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Is the UK theme park industry heading for a bumpy ride?

Ellie Gelsthorpe

New Member
Hi guys,

I'm Ellie and I'm an undergraduate student in my final year of study at Edinburgh Napier University. As part of my final year I need to write a dissertation and mines is focusing on challenges facing the UK theme park industry either currently or in the near future. As a result of this I'm undertaking primary research in terms of a survey in order to gain perspective on how UK theme park visitors perceive their visits.

I need as many responses as possible and hence, would like to ask you all to take a couple of minutes to participate.

The survey can be found here: https://survey.napier.ac.uk/n/zz4p6.aspx

Any response is greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!
 

Snoo

The Legend
Staff member
Social Media Team
Filled it out but I think, unless we have a topic already, this would be a good discussion post. I do think it's already been bumpy due to a plethora of issues, especially compared to other parts of the world. It could be worse, but it could be much better.
 

rob666

Member
Question 2 I could not give a true response...this year!
Question six would not accept my responses, so I had to give up.
Invalid responses, had filled all in, sorry.
After recent experiences, we are on a downward slope without doubt, my most recent experiences at my two favourite parks have not been great.
 

davidm

Well-Known Member
Problem with Q6 seemed to be I could not rate below 3 for any of the answers?

Just an opinion, but...
Survey seemed geared towards "social media" rather than issues affecting UK theme parks ; whilst marketing (including social media) is important, there are many other factors that I would think affect UK theme parks much more than what people tweet about. (Like overall marketing strategy, government policy, tourism industry in the UK, changing UK spending habits, changing UK leisure habits....).

Good luck tho.
 

Ellie Gelsthorpe

New Member
Problem with Q6 seemed to be I could not rate below 3 for any of the answers?

Just an opinion, but...
Survey seemed geared towards "social media" rather than issues affecting UK theme parks ; whilst marketing (including social media) is important, there are many other factors that I would think affect UK theme parks much more than what people tweet about. (Like overall marketing strategy, government policy, tourism industry in the UK, changing UK spending habits, changing UK leisure habits....).

Good luck tho.
Hi David,
Thanks for your feedback. The main reason for this is due to the fact that secondary data already exists for other issues, so I'll be using other already established academic research in order to cover operational issues and the political climate etc. The survey is just an additional piece of support for my dissertation which aims to look at how theme parks are lagging behind in terms of marketing themselves to the Millennial and post-Millennial markets whom are assumed to be becoming the biggest players within the tourism markets in the coming years.

Many thanks for filling in my survey and also I will try sort the issue with Q6!

-Ellie
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Social Media Team
Answered, although on Question 6 I had to tweak the scores so the form would accept them at all.

As for the discussion topic at hand, I'm going to say yes. The UK went through a bit of a coaster boom around the 1990's, with so many parks building quite big coasters. Places like Southport Pleasureland, Fantasy Island, Oakwood, Lightwater Valley or Drayton Manor found money to build coasters with multiple inversions and/or custom-designed layouts. Alton went and shelled out for many designs that were actually world leading. BPB had the biggest coaster in the world. Thorpe built the fastest coaster in Europe. There was built a lot of rides on a scale that's totally unseen today. No wonder why CoasterForce sprung up in Britain at the time it did, it seemed like every Brit had a home park that got big, new coasters on the scale the rest of Europe could only dream of.

And now... the Brits can only dream too. It was mentioned in the Paultons Park thread that since 2009, only seven coasters have been built in the UK with a top speed higher than 65 km/h. Alton Towers and Thorpe Park seem to be the only ones that build custom designs these days, with BPB pulling a surprise Icon after a drought since 1994. A new multi-inversion coaster on the scale of, say, Soopa Loopa that Lightwater Valley got in 1981, would be completely unheard of for anyone but the big three today. Something like The Big One at Blackpool or Odyssey at Fantasy Island just wouldn't be built at all, period. No actor is big enough to afford that these days. What coasters the smaller UK parks get nowadays are mostly second-hand stuff from Pinfari, Zamperla or Reverchon, like Big Apples or Spinning Wild Mouses (sidenote: I think a discussion we had a few years back concluded that the plural of Wild Mouse is Wild Mouses and not Wild Mice).

