Consumers queuing up for UK theme parks

March 12, 2010

As March begins and thrill seekers all over the country eagerly await the reopening of theme parks later this month, new research from Mintel reveals that theme parks in the UK are riding high, leaving consumers queuing up for more.

The theme park sector in the UK has traded strongly through the rollercoaster of the economic recession, despite lowered consumer expenditure in general. A trend towards holidaying at home and sustained investment from the sector saw an encouraging 3% of adults visit a theme park in the UK for the first time in the past year, equating to approximately 1.2 million new visitors in 2009 alone. Furthermore, admission levels to theme parks in 2010 are set to break the 14 million level for the first time – up from 12.3 million five years ago.

Indeed, a quarter of Brits visited a UK theme park in 2009, and the vast majority (23%) of those in attendance were returning visitors, highlighting consumer appetite for more. The overall market value for the theme park sector is also booming – valued at £315 million in 2009, up 27% from £248 million in 2004.

Michael Oliver, Senior Leisure Analyst at Mintel said:

“The past two years have been very positive for the UK theme park industry, with the combined effect of economic recession and the weak pound actually working to its advantage because it persuaded more people to stay at home and take more day trips, short breaks and holidays. Just as importantly, operators are reaping the rewards of a sustained period of investment in new rides, attractions and facilities, ensuring consumers return each season and stay engaged with the market. “

And it seems our home grown theme parks are also rivalling overseas competitors as a quarter (25%) of consumers agree that the rides here are just as good as the ones in Europe and the US. Encouragingly for operators, agreement is even higher (36%) among consumers who have actually visited foreign theme parks. Furthermore, despite tighter budgets due to recession, we Brits are still keen to take away a memento of our visit – nearly one in five (19%) Brits say they usually try to bring some sort of souvenir home from their visit.

Growth in the market is also attributed to increased focus on multi-day visits, prompted by the greater availability of hotel accommodation on or near parks. Revenue generated by accommodation and additional revenue at theme parks has grown from £17 million in 2004 to a massive £31 million in 2009 and a fifth of consumers say they have stayed, or would like to stay, at an on site resort.

“While historically admissions have always amounted to the largest share of theme park revenue, this has declined over the past decade as parks have become more adept at maximising in-park spend in other areas. Investments such as on site resorts and hotels have buoyed consumer expectations and expanded what a theme park visit can offer as a leisure experience. “Michael continues.

The future also looks bright for the UK theme parks sector – with Mintel predicting further market value growth of 19% between 2009 and 2014 to £374 million and admission growth of 9% to 15 million over the same period.

However, despite our ongoing enthusiasm for the theme park experience, queuing remains the biggest obstacle – with half of all adults saying this is a deterrent. But increasing use of technology could provide the solution and several parks have already adopted virtual queuing systems. A quarter of Brits say they would be interested in a mobile app to show ride times and over a third in receiving alerts on queues via text.

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