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Merlin research reveals US and UK guests are ready to return to theme parks

Merlin Entertainments and Oracle have released research that shows consumers in the US and UK are ready to return to theme parks.

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Merlin Entertainments and technology provider Oracle’s research found that potential guests to US and UK theme parks are experiencing the ‘JOLA’ phenomenon, aka the ‘joy of looking ahead’.

In the US, consumers keen to visit theme parks rose from 68 percent to 80 percent between May and June. In the UK, 80 percent are ‘optimistic’ about attending leisure attractions.

The research explores how consumers are buying, behaving and booking this summer, also highlighting how technology will enhance the visitor experience at attractions such as Legoland, Alton Towers and SEA LIFE Centres.

“After a difficult year with limited entertainment, guests are excited about a summer of fun,” said Lee Cowie, chief technology officer at Merlin. “With the ‘Joy of Looking Ahead’ effect in full flow, our customers want to plan and purchase ahead too.”

Consumers experiencing ‘JOLA’ phenomenon

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“Pre-ordering meals, refreshments, photos and checking-in online are all happening before they even arrive. Our guests are excited for feel-good experiences, but they want to feel safe and in control at the same time,” Cowie added.

“For Merlin, the pre-planning technology we’re bringing in offers guests the ability to tailor and personalise their stay while allowing us to flex our business to allow for things like social distancing, staff support and food and beverage pre-ordering.”

1 in 3 US guests and 1 in 5 UK travellers are staying closer to home, while 20 percent of UK visitors and 25 percent of UK guests are booking more weekend trips and shorter visits.

The research also shows that 54 percent of guests would like to plan their trip in advance, 59 percent of families would prefer a ‘fast pass’ system, and 40 percent of families would pay more to pre-book.

In addition, 48 percent of Millennials would be happy to provide preferences to receive relevant offers on the day, and 58 percent of respondents would like to see hotspots on maps to avoid busy areas.

UK guests ‘optimistic’ about visiting attractions

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Simon de Montfort, senior vice president and general manager of Oracle F&B, said: “Nearly 70 percent of consumers want to visit a theme park as soon as possible and technology will play an increasing role in delivering a memorable experience.

“As patrons return, Merlin Resort Theme Parks are well prepared to meet new customer expectations, such as using technology to order food ahead, while driving additional revenue streams.”

Also, nearly 80 percent of consumers feel that F&B is an important part of the experience. 52 percent of customers would buy more food and drinks if they could avoid queues, while 54 percent believe that pre-ordering F&B should be the new normal.

The research found that 41 percent of families would love to interact with the attraction through a mobile app, and 24 percent of Generation Z prefer to use a QR code system to order F&B. 28 percent of Boomers still prefer staffed-concessions.

Images: Merlin

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Bea Mitchell

A journalist specialising in entertainment and attractions, Bea loves theme parks (mainly Disney) and is particularly interested in things of a gothic, horror or fantasy nature.

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