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ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT


EDITOR’S LETTER SCALING UP


ON THE COVER: Star Tours, p32


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I


n this issue we talk to Merlin CEO Nick Varney about his company’s plans for international expansion fol- lowing the recent opening of Legoland Florida. The growth of Merlin has been a labour of love for Varney


who’s been with the business since it was Vardon, a small operator of Sea Life Centres – regional and local aquariums. Identifi ed as a potential future CEO of the Tussauds


Group during his time with that company, Varney’s move to Vardon perplexed many who thought he’d walked away from a big opportunity to go places with Tussauds in favour of what was then a small and slightly scruffy local attractions operator. The growth and rebranding of the business and its transformation into


Merlin hasn’t happened overnight, but has been a long and thoughtfully con- ducted process, with a number of strategic developments and investments along the way, including – rather sweetly – the purchase of Tussauds Group and later Lego to form a group which is now second only to Disney in scale. Unlike many operators who embrace ventures money to grow their busi- nesses and fi nd it sucks the life out of them, Merlin has managed to keep a succession of investors happy, while being profi table enough to be able to con-


Merlin has become master of branding and scale – fi tting each business to the opportunity to create a company that’s thriving at local, regional, national and international levels


tinue to invest in the businesses it has both acquired and grown itself. The company has plans to expand into both the Asian and US markets, with


the new Lego park in Florida being the fi rst major foothold in North America. The acquisition of the old Busch Gardens and its transformation into the new


high-profi le Lego attraction was a clever move and it’s clear Varney’s delighted with how the new park has turned out, given its melding of the best of the old with the new elements. There are many mothballed theme parks around the world, particularly in the US, so if the company wants to pick up more busi- nesses to rebrand and revive, then there will be opportunities to do so. Merlin is unique in having grown from being a small attractions operator into one which has a full range of attractions within its portfolio, from small local and mobile, to full-scale theme parks. No other operator has managed to create this mix. It’s interesting to consider whether it’s more achieveable to scale up than scale down – is it the local and regional attractions which are harder to crack? No major theme park operator has ever managed to ‘think small’ and roll out a successful chain of attractions at this level. Merlin has become master of brand- ing and also master of scale, fi tting each business to the opportunity to create a company which is thriving at local, regional, national and international levels.


Liz Terry, editor, twitter: @elizterry THE LEISURE MEDIA COMPANY PUBLISHES Attractions management NICK VARNEY


The Leisure Media Company Ltd, Portmill House, Portmill Lane, Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG5 1DJ UK Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385 Fax: +44 (0)1462 433909 e-mail: attractions@leisuremedia.com www.attractionsmanagement.com


AM 4 2011 ©cybertrek 2011


Museum Zeugma


Mosaic Adler Planetarium Meet the CEOs STAR TOURS


IS THE FORCE STRONG WITH DISNEY'S NEW 3D ATTRACTION?


SPORTS MANAGEMENT


LIVESTRONG links with Sporting


Kansas City


The resurgence of American Football


SIR PHILIP


CRAVEN The IPC president on athlete empowerment


How sport is coping with cuts


New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup venues


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