What do UK Theme Parks do better then their European competitors?

JAperson

TS Member
If you want to create a 'bruh' moment for this topic to try and find something the UK does better then it's simple.

Renamed the topic to 'What do English parks do better?' Then just say our parks are better than those in Scotland and that's yer lot! :p
I mean I was about to say missing opportunities, the biggest one, not having a proper theme park in Scotland.
 

Matt N

TS Member
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Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)
One thing I would suggest UK parks possibly better international equivalents on is midweek/off-peak opening.

You can say what you want about Alton Towers’ 4pm closes midweek, but at least they are open on all off-peak weekdays. I don’t know about European parks, but I know that a significant number of American theme parks don’t open on weekdays aside from during the school holidays.

UK parks also have longer operating seasons than many international parks; some of these don’t open until May.
 

Rob

TS Team
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Steel Vengeance
One thing I would suggest UK parks possibly better international equivalents on is midweek/off-peak opening.

You can say what you want about Alton Towers’ 4pm closes midweek, but at least they are open on all off-peak weekdays. I don’t know about European parks, but I know that a significant number of American theme parks don’t open on weekdays aside from during the school holidays.

UK parks also have longer operating seasons than many international parks; some of these don’t open until May.
This is a good point actually. There are quite a lot of European parks that do not open every day in the early/late season. They might only open on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and then the weekend for example. It can be a pain when trying to plan a trip out of peak holiday season!
 

QTXAdsy

TS Member
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Black Hole
I mean I was about to say missing opportunities, the biggest one, not having a proper theme park in Scotland.
I know, what frustrates me is that M&D's have the best location in terms of access of transport for any UK theme park, better than Towers I'd even say...only problem is that the owners are utterly useless, sleazy and make Merlin look good!

Yes, for all of the negative things we have to say about Merlin they at least invest in attractions though depends on you if they are good. Yeah, M&D's is actually Merlin on a smaller yet worst scale in which they have little to no competition and can do whatever they like and suffer no consequences, Merlin on the other hand do have some rivals to a lesser extent if you count the likes of Paultons though they'd need a few more years before they can really make a go at it and if they keep the momentum going then I feel that they'd be able to do this.

So yeah, we all love to wallow in misery and can you blame us for how things are but I can say is that tough times can lead onto good times, there will be a time in which the fortunes of the UK theme park industry may start to see a positive change and though I'm not sure who will be the one to challenge Merlin, it'll happen sooner than you think. We just need to shift our way all of this crap we've suffered over the past many years.

So regarding Scotland for those South of the border, all you have to do when feeling down about the UK theme park industry is to look far north to see how utterly terrible it is and say, "Still, could be worse".
 

neil_wilson

TS Member
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.
 
The more I think about this, the more nuanced it becomes. I used to see it as a simple case of parks in mainland Europe caring more about themed experiences than headline grabbing new coasters, and catering more for the entire family than the likes of Thorpe Park or, across the pond, Six Flags.

But now I think about it, look at the two main Walibi parks. These are arguably the Thorpe Parks of their appropriate countries, they’ve not been owned by Six Flags for nearly two decades, but they still frequently open major new coasters, seem to attract mostly teenagers, and are very much focussed on the rides, rather than the overall experience.. an approach which I’d say that nearly all the UK parks adopt.

Yet despite this, the Walibis still feel like better quality and better value experiences than the parks in the UK.

Thorpe Park’s old approach of churning out a new thrill coaster every few years, ultimately failed for them, hence why we’ve not seen a new coaster at Thorpe for ten years, but in the years since Swarm, we’ve seen Walibi Belgium (a less well attended park than Thorpe let’s not forget) open no fewer than four new coasters, and a new dark ride. So clearly the ‘build it and they will come’ approach is working for them. Yet when Thorpe were doing it, we all greatly criticised this approach to investment/ development.

Can it be as simple as what works in Belgium doesn’t work in the UK? Or is there something fundamentally different in the way that Walibi have implemented it to how Thorpe did?

