Related: World Leadership through People and Creative Ideas : An interview with Nick Varney, CEO of Merlin Entertainments Group / Merlin Entertainments: Rocking around the World / Is the UK Government doing enough for Tourism? / Merlin: Nick Varney’s six point growth driver plan /
Merlin was forced to abandon plans for an IPO in 2010 due to a jittery market – rethink which cost £4.9m of professional and advisory fees. The clear market leader in Europe and second only to Disney in terms of visitor admissions Merlin has an ambitious vision to become "the world-wide leader in branded, location based entertainment".
In December 2010, Blooloop asked Merlin’s MD Resort Theme Parks, Mark Fisher, what Merlin’s ultimate ambition is (see Interview with Merlin Entertainments’ Mark Fisher). Fisher says, “I’ve been asked before, “What is success for Merlin?”. The answer is, it’s not about growing and selling the company, its about one day looking at this fabulous team that is rocking around the world and knowing you’ve been part of growing that. It’s not about where we’ve been, it’s about where we’re going.”
So what does Varney have to say today (see the article in full)? A summary of his six point plan to success is:
- Existing estate growth – capital expenditure cycles planned to give each Merlin attraction something new to give people a reason to visit.
- Midway rollout – Currently being rolled out at the rate of seven to eight a year on brands such as Sea Life, Madam Tussauds and the Eye with more brands potentially being added.
- Resort positioning for theme parks – adding accommodation and Midway attractions to theme parks to transform them into resorts.
- Group synergies – From group promotions to annual passes and e-commerce platforms across Merlin attractions.
- Development of Legoland parks – Legoland Florida and Legoland Malaysia are under construction.
- Strategic acquisitions