Is the Recession Hitting Towers Hard?

General discussion regarding the UK's No.1 Theme Park. Talk about anything and everything Alton Towers here.
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marita
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Hi

In light of the topic with the sky ride closing during non peak times  I thought I would ask what people think.

I went to Alton Towers on the 26th May which was a Sat. Expecting it to be extremley busy due to the glorious sunshine.

Boy was I wrong. There was no queue to get onto the carpark and we did not queue more than 20 mins for any ride during the day at all. Making our ride count a nice figure.

I got talking to a member of management team who I used to work with many moons ago when I did a season at AT.

We got talking about how busy the park has been and that day the gate count was approx 5000
which by standards for a hot bank hol weekend is pretty low. He told me that AT were struggling at getting more than 3000 in per day at the moment and this was the busiest day of the season.

Also I went to TP on the Sun and that was the same the biggest queue was for Saw and not Swarm the gate for that day was 3500

Is it me or would you agree that recession is hitting the theme parks quite a lot
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Stelios7
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You could say that the recent U-Turns at the Towers were cost cutting, but some say it was just for the SW7 fund. Which I believe at Merlin prices, is the more elaborate case. Alton's visitor figures are dropping, but due to lack of major investment last year, but I'm sure this year will be on the rise again. Merlin parks seem to be coping better than others with money, so to answer your last question, it is affecting smaller theme parks with more minimal investments I would imagine. Although the Towers already have their brand so as we have at least 5 more years of little growth, Towers have world class investments with the MTDP to keep them afloat. Towers will be fine.

The Credit Crunch isn't hitting the parks, it's the people.
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Tom G
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I'm sorry but some people don't half misinterpret things. Crowds may be slightly down, but Merlin's profits have increased year on year throughout the recession. They are not 'struggling' or being 'hit hard' in the same way that a family with kids are.

Business works by continually identifying areas where savings can be made.
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garyh
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I dont think the recession it hitting Alton Towers - I think Merlin is doing a fine job itself of keeping customers away.  Even if there wasnt a recession, the prices to get in, to stay over etc are just too high.

A good example - someone I work with went to Alton on the weekend, spoke to him in work yesterday and he said he paid a fortune to get in with his family, and then they had to cheek to charge him £6 on top just to park there - his final comment was "I wont be going back there". 

Granted people dont expect value for money when they go to a theme park but I think Merlin have just pushed it too far.  £43.50 to get in??!!  Add on the car parking charge and for a single person going there on the off chance its fifty quid.  Add on to that fuel costs, food, drink etc and its an expensive day out.  Add a family to that equation and it becomes unaffordable.

The other problem is returning guests.  When Alton opened world class rides and didnt charge to park, there would be a high number of repeat guests.  Now, im not so sure.  The farse with 13 and the number of disappointed guests turning up to be scared senseless only to find its a kiddy ride, and the parking charges, many people are thinking "not going back there in a hurry".

Then there are the resort guests.  The hotels are basically cheap travel inn's which havent had any modernisation since building, the waterpark is still the same, and the prices are way too high.  People who have been once have been conned once, im sure they wont be again. 

If anything I think Merlin have alienated their customers putting many off from visting in the first place, or again.  Their changes to the annual passes also lost some customers.  I think visitor numbers will go up next year with SW7 but I think while Merlin have their grubby hands on Alton, the overall trend is the park is seeing a decline. 
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Ritadz
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It's the parks own fault for having low guest numbers, paying over £50 for a day out at a theme park is madness. M£rlin deserve to suffer financially, it might make them wake up and realise it's their own fault for charging such stupid prices.
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Benzin
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I wonder actually how many people were to go to somewhere like Plopsaland and have issues with the paying to park upon departure of the park...

This year is not being helped by the cost cutting decisions, very bad weather (as per every bank holiday weekend) during the more traditionally busy periods amongst the high costs...

Although as per usual, it must be reminded that only a very small percentage of overall guests actually even pay full price to enter the park...
Regardless, the recession also affects people's decisions to even visit, especially for the basic price even with the BOGOFS and deals... It's just a whole host of reasons affecting the low attendances atm...
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marita
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Tom G wrote: I'm sorry but some people don't half misinterpret things. Crowds may be slightly down, but Merlin's profits have increased year on year throughout the recession. They are not 'struggling' or being 'hit hard' in the same way that a family with kids are.

