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INDUSTRY OPINION CHANGING TIMES


Nick Varney CEO, Merlin Entertainments


“T


he biggest, and continuing, change in the industry over the last 15 years has been consolidation – across the world, but particularly in


Europe, although it began a little earlier in the US. Merlin’s own growth is – in part, an example of this. That said, the industry remains amazingly fragmented (for example, Disney and Merlin, the two biggest operators, together repre- sent only around fi ve per cent of the market) and there remains a clear place for good independent operators, which should be encouraged, as well as for the larger groups. With this has come greater pro-


fessionalism across all parts of the business, with much more emphasis on return on invested capital. This has been led by the signifi cant changes in investment funding and banking dur- ing this period. And while it may be a more obvious and important dis- cipline for larger companies seeking ongoing investment and fi nancing, it’s increasingly the yardstick by which all successful companies in the industry are judged – large and small.


ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT


To mark Attraction Management’s 15th anniversary, we look at how the industry has changed in the past 15 years and how it will develop in the next 15. In the fi rst of a four-part series, industry experts give Kathleen Whyman their views


15 years ago I listened to a presentation telling us that virtual experiences would make theme parks redundant. They were wrong!


only suit a wide range of visitors’ pock- ets, but refl ect the different experiences that bring visitors to our attractions.


Nick Varney became CEO of Merlin in 1999


CUSTOMER SERVICE Equally, there’s now much greater emphasis on customer service and customer needs. This means not only more emphasis on quality and safety standards as required by tightening regulations, but also and as importantly, responding to more sophisticated, knowledgeable visitors. Visitors today are looking for real value for money. They have more choices, have travelled more and are better able to make comparisons between experiences. The whole industry is constantly moving the customer benchmarks forward and this won’t change.


Part of this is also the


creation of clear brand and attraction propositions


We interviewed Nick Varney 15 years ago when he was MD of Vardon Attractions


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which always deliver what they promise, and which are clearly targeted at different groups – from teens and young adults to


families with young children.


We need to constantly offer new pack- ages and add-on services, which not


Read Attractions Management online attractionsmanagement.com/digital


SHARING EXPERIENCES Perhaps one of the most interest- ing things, however, is what hasn’t changed. More than 15 years ago I sat in a room and listened to a pres- entation telling us that the rise of technology and in-home entertain- ment would be the death knell of the attraction industry and that virtual experiences would make theme parks redundant. They were wrong! What’s most notable is just how little technol- ogy has changed the core proposition of our industry. What that person failed to realise was that the essence of the attraction industry is the physical sharing of experiences – friends and families having fun together and inter- acting with one another, not a machine. That hasn’t changed, nor do I believe it will. In fact, as technology removes social interaction in other areas, it may become even more important. In the next 15 years there will be an


explosion of business in Asia Pacifi c, which is a virtually untapped market. Out of this will emerge world class companies and big attractions that as yet we can only dream of.


AM 1 2012 ©cybertrek 2012


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