Having visited both Walibi parks, I can’t see what they’re doing that much differently to what Thorpe used to do in the 2000-2012 era, and as mentioned previously, both Walibis are full of teenagers. Yet they still feel like a better overall experience than Thorpe ever did. And I just can’t think what it is that makes it so different.
 

pjanvil

TS Member
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Valhalla
I do feel Walibi offers a higher quality experience compared to Thorpe. Yet had also felt they were like the Thorpe of their country. I would argue Walibi Belgium is more well rounded then Walibi Holland but yep both have seen major investments. I feel both spend a lot more effort on maintaining the appearance of things then UK parks which just let themeing fall to pieces. All the themeing as far as I could tell was working well and both parks looked fresh. I know Walibi Holland have been rethemeing every area one by one. But I think level of investment plus maintaining what is there is better at the Walibi parks compared to UK. Although this thread is supposed to be about what UK parks do better then European parks :pensive:
 

pjanvil

TS Member
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Valhalla
Slightly related question, but what UK parks can you name, which are better then say 5/10 years ago and are still improving? The only one I can think of is Paultons. While Drayton is improving over what it was 5 years ago it is still a shadow of itself from 10 years ago IMO (Pirate Adventure, Excalibur, G Force, Pandemonium and soon to be Apocalypse). Can anyone think of any other UK parks which have noticeably improved?
 

Thameslink Rail

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The Smiler
I would also put Alton Towers in the "improved from five years ago but not ten years ago" category as 2017 Alton Towers was in the post-crash doldrums with a stripped down ride lineup and generally lousy opening hours. 2012 was not as good as the park has been but at least the lineup was decent with Subterra, Ripsaw and Submission in as support rides and a full Cloud Cuckoo Land.
 
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venny

TS Member
Ignoring this year, Blackpool Pleasure Beach has arguably improved. The late 2000s - early 2010s weren’t the best years for the plethora of ride closures. We’ve since seen Icon, SkyForce etc.
 

AstroDan

TS Team
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Steel Vengeance, Cedar Point
Ignoring this year, Blackpool Pleasure Beach has arguably improved. The late 2000s - early 2010s weren’t the best years for the plethora of ride closures. We’ve since seen Icon, SkyForce etc.
We lost Mouse. That alone has caused me to visit less. Massively less.



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rob666

TS Member
We've seen Icon, Skyforce, and what exactly?
Duff new bar area that is rarely open.
More early closures, including late riding cuts.
Lack of punters due to the loss of entry only tickets.
Nearly half of the attractions closed midweek.
National only opening at lunch now as well.
...and now the return of Mandy's ego show in the Arena, Hot Ice, that has failed to generate revenue over costs for the last couple of decades.
The Beach, despite me being a happy clapper, continues it's slow decline due to incompetent local management.
Some things just don't change.
 

venny

TS Member
We've seen Icon, Skyforce, and what exactly?
Duff new bar area that is rarely open.
More early closures, including late riding cuts.
Lack of punters due to the loss of entry only tickets.
Nearly half of the attractions closed midweek.
National only opening at lunch now as well.
...and now the return of Mandy's ego show in the Arena, Hot Ice, that has failed to generate revenue over costs for the last couple of decades.
The Beach, despite me being a happy clapper, continues it's slow decline due to incompetent local management.
Some things just don't change.

I’ll be honest Rob, I was struggling to convince myself of my own argument.

The only other thing I’ve got is White Tower reopening at weekends!
 

pluk

TS Member
Slightly related question, but what UK parks can you name, which are better then say 5/10 years ago and are still improving? The only one I can think of is Paultons. While Drayton is improving over what it was 5 years ago it is still a shadow of itself from 10 years ago IMO (Pirate Adventure, Excalibur, G Force, Pandemonium and soon to be Apocalypse). Can anyone think of any other UK parks which have noticeably improved?

This might be scraping the barrel a little with a small seaside amusementpark, but Adventure Island has been moving the right way for a long time. Good investments, adding something for year round opening, excellent operations.
 
Paultons and Chessington.

I massively disagree with the suggestion that BPB has improved. I would say that it’s a lot, lot, lot worse than even 5 years ago, let alone 10.

I never bother to visit anymore.

Think about Chessington in 2012. Wild Asia was the only major recent investment at that point, after years of neglect under Tussauds management. The lack of TLC around the park was horrendous, and almost resulted in a near-fatal incident in Tomb Blaster queue that year. Now, all of the rotting, dated and decaying theming around Chessington has been spruced up, which although somewhat cheaply done in certain areas such as Rainforest, looks a heck of a lot better than it did 10 years ago.
 
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