And this brings us around to the sad fact that coasters have a limited operating lifespan like any other piece of machinery. Many of the big coasters of the 1980s and 1990s are no more. For some reason or other, the parks can't afford to operate them any more, and they are torn down and moved out of the country (surprisingly few coasters are actually scrapped in the UK. Most seem to be relocated - if RCDB is to be believed, Corkscrew at Alton is the biggest coaster to have been scrapped in the UK since WWII). Coasters like Nemesis, The Big One and Shockwave are turning 25 this year. The Ultimate at BPB and Vampire at Chessington are pushing 30. Woodies like Antelope and Megafobia are well above 20. And there doesn't seem to be money to replace many of them. Alton Towers and Thorpe will probably manage to maintain their classics or find something good to replace them with, but I doubt Lightwater Valley will have another like it ready when Ultimate kicks the bucket. When M&D's' Tornado or Fantasy Island's Millennium leave their parks, will there be money to get something else on the same scale? When the last Schwarzkopfs or looping Pinfaris are turned down in their final safety inspections, will there be will to invest in something else with inversions? Or will the fall-back option be yet more Reverchon Spinners and various Big Apple coasters?

And what will be the consequences when Merlin realizes its competition has lowered the bar? Who wants to build a B&M when you can still have the biggest show in town with a Maurer Sohne? Heck, the decline of the small parks in the UK kind of show that building big rides, beloved though they may be, will not make a park the next Disneyland. Drayton Manor just retired G-Force after 15 seasons of operation, but the big thrill coaster seems to have done less to attract guests than the Thomas Land expansion. Maybe the industry now can look back at the glorious nineties and conclude: "Yeah, that didn't work all that well. Seems like we can't rely on big coasters after all."

From a coaster enthusiast point of view, I think the situation looks quite grim. But on the other hand, at least travel is getting so cheap and convenient that it's quite easy to get to big coasters anyway.
 

Ellie Gelsthorpe

New Member
Answered, although on Question 6 I had to tweak the scores so the form would accept them at all.

As for the discussion topic at hand, I'm going to say yes. The UK went through a bit of a coaster boom around the 1990's, with so many parks building quite big coasters. Places like Southport Pleasureland, Fantasy Island, Oakwood, Lightwater Valley or Drayton Manor found money to build coasters with multiple inversions and/or custom-designed layouts. Alton went and shelled out for many designs that were actually world leading. BPB had the biggest coaster in the world. Thorpe built the fastest coaster in Europe. There was built a lot of rides on a scale that's totally unseen today. No wonder why CoasterForce sprung up in Britain at the time it did, it seemed like every Brit had a home park that got big, new coasters on the scale the rest of Europe could only dream of.

And now... the Brits can only dream too. It was mentioned in the Paultons Park thread that since 2009, only seven coasters have been built in the UK with a top speed higher than 65 km/h. Alton Towers and Thorpe Park seem to be the only ones that build custom designs these days, with BPB pulling a surprise Icon after a drought since 1994. A new multi-inversion coaster on the scale of, say, Soopa Loopa that Lightwater Valley got in 1981, would be completely unheard of for anyone but the big three today. Something like The Big One at Blackpool or Odyssey at Fantasy Island just wouldn't be built at all, period. No actor is big enough to afford that these days. What coasters the smaller UK parks get nowadays are mostly second-hand stuff from Pinfari, Zamperla or Reverchon, like Big Apples or Spinning Wild Mouses (sidenote: I think a discussion we had a few years back concluded that the plural of Wild Mouse is Wild Mouses and not Wild Mice).

