Merlin Entertainments have today launched two brand new Annual Passes with the introduction of the Merlin Gold Pass and Merlin Platinum Pass. These new products are being introduced after it was revealed on 23rd November that the Standard and Premium passes would not be returning to sale, following the suspension of new pass sales while the Merlin group evaluated their pass offering as we move into 2021. Attraction Source rounds up all the changes.

Merlin announced that the existing Standard and Premium passes would not be returning to sale and would be replaced by two new offerings on 23rd November 2020, at the same time as introducing the entry level ‘Discovery Pass’. With a sale price of £69 per person, this weekday pass marked the first step in the overhaul of the tiers of Annual Pass that would be available.

The Merlin Gold Pass is the mid-level option in the new range of passes. With a sale price of £199 per person (standard price £219), the Gold pass allows holders 345 days access to Merlin attractions, excluding paid events. The 2021 restriction dates for Gold pass holders are as follows: 13th & 14th February; 2nd – 5th April; 1st – 3rd and 29th – 31st May; 28th – 30th August; 30th & 31st October; 5th – 7th November and 25th December. While restriction dates are present, they are far less extensive than they were on the Standard Annual Pass, with more dates being included such as weekends in the summer holidays. The Gold pass will allow holders to pre-book up to three tickets per attraction at any one time, with the new pre-booking system expected to go live soon. The new system will also allow pass holders to change and suspend the date of their bookings online, with the allocation of tickets continually being updated as and when tickets for each specific day are pre-booked.

The Merlin Platinum Pass is the most premium option of pass and gives holders the greatest level of flexibility compared to the other passes on offer. With a sale price of £239 per person (standard price £299), the Platinum pass has no exclusion dates for holders, although paid events are excluded. This pass allows holders to pre-book up to six tickets per attraction at any one time, double the amount permitted for the Discovery and Gold pass. Holders of the Platinum pass will also receive six £5 off Fastrack vouchers, compared with three for the Gold pass and zero for the Discovery pass and three £15 Share the Fun vouchers.

Current Standard & Premium Annual Pass holders will still be able to use their existing passes until their date of expiry, after which they will be able to upgrade their renewal to one of the new products on offer for a reduced price vs the current sale price. The Gold pass renewal rate will be £159, and the Platinum pass renewal rate will be £229. Family passes will no longer be on sale, with Merlin stating:

As a result of your valuable feedback, we know that you want a simpler Merlin Annual Pass offering. We have removed the inclusion of a family and individual rate split so that our pricing is much clearer and easier to understand, to allow our Passholders to clearly see the value and savings they’re making when deciding which pass to purchase.

The pay monthly Merlin Membership option for the new passes will be launched in 2021, however a date for the reintroduction of this scheme has not yet been specified. Current Merlin Membership holders will be able to continue rolling their monthly payments until the end of their contract.

Arguably the biggest change to the range of passes on offer is the comparative price against the options that are being replaced. At £219 the Gold pass is £40 more expensive than the Standard Annual Pass, while the £299 Platinum pass is £70 more expensive than the Premium Annual Pass. While it cannot be denied that 2020 has been an extremely tough year for the leisure and tourism industry, many pass holders may feel that the increase in price is an easy way for Merlin to recoup some of the losses incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, while making minimal adjustments to the perks that are included with each pass.

What are your thoughts on these changes to the Merlin Annual Pass structure? Share your thoughts over on the Attraction Source Forum.
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