Business works by continually identifying areas where savings can be made.
I have not misinterpreted things at all. I was mearly asking a question and then backing up why I had asked the question. I agree that the prices are too high for people to pay in this climate.
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TB2
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garyh wrote: I dont think the recession it hitting Alton Towers - I think Merlin is doing a fine job itself of keeping customers away.  Even if there wasnt a recession, the prices to get in, to stay over etc are just too high.

A good example - someone I work with went to Alton on the weekend, spoke to him in work yesterday and he said he paid a fortune to get in with his family, and then they had to cheek to charge him £6 on top just to park there - his final comment was "I wont be going back there". 

Granted people dont expect value for money when they go to a theme park but I think Merlin have just pushed it too far.  £43.50 to get in??!!  Add on the car parking charge and for a single person going there on the off chance its fifty quid.  Add on to that fuel costs, food, drink etc and its an expensive day out.  Add a family to that equation and it becomes unaffordable.
Thing is, you say all that but If I for example, use Parc Asterix, they charge 44 euros on the gate to get in, charge 8 euros for their car park, charge 8 euros minimum for a meal on park (as well as the fuel costs) and yet thats a park thats seen their park attendence grow (pre Oz'Iris). It can't just be that Alton Towers is seen as expensive..
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PeteMadden

If you're a fan of Alton Towers, you will go at some point in the year.

Also, the reason for the promotional offers like the Facebook 50% off and the (old) Tesco Clubcard 2 for 1 offers are to attract customers during the recession.

Fair enough, it will have been impacted in some form, it has to in a recession, but I've seen no considerable 'knock on' effect so far.
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garyh
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TB2 wrote: Thing is, you say all that but If I for example, use Parc Asterix, they charge 44 euros on the gate to get in, charge 8 euros for their car park, charge 8 euros minimum for a meal on park (as well as the fuel costs) and yet thats a park thats seen their park attendence grow (pre Oz'Iris). It can't just be that Alton Towers is seen as expensive..
I quite agree - perhaps its seen as not value for money.  Lack of any decent rides of recent years to tempt the customers into parting with their cash maybe.  Ask most people about 13 and the majority would say it was a waste of time.  The same comments were coming out about NST, unfortunately first impressions stick for a long time!
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However, there's been a LOT of people who have been re-riding sub terra, having ridden it in March and didn't even know about the changes.

It all depends on how towers can keep in peoples mind - it's handy they have 1.1m likes on facebook, as they can almost constantly remind people about themselves. People will visit.

As for recession hitting towers hard? Don't think so.
PeteMadden

thefatone wrote: However, there's been a LOT of people who have been re-riding sub terra, having ridden it in March and didn't even know about the changes.

It all depends on how towers can keep in peoples mind - it's handy they have 1.1m likes on facebook, as they can almost constantly remind people about themselves. People will visit.

As for recession hitting towers hard? Don't think so.
Second this comment. Alton is far too popular to ever lose its repuation and fan base unless something really goes wrong.
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aru
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I think lower gate figures are being caused by a combination things - no .1 being the fact that everyone is skint and AT don't seem to realise! You cannot get to AT easily without a car and high fuel costs plus rediculous car parking charges do not inspire people to drive long distances to pay silly money at the gate.

I would also say that people expect more than the likes of N:ST to take the decision to visit. Quite a lot of people are familar with international parks, and to be frank in some cases AT really doesn't compete. It also doesnt help that the new ride was getting terrible reviews throughout one of the busiest periods for the park. Word of mouth, Facebook, twitter etc are a powerful way of letting the general public know that new for 2012 is (was) naff.
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Themeparksandy1981
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I think the towers main target group at the moment is 18 to 30 as they mainly haven't got houses or a family on the go yet. I saved £20 per month and every 12 months for the past 4 years and we had a Merlin Annual pass but now we gonna be parents for the first time in 5 weeks time so I went to the towers last month before the pass run out and I won't be going back to Oct with my free Sun ticket.

What you got to remember when you go even with 2 for 1 vouchers the parents have still got to pay £84 with the £6 parking and petrol you talking spending between £110 to £140. Families are lucky if they can afford a family meal at a crown carvery per month. The price of water,gas,electric,shopping and insurance have all gone up but wages have stood still.

Theme parks,football grounds,restaurants,pubs,holiday aboard and even the cinema have dropped in numbers. For the price of 1 movie for 2 people it's cheaper to go with Lovefilm or Netfix.