And this brings us around to the sad fact that coasters have a limited operating lifespan like any other piece of machinery. Many of the big coasters of the 1980s and 1990s are no more. For some reason or other, the parks can't afford to operate them any more, and they are torn down and moved out of the country (surprisingly few coasters are actually scrapped in the UK. Most seem to be relocated - if RCDB is to be believed, Corkscrew at Alton is the biggest coaster to have been scrapped in the UK since WWII). Coasters like Nemesis, The Big One and Shockwave are turning 25 this year. The Ultimate at BPB and Vampire at Chessington are pushing 30. Woodies like Antelope and Megafobia are well above 20. And there doesn't seem to be money to replace many of them. Alton Towers and Thorpe will probably manage to maintain their classics or find something good to replace them with, but I doubt Lightwater Valley will have another like it ready when Ultimate kicks the bucket. When M&D's' Tornado or Fantasy Island's Millennium leave their parks, will there be money to get something else on the same scale? When the last Schwarzkopfs or looping Pinfaris are turned down in their final safety inspections, will there be will to invest in something else with inversions? Or will the fall-back option be yet more Reverchon Spinners and various Big Apple coasters?

And what will be the consequences when Merlin realizes its competition has lowered the bar? Who wants to build a B&M when you can still have the biggest show in town with a Maurer Sohne? Heck, the decline of the small parks in the UK kind of show that building big rides, beloved though they may be, will not make a park the next Disneyland. Drayton Manor just retired G-Force after 15 seasons of operation, but the big thrill coaster seems to have done less to attract guests than the Thomas Land expansion. Maybe the industry now can look back at the glorious nineties and conclude: "Yeah, that didn't work all that well. Seems like we can't rely on big coasters after all."

From a coaster enthusiast point of view, I think the situation looks quite grim. But on the other hand, at least travel is getting so cheap and convenient that it's quite easy to get to big coasters anyway.

Thank you for your feedback, I've changed Q6 now so it should work better for other!
I agree with you 100%, however I think in the 1990s the correct target market was being targeted heavily for all UK theme parks, these days the marketing operations are scattered and I think left behind in the dust. All industries change, and if businesses within them don't adapt then they are unlikely to survive, and this is what I'm trying to get across in my research. In order for theme parks within the UK to start being more successful and to provide more pleasurable experiences for guests major change and adaptation needs to take place.

-Ellie
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Social Media Team
Thank you for your feedback, I've changed Q6 now so it should work better for other!
I agree with you 100%, however I think in the 1990s the correct target market was being targeted heavily for all UK theme parks, these days the marketing operations are scattered and I think left behind in the dust. All industries change, and if businesses within them don't adapt then they are unlikely to survive, and this is what I'm trying to get across in my research. In order for theme parks within the UK to start being more successful and to provide more pleasurable experiences for guests major change and adaptation needs to take place.

-Ellie
Thing is, I'm not even sure if the strategies of the 1990s paid off that well for the parks. Sure, it was a fun time to be a coaster enthusiast, but did the parks make back the money it cost to build those big coasters? Southport Pleasureland must have invested heavily in Traumatizer, for instance, but only seven years later it was dismantled and sent to Blackpool. Lightwater Valley built The Ultimate, probably for a pretty hefty sum, but the fact they never built another thrill coaster suggests it wasn't a winning formula. American Adventure built four coasters in eight years, and lasted barely a decade after that. After The Big One, it took more than a decade for BPB to build another coaster (the aforementioned Traumatizer bought second-hand), and another decade after that to get another.

It seemed like many parks tried to build relatively big coasters, but it didn't work out well for most of them. Now that those coasters are steadily aging out of operation, I doubt many parks will find (or more likely, borrow) the funds required to put something equally big in their place. Evidently, they didn't pay off that well.
 

