14. Heidi

    Heidi TowersStreet Member

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    Also correct me if I'm wrong again but Cred Street was previously Talbot Street wasn't it? Was that quite an unpopular change?
     
  15. John

    John TowersStreet Member

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    It didn't go straight from Talbot Street to Cred Street, it was also Land of Make Believe in the mid 90s, though I'm not sure how long that particular retheme repaint lasted
     
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  16. jon81uk

    jon81uk TowersStreet Member

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    I think the Barney (the purple dinosaur) was popular and the Tweenies show after that.

    But yes the main reason for the refurbishment was to match the "cool" style of Nickelodeon despite that attraction not working long term.

    Otherwise it was quite a non-change until 2006 and Charlie and the driving school came along. I'm surprised the old vintage cars lasted that long too!
     
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  17. AT86

    AT86 TowersStreet Member

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    The other potential thing to bear in mind is what kind of day out did those guests in 1998 have? If people were waiting 3hrs to get on Oblivion they may well have not had the best experience and decided not to come back. Hence the drop in the subsequent years.

    The introduction of the first version of free fastrack in 1999 could well have come off the back of feedback on queue times.
     
    Last edited: 18th May 2021
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  18. Matt.GC

    Matt.GC TowersStreet Member

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    Toyland aside, every iteration of that area has progressively got worse as time has gone on. It looked it's best as Talbot Street, LOMB was fine and brought with it it's attractions but the area lost it's Victorian theming. Cred Street wasn't very good, CCL was worse and now the area only has one quality attraction, is downsized and the buildings look terrible.

    I think it's an interesting point that those years could be looked at as poor because it came off the back of all the great family investments in the 90's. Perhaps this all shows that when they put in expensive thrill coasters it only gives short term gain and they need to focus on family experiences as well? That's what I read into that anyway. Alton seems to have always thrived as an inclusive 'everything' park looking at that graph.

    Sent from my VOG-L29 using Tapatalk
     
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  19. Heidi

    Heidi TowersStreet Member

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    Another thing that surprises me is the difference in increase of guests between Thirteen being opened and the Smiler being opened. Maybe due to a combination of Smiler opening later than planned, Thirteen having a broader appeal to the GP and Smiler having several ongoing issues with faults and breaking down even before the 2015 incident?
     
  20. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    From what I can tell, Thirteen had a more extensive marketing campaign and a lot more hype leading up to it than Smiler did, which may have helped.
     
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