Record visitor numbers at Merlin attractions

UK-based theme park giant Merlin Entertainments overcame terrorist attacks in 2017 to report improved profits and record visitor numbers of 66 million.

The Legoland and Madame Tussauds parent saw a 4.8% rise in annual pre-tax profits to £271 million in 2017, as the number of visitors to its attractions grew by 3.5% year-on-year.

Revenue for 2017 was up by 11.6% to almost £1.6 billion.

Merlin is in the process of creating themed accommodation and developing its theme parks into short break resorts, with 644 more rooms due to be opened this year on the back of 383 in 2017.

The group expects to spend between £70 million and £80 million a year in the “medium term” on the short-break positioning.

Nick Varney, chief executive (pictured), said: “A year that started well with positive momentum in almost every part of the group was ultimately defined by the unprecedented spate of terror attacks in the UK and poor to extreme weather throughout the summer season in Europe.

“Despite this, thanks to the efforts of our extraordinary team, we have reported overall growth in revenue, profit and cash flow, welcoming 66 million visitors – our highest on record.

“We also announced in October plans to open a Legoland park in New York State in 2020, and the launch of two new IP based (intellectual property) attraction formats – ‘The Bear Grylls Adventure’ and ‘Peppa Pig’.

“Merlin continues to evolve and, with attractive market fundamentals and the right strategy in place, we remain highly confident in the long-term prospects for the business.”

The company described trading at this seasonally quiet winter point in the year as being in line with expectations.