HeartlineCoaster

Active Member
Done.
Didn't quite get question 8. The way I read it, there's not really an option for:
Yes, I did consider going elsewhere and
Yes, I did go elsewhere but
Yes, I went somewhere in the UK as well.

Agree that it's already on a bumpy ride. Last year was a good year though. Hope to see a few more like it in the near future...
 

rob666

Member
Done.
Q2 needs a this year option...the season has started in lovely Blackpool...lots of us have been to a park this season now...there were about 10,000 at Blackpool over the weekend, more than half were geeks, freaks and happy clappers who are happy to do student surveys.
Good luck Ellie, please post your results up on here.
 
Done.
Q2 needs a this year option...the season has started in lovely Blackpool...lots of us have been to a park this season now...there were about 10,000 at Blackpool over the weekend, more than half were geeks, freaks and happy clappers who are happy to do student surveys.
Good luck Ellie, please post your results up on here.
around half of that 10000 probably got no more than 3 rides due to malfunctions and heavy attendance
 

rob666

Member
around half of that 10000 probably got no more than 3 rides due to malfunctions and heavy attendance
I got three coaster in during the first hour mate!
Icon, steeplechase and Streak...got on about ten rides over the day on Sunday.
Not saying that operations were great of course...they were poor...just not as bad as some people made out.
 
I took the survey.
Be careful not to have too much of a conclusion/direction of your dissertation in mind before you have fully done your research I would advise.

I disagree with the opinions that large rollercoasters have not worked for the UK, as was posted here.
Without The Big One, Pleasure Beach would have been very different now for sure. It got so much media attention in the 90s. Probably more than any coaster ever in the UK (up until The Smiler perhaps). I think it was one of the greatest decisions in the industry to build The Big One. The change in the skyline has probably prompted more people to visit the park and thus Blackpool than anything since.
The fact that Pleasure Beach is struggling financially is not necessarily down to "a large coaster not working out for them". There are countless factors one should consider. With regards to Blackpool it is heavily due to the reduction of people visiting UK seaside towns as travelling abroad has become so much cheaper because of budget airlines that really took off in the 1990s, and you are guaranteed better weather in most places further south. Blackpool has now become one of the most deprived towns in England. Gambling has become more associated with poverty than fun over the last few decades it seems. Poor park management is another reason for the slump I reckon. Finally logistical reasons should be considered why Blackpool Pleasure Beach hasn't built another big coaster because of their limited space. Alton Towers and Thorpe Park don't have space problems but both have height problems. Other parks in the UK simply don't have the crowd numbers (anymore) to even think about investing in (another) B&M also partly due to slump in the pound's value over the last 10-11 years.

I think Blackpool Pleasure Beach are actually taking the correct route with building the second hotel. The Big Blue Hotel is often full / nearly full and is turning a good profit. People want easy all in one solutions for their holidays and big parks around Europe are all capitalising on this. When BPB would integrate things better on their main website this would probably help them to run both hotels at full capacity during large parts of the year. Give punters even more treats such as late night/after park close riding on Big One / Icon / Streak when they stay at the hotels (and allow them to return to the hotel via the dedicated entrance!) they could easily increase hotel package prices, the sky is the limit.
Reducing park hours as what Alton Towers does I think is a bad move. 11am-5pm or 10am - 4pm is too short and I think puts many people off even driving over. I didn't even consider going to AT before the opening hours were a bit longer last year. BPB is perhaps bearable with these hours (still for this weekend 10am till 6pm would have been far better and placed far less pressure on ride operators and kiosk staff) but AT covers such a large area those short hours are completely insane for a large theme park.
Why did the park open at the weekend and then close for half term this week? Makes no sense to me. The Big Blue hotel looked full for Sunday night. The weather this week is insanely good for February. A wasted opportunity.

Finally it probably doesn't help that both AT and TP are owned by the same company now. Competition usually is a good thing. How Efteling, Toverland and Walibi Holland are competing with each other in The Netherlands to build the best experiences and coasters is very interesting at the moment.

