I’m a bit late, but a massive thank you to @neil_wilson
for that really detailed analysis of the situation in the UK. You’ve more than hit the nail on the head.
There’s so many good points in there, that it’s very difficult to discuss each on in details, but the one where I agree with you the most is regarding the weather.
I hate it when people try to excuse the UK parks’ piss poor performance and operations by saying we have worse weather here.
It’s a lazy, cop-out excuse, and when compared with the Netherlands, Belgium and Scandinavia, our climate really isn’t that much worse. Yet these countries still operate their parks better, and in many cases, manage to get decent winter events, which our theme park operators always claim aren’t possible due to our UK climate, something which I’ve always thought is nonsense.
Thank you Enter Valhalla. I think weather often does get overplayed as an excuse. Clearly extreme weather like the flooding Drayton Manor had a couple of years ago can be very detrimental, but that kind of thing is very rare in the UK. I’ve heard quite a few people say that Disneyland Paris would have been more successful in Spain. Possibly. Barcelona is in the most prosperous part of Spain. It has good weather and reasonably robust economy. But a strong economy does seem to be more important than good weather (within reason). In the end we’ll never know whether Disneyland Paris would have done better in Port Aventura’s spot.
Paris might get cold and wet winters, but so does Tokyo and Tokyo Disneyland does well. Good weather probably does help. Europa Park’s in the warmest and driest part of Germany. Paultons Park is in the warmer half of the UK. But I don’t think it’s a major factor.
You could argue that that a problem for the UK parks is a combination of weather and a short summer holiday. Some of the parks in other European countries and the US have very short seasons and get most of their visitors during the summer holiday. That wouldn’t necessarily work in the UK where we have such a short school summer holiday. In the UK it’s about 6-7 weeks unless you go to a private school. In some other European countries or US States it’s 12 weeks.
The short summer holiday may help to explain the lack of outdoor water parks in the UK. It might also disadvantage some of the smaller parks like Lightwater Valley or Pleasurewood Hills. The Netherlands also has one of Europe’s shorter summer holidays, although being a small country they might benefit more from the countries around it.
You might also ask whether it would help the UK tourism if the summer holiday were the same length, but a bit earlier. E.g. from the beginning of July to mid August. There might be a marginal benefit in this. Bad weather in the second half of August certainly can be a genuine problem for theme parks, as those two weeks should be really busy. Of course, you can get bad weather at any time of year, but you might argue that we have our summer holiday a bit late.
You could argue that a combination of bad weather, a short summer holiday and a late summer holiday have made things difficult for the UK industry. There probably is some truth in that. But then the parks in some other countries seem much more willing to build undercover queues. Even dark rides like Derren Brown’s Ghost Train don’t have an undercover queue. Shows can also help to weather proof attractions. A lot of the UK parks have very little to do when the weather’s bad.
Weather might be a factor, but it doesn’t explain why the UK theme park industry seemed to be doing a lot better in the 90s and early 2000s. The weather hasn’t really changed all that much (I know there’s been some climate change) and the school holiday pattern is the same as it’s ‘always’ been.
Clearly the UK theme park industry has gone downhill and what’s changed a lot over the last twenty years is the economy. The gig economy, zero hour contracts, the loss of overtime for working weekends and bank holidays, food banks, a massive retraction of the public sector, people spending higher and higher proportions of their income on housing, the continuing decline of manufacturing, the selling off of national assets and excessive privatization… You can talk about Netflix and the Internet, but other European countries also have these things. Countries like France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have stronger economies and a bigger middle class. That’s the difference (or a key part of it).
None of that gets the UK parks completely off the hook. Of course, there have been some poor management decisions. You can’t blame poor weather or the British economy on Sub Terra, or Galactica. I’m not saying that the UK parks have just been unlucky. But a lot of things are out of their control.