I even do my own DIY as Im doing my bathroom it's taking me longer than I thought it would but a plumber wanted a lot of money which I haven't got.
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garyh wrote:
TB2 wrote: Thing is, you say all that but If I for example, use Parc Asterix, they charge 44 euros on the gate to get in, charge 8 euros for their car park, charge 8 euros minimum for a meal on park (as well as the fuel costs) and yet thats a park thats seen their park attendence grow (pre Oz'Iris). It can't just be that Alton Towers is seen as expensive..
I quite agree - perhaps its seen as not value for money.  Lack of any decent rides of recent years to tempt the customers into parting with their cash maybe.  Ask most people about 13 and the majority would say it was a waste of time.  The same comments were coming out about NST, unfortunately first impressions stick for a long time!
I'm not certain about this. Thorpe has just put in a massively visually impressive coaster, the first of it's kind in the UK, and seem to be having similar struggles.
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garyh
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Banbur : According to this p46 :

http://www.aecom.com/deployedfiles/Inte ... _FINAL.pdf

.....this isnt the case - Thorpe increased its visitors last year by 2.7%.  Across UK parks, Alton had the biggest loss of -5.5%.  I expect Thorpe's visitor numbers to sky rocket this year with the addition of Swarm.  While Thorpe is aimed at the younger thrillseeker end of the market, Alton is aimed at families, and its families who are being hit the hardest by the price increases in the park, not to mention fuel, house bills etc.
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TB2 wrote: Thing is, you say all that but If I for example, use Parc Asterix, they charge 44 euros on the gate to get in, charge 8 euros for their car park, charge 8 euros minimum for a meal on park (as well as the fuel costs) and yet thats a park thats seen their park attendence grow (pre Oz'Iris). It can't just be that Alton Towers is seen as expensive..
I'm a little confused.... surely that equals about £35 entry, £6 to park and £6 minimum for a meal. Other then parking, which is the same as Alton Towers, that's much better value, as that would you you could get entry and meal in Parc Asterix for the same price as just entry to Alton Towers?
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It's been talked about by numerous economists and I've heard direct from M£rlin employees that ever since the recession started the leisure industry in this country has been booming, mainly due to less people going abroad and choosing to spend their money more wisely - i.e. on great days out like Alton Towers.

They had a great year in 2010 with the launch of Th13teen, not because the marketing was sensational (although they did do a good job) but more for that fact that more people were already looking for days out/weekend breaks.

As for 2011 obviously due to lack of new investments, but I thought 2012 was going from strength to strength with the launch of Sub Terra and Ice Age 4D? No?
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It's possible that this year could be where the bubble bursts for the tourism industry though. The recession has double-dipped, people are being squeezed even tighter and maybe the leisure industry will finally start to feel the pinch a bit more. It was kind of insulated previously, as PeteB just said, but as the recession continues I guess people maybe are cutting back on leisure spending alongside everything else?

It's pure speculation on my part - as I know no figures, but it would make some sense.
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James
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The tourism industry has sort of almost gone backwards. Where travelling abroad became more viable in the 1950s and 1960s and slowly over the decades to follow seaside resorts started to decline we're now in a new decade where staying on home land is the cheaper and more viable option.

It's a tricky one to call as while days out at Alton are cheaper than say, going to Spain for a weekend (this would be based on a package holiday, which is what most people use). It is still cheaper to go to somewhere like Haven Holidays in Cornwall for a weekend. It's all down to what the vast majority want. In fact I'd say a weekend at a Haven camp outside Blackpool is great value, you get to stay in a caravan, go to the Pleasure Beach if wish, go to the Tower and other attractions, and have a beach on your doorstep. My family did this a dew years ago, we had 3 night, 4 days at a Haven camp, visited all the attractions around Balckpool as well as the Pleasure Beach and at the time it did work out near the same, even cheaper than a 2 night, 3 day stay at Alton Towers.

I think we have to remember with the theme park industry that it is still a relatively new industry in the UK. It hasn't been around as long as seaside resorts and package holidays so for the British public at least, theme parks are an exciting part of tourism. Alton Towers in itself is an entertainments venue, built to please and pack a persons day for a decent price.

Merlin seem not to be suffering that much. Although saying that they are acquiring more attractions around the world year on year, increasing prices and making budget cuts so they may 'look' figures wise like they are not suffering although in reality they could be suffering quite a lot. It's quite easy to make the figures look good, especially for a giant operator like Merlin, although they are damaging their attractions slowly. What will happen in say, 5 or 10 years time? How much of an impact will Merlin's current actions have on the UK industry?

Seaside resorts fell, theme parks could quite easily do the same.
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