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Owner of UK’s biggest theme parks announces huge changes to pricing

Simon Calder’s Travel

People visiting some of the UK’s biggest global attractions could expect to pay more during peak seasons and less in quieter months, under a new pricing model.

Merlin Entertainments, which is one of the one of the world’s biggest operators of theme parks and attractions, has been introducing “dynamic” pricing since last year. The system is similar to that used by sectors such as airlines and hotels.

The company owns tourist attractions including Legoland, Thorpe Park and Madame Tussauds

The group’s chief executive, Scott O’Neil, said the move means its attractions can adapt prices based on the time of year and control the number of visitors.

“We had it in 2023 and we had the highest guest satisfaction scores in the history of the company, and seven million additional guests,” Mr O’Neil said.

“So we’re definitely getting the signal that our processes are moving in the right direction.”

He said “dynamic” pricing helps “protect the guest experience” during busier times of the year by managing queues, where wait-times can be more than an hour for top attractions.

The opportunity to buy tickets at discounted prices during off-peak times, which could be a rainy weekend in March, makes the experiences “available and accessible to all”, Mr O’Neil explained.

He likened it to “happy hours” used in bars, as well as hotels and airlines which typically hike prices for travel during peak times but offer cheaper prices off-season.

“It is not a new concept, but our focus is on two things that matter most; the guest experience and making sure that we are accessible and value-based for families,” he said.

(Getty Images)

Merlin revealed its sales soared to a record high last year as more visitors flocked to city-centre attractions.

Total revenues jumped by 8% to £2.1 billion in 2023, compared with the previous year, and it had 62 million total visitors across the globe.

About a quarter of all tourists to London visited one of its attractions last year, and 40% of those visited more than one, according to the company.

However, Merlin revealed it swung to a pre-tax loss of £214 million last year, from a profit of £106 million the previous year, which the company said was due to one-off costs including refinancing some of its debts.

The group said on Monday it had agreed to buy Orlando Wheel at Icon Park, the tallest…

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