Merlin Entertainments sees mixed peak season

Merlin Entertainments reported a mixed performance over the summer as the heatwave helped its outdoor theme parks but held back attendance at indoor attractions.

The theme parks giant achieved organic revenue growth of 4.7% in the 40 weeks to October 6.

Merlin’s resort theme parks saw revenue rise by 9% “with particularly strong like-for-like trading due to successful product investment and favourable weather”.

Legoland Parks revenue rose by 6.4% and accommodation by 27.7% due to a rise in short breaks.

However, the company’s indoor Midway Attractions division – which runs more than 100 attractions in 22 countries such as Sea Life and Madame Tussauds – saw an expected decline in like-for-like revenues, with new openings phased towards the end of the year.

“Trading in the Midway Attractions operating group continues to be driven largely by trends in London – Midway’s largest division,” the company said in a trading update.

“As anticipated, London declined in the first half of the year, reflecting the continued adverse impact of the terror attacks which took place in 2017.

“However, summer trading has shown early signs of a recovery, with increasingly consistent, if modest, year-on-year growth reported in recent weeks.

“Elsewhere, as previously disclosed, after a strong start to the year our Midway Europe division has seen more difficult trading due to the very warm weather.

“Our new business development programme has been weighted towards the second half of the year, with four of the six new attractions opened in the last two months.”

Merlin launched two new brands – Peppa Pig World of Play in Shanghai and The Bear Grylls Adventure in Birmingham (pictured) – during the period.

Strong trading at theme park resorts continued throughout the summer.

“Weather in Northern Europe has remained favourable, particularly when compared to 2017, and we have enjoyed the benefit of strong product investment, which included the ‘Wicker Man’ wooden roller coaster at Alton Towers, and ‘Peppa Pig Lands’ at Gardaland and Heide Park,” Merlin said.

The company added: “Reflecting the trends experienced to date, Merlin anticipates reporting 2018 results in line with market expectations.”

Nick Varney, chief executive, said: “Group trading has been in line with expectations.

“We have opened a record 644 rooms, and six new Midway attractions which has resulted in organic revenue growth of 4.7%.

“Continued strong guest demand for our themed accommodation offering and the ongoing trend towards short breaks has driven 27.7% growth in accommodation revenue.”

He added: “The impact of terror attacks which adversely affected performance from early 2017 has started to abate and we have seen early signs of recovery in the London tourism market over the summer.

“We are excited by the recent launch of our two new Midway brands – The Bear Grylls Adventure in Birmingham, UK, and Peppa Pig World of Play in Shanghai.

“It is too early to comment on their commercial success, which as for all new brands could take time to build, but the attractions look fantastic and we are pleased with early guest feedback.

“The cost environment remains challenging, with tighter labour markets in many parts of the world adding to the pressures resulting from legislative changes such as the National Living Wage in the UK.

“Our productivity agenda remains a key area of focus, and it is testament to our teams that, despite these cost pressures, we have continued to deliver excellent levels of guest satisfaction overall.

“The underlying fundamentals of our markets are strong and we remain excited by the global opportunities that Merlin enjoys.”

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