Anyway my two cents which may help in the dissertation.
 
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I got three coaster in during the first hour mate!
Icon, steeplechase and Streak...got on about ten rides over the day on Sunday.
Not saying that operations were great of course...they were poor...just not as bad as some people made out.
i heard that they got 3 rides on sunday but it was mainly pick and choose what rides to get on when i only got into the park at 12:30 since it took an hour and abit to get the seasion passes but like i had a time that i got on rev straight away since of a previous breakdown, its luck.

the northwest has not been the coaster market, the strong competition of 3 parks have now drifted into only one surviving.

Answered, although on Question 6 I had to tweak the scores so the form would accept them at all.

As for the discussion topic at hand, I'm going to say yes. The UK went through a bit of a coaster boom around the 1990's, with so many parks building quite big coasters. Places like Southport Pleasureland, Fantasy Island, Oakwood, Lightwater Valley or Drayton Manor found money to build coasters with multiple inversions and/or custom-designed layouts. Alton went and shelled out for many designs that were actually world leading. BPB had the biggest coaster in the world. Thorpe built the fastest coaster in Europe. There was built a lot of rides on a scale that's totally unseen today. No wonder why CoasterForce sprung up in Britain at the time it did, it seemed like every Brit had a home park that got big, new coasters on the scale the rest of Europe could only dream of.

And now... the Brits can only dream too. It was mentioned in the Paultons Park thread that since 2009, only seven coasters have been built in the UK with a top speed higher than 65 km/h. Alton Towers and Thorpe Park seem to be the only ones that build custom designs these days, with BPB pulling a surprise Icon after a drought since 1994. A new multi-inversion coaster on the scale of, say, Soopa Loopa that Lightwater Valley got in 1981, would be completely unheard of for anyone but the big three today. Something like The Big One at Blackpool or Odyssey at Fantasy Island just wouldn't be built at all, period. No actor is big enough to afford that these days. What coasters the smaller UK parks get nowadays are mostly second-hand stuff from Pinfari, Zamperla or Reverchon, like Big Apples or Spinning Wild Mouses (sidenote: I think a discussion we had a few years back concluded that the plural of Wild Mouse is Wild Mouses and not Wild Mice).

And this brings us around to the sad fact that coasters have a limited operating lifespan like any other piece of machinery. Many of the big coasters of the 1980s and 1990s are no more. For some reason or other, the parks can't afford to operate them any more, and they are torn down and moved out of the country (surprisingly few coasters are actually scrapped in the UK. Most seem to be relocated - if RCDB is to be believed, Corkscrew at Alton is the biggest coaster to have been scrapped in the UK since WWII). Coasters like Nemesis, The Big One and Shockwave are turning 25 this year. The Ultimate at BPB and Vampire at Chessington are pushing 30. Woodies like Antelope and Megafobia are well above 20. And there doesn't seem to be money to replace many of them. Alton Towers and Thorpe will probably manage to maintain their classics or find something good to replace them with, but I doubt Lightwater Valley will have another like it ready when Ultimate kicks the bucket. When M&D's' Tornado or Fantasy Island's Millennium leave their parks, will there be money to get something else on the same scale? When the last Schwarzkopfs or looping Pinfaris are turned down in their final safety inspections, will there be will to invest in something else with inversions? Or will the fall-back option be yet more Reverchon Spinners and various Big Apple coasters?

And what will be the consequences when Merlin realizes its competition has lowered the bar? Who wants to build a B&M when you can still have the biggest show in town with a Maurer Sohne? Heck, the decline of the small parks in the UK kind of show that building big rides, beloved though they may be, will not make a park the next Disneyland. Drayton Manor just retired G-Force after 15 seasons of operation, but the big thrill coaster seems to have done less to attract guests than the Thomas Land expansion. Maybe the industry now can look back at the glorious nineties and conclude: "Yeah, that didn't work all that well. Seems like we can't rely on big coasters after all."

