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Project spotlight

Drayton Manor Theme Park, UK Thomas Land at the UK’s Drayton Manor Theme Park opened in 2008 and was an instant success, helping the park to increase visitor numbers substantially while at the same time adding much to the retail spend and the park’s overall marketing strength. “We were after a new children’s attractions area having

had Robinson’s Land for many years,” says Edward Pawley, general manager park operations, “and wanted a totally new area. We’d seen Thomas Land in Japan (at Fuji Q Highalnds) which was done 13 years ago but no-one had really picked up on that. It also had a lot to do with my kids and what they were into at the time and the fact that we had a good relationship with HIT Entertainment through Teri Ruffley who had been

The Troublesome Trucks coaster at Drayton Manor’s Thomas Land (Image courtesy of Drayton Manor Theme Park)

brought in to introduce such IPs into UK parks.” Working with HIT and design and theming specialist

RMA, Drayton began looking at what they could do with the Thomas and Friends brand, knowing from the outset that they wanted to do a “whole land.” “Once we’d decided to do Thomas Land and began

working on the project,” Pawley continues, “we realised what we could do and the project grew 50 per cent in size as we went along.” And it exceeded expectations as far as its effect on visitor

numbers was concerned. “Initially you think something new would maintain

Thomas the Tank Engine has been a huge success at Drayton Manor Theme Park (Image courtesy of Drayton Manor Theme Park)

numbers and maybe increase them by five per cent or so, but we wanted a minimum of 10 per cent. The Easter of 2008 (when Thomas Land first opened) was pretty slow but then it went mad and we ended up with a 38 per cent increase in numbers for 2008 over 2007.” Since then those impressive numbers have been maintained, indeed with a further slight

increase in 2009 and 2010 holding those figures too. But the introduction of Thomas Land also encouraged the park to open over the Christmas period once again (having done so some years previously), the second year (2009) seeing a 33 per cent increase in visitor numbers over this period compared to 2008. “We saw this as a new opportunity and it has extended

our season by six weeks,” Pawley notes. “Our direction now is definitely in the family market.” And he notes other benefits too. “We had the usual

situation of an established park with retail but it was not particularly a major element. However, the Thomas Land shop has exceeded all our expectations. The power of the brand is amazing. They (guests) have to go away with something from the shop and our experience there has made us look at retail much more seriously throughout the park. “The PR we got out of the launch of Thomas Land was

massive too. We now have to ensure a balance of the Thomas Land brand and Drayton Manor brand. And we are also now a national park rather than a regional one, with visitors coming from a lot further away than they used to.”

Six Flags America, US Boasting the largest Thomas Town in North America, Six Flags America in Washington DC is a prime example of the introduction of a major IP helping to increase visitor numbers from the IP’s target age range and their families. “Six Flags Entertainment and HIT Entertainment, the

parent company of Thomas and Friends, have enjoyed a partnership for the last few years and have built Thomas- themed areas at four parks prior to the decision to add Thomas Town to Six Flags America,” commented park president John Winkler. “Thomas and Friends is wildly popular among young families - it is, in fact, the most popular brand for pre-schoolers- and we expected that the addition of Thomas Town at Six Flags America would bring young families to the park.” And he continued: “Our goal at Six Flags America

was to attract young families to the park by providing an interesting and exciting experience based around a beloved character. Our Thomas Town is the largest in North America with eight rides and attractions and is the park’s largest building project since it became a Six Flags property in 1999. We’ve seen a marked increase in our 3-11 age range of guests since Thomas Town opened. Families from around Baltimore, Washington, DC and Annapolis have flocked here to visit Thomas and, more interestingly, we’ve seen an


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