The past couple of months at Alton Towers Resort have proved to be one of the toughest periods in the Resort’s history. There is no doubt that the Resort has come under intense media scrutiny since the events of 2nd June and that there has been an impact on the number of visitors to the Theme Park. TowersTimes takes a look at the impact of recent events on Alton Towers and how the Resort can move forward to win the public back.
At the end of July the first indications of the financial impact of The Smiler incident were revealed by Merlin Entertainments. As a result of the five day closure of the park, the closure of rides at Alton Towers Resort, Thorpe Park Resort, and Chessington World of Adventures Resort for new safety protocols to be implemented, and a reduction in visitor numbers, Merlin Entertainments reduced the forecasted profits for its theme park division by £47 million with profits potentially being impacted into 2016. Despite some national newspapers trying to paint a picture of a deserted Theme Park with hardly any visitors, guests have still been making their way to the Resort, with CBeebies Land and other family attractions in particular still attracting notable queues. Some people have noticed that the usually hectic school summer holiday period, which typically sees queues of over an hour for some of the Theme Park’s biggest attractions (including Nemesis and Air), has been quieter than usual in terms of queue times for the largest rides, with many large rides having queues of under 20 minutes, and at time being walk on, it would seem that guests are still enjoying other parts of the Resort’s attractions.
One of the most noticeable impacts of recent events is the intense media scrutiny the Resort has come under with, at times, seemingly every minor issue with a ride being reported. As discussed in our special editorial, many of the ‘issues’ which have been reported are within the normal operational parameters and occur on rides worldwide every day. More recently the media coverage has begun to focus on the impact of the accident on those most seriously injured with both Joe Pugh and Leah Washington giving interviews to This Morning and The Mail on Sunday discussing how things have changed for them since the accident. Perhaps most significant though is the most recent article from The Mail on Sunday speculating on the cause of the accident. Whilst what the paper reports may seem to be based on fact, it is important to realise that none of what has been stated in the article has been provided by Alton Towers Resort or the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Until the investigation has been completed by the HSE nothing can be confirmed regarding exactly what occurred on the day of the accident, nor can any plans for the future of the ride itself be determined.
Recent weeks have seen the Resort begin to look forward once again in an effort to encourage guests to return to the park. After a temporary suspension immediately after the incident and the withdrawal of the ‘Big 6’ promotion, Alton Towers’ marketing got back into full swing with the Towers Tastic Summer campaign which has seen the resort launch a number of incentives to help attract visitors over the key summer period. These have included discounts on accommodation, giveaways within the park which has seen guests receive vouchers for anything from a free ice cream or free fastrack, to free All Day Dining, the introduction of new pop badges and a competition to find a ‘superfan’. Most recently the details for this year’s Scarefest have been released, revealing a completely re-vamped event with two new mazes and two new scare zones, plus a new extreme escape room experience. This total refresh signifies the park is keen to keep investing in new attractions to help boost visitor numbers during what will be a crucial Halloween period. With the Resort already releasing teasers for this year’s Halloween festivities it is clear that a lot of emphasis is being placed on what is traditionally one of the Resort’s most popular events.
Plans are also being made for the longer term future of the Resort with a number of planning applications having recently been submitted to, or approved by, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council. 2016 will see the resort open the first Rollercoaster restaurant in the UK, alongside a number of alterations to the theming and station of Air. Looking further ahead, there are also plans for the expansion of the Alton Towers Hotel which, if granted, will open in mid-2017 indicating that the Resort has confidence that visitor numbers will not be affected long term and will in fact increase in the next few years. Merlin Entertainments have also stated that they intend to proceed with their planned investments as normal and will not be delaying any of the major investments earmarked for the Resort, indicating that the company is confident that business will improve in the long term.
Whilst it is without question that the impact of The Smiler accident will be apparent for some time to come, it is clear that the Resort is trying to make positive steps forward to help restore public confidence in the Resort, and at the same time co-operate fully with the HSE’s investigation. It is currently unknown how long it will be until the investigation will be complete, until that time it is impossible to say for certain what caused the events of that day.
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