From a coaster enthusiast point of view, I think the situation looks quite grim. But on the other hand, at least travel is getting so cheap and convenient that it's quite easy to get to big coasters anyway.
The last small park to get a major coaster was Camelot, and looked how that turned out.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Ellie Gelsthorpe

New Member
I took the survey.
Be careful not to have too much of a conclusion/direction of your dissertation in mind before you have fully done your research I would advise.

I disagree with the opinions that large rollercoasters have not worked for the UK, as was posted here.
Without The Big One, Pleasure Beach would have been very different now for sure. It got so much media attention in the 90s. Probably more than any coaster ever in the UK (up until The Smiler perhaps). I think it was one of the greatest decisions in the industry to build The Big One. The change in the skyline has probably prompted more people to visit the park and thus Blackpool than anything since.
The fact that Pleasure Beach is struggling financially is not necessarily down to "a large coaster not working out for them". There are countless factors one should consider. With regards to Blackpool it is heavily due to the reduction of people visiting UK seaside towns as travelling abroad has become so much cheaper because of budget airlines that really took off in the 1990s, and you are guaranteed better weather in most places further south. Blackpool has now become one of the most deprived towns in England. Gambling has become more associated with poverty than fun over the last few decades it seems. Poor park management is another reason for the slump I reckon. Finally logistical reasons should be considered why Blackpool Pleasure Beach hasn't built another big coaster because of their limited space. Alton Towers and Thorpe Park don't have space problems but both have height problems. Other parks in the UK simply don't have the crowd numbers (anymore) to even think about investing in (another) B&M also partly due to slump in the pound's value over the last 10-11 years.

I think Blackpool Pleasure Beach are actually taking the correct route with building the second hotel. The Big Blue Hotel is often full / nearly full and is turning a good profit. People want easy all in one solutions for their holidays and big parks around Europe are all capitalising on this. When BPB would integrate things better on their main website this would probably help them to run both hotels at full capacity during large parts of the year. Give punters even more treats such as late night/after park close riding on Big One / Icon / Streak when they stay at the hotels (and allow them to return to the hotel via the dedicated entrance!) they could easily increase hotel package prices, the sky is the limit.
Reducing park hours as what Alton Towers does I think is a bad move. 11am-5pm or 10am - 4pm is too short and I think puts many people off even driving over. I didn't even consider going to AT before the opening hours were a bit longer last year. BPB is perhaps bearable with these hours (still for this weekend 10am till 6pm would have been far better and placed far less pressure on ride operators and kiosk staff) but AT covers such a large area those short hours are completely insane for a large theme park.
Why did the park open at the weekend and then close for half term this week? Makes no sense to me. The Big Blue hotel looked full for Sunday night. The weather this week is insanely good for February. A wasted opportunity.

Finally it probably doesn't help that both AT and TP are owned by the same company now. Competition usually is a good thing. How Efteling, Toverland and Walibi Holland are competing with each other in The Netherlands to build the best experiences and coasters is very interesting at the moment.

Anyway my two cents which may help in the dissertation.
Thank you so much for taking part in my survey, and also for posting your opinions. They will greatly benefit my dissertation and I'm so thankful that people have shown such a passion for the topic :)
 

Snoo

The Legend
Staff member
Social Media Team
Thank you so much for taking part in my survey, and also for posting your opinions. They will greatly benefit my dissertation and I'm so thankful that people have shown such a passion for the topic :)
Well you came to the right place. :) Feel free to stick around and talk coasters more often! We always love new members.
 

Hixee

Flojector
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
ALL RIGHT, Now someone can you get rid of this bot, everywhere I go it shows his self promotion video.
Now Is it just me or does everyone see this?
I saw this last night, but couldn't get the moderation tools to work on my phone. I've moved ONE of the posts to the Advertisements forum, and deleted the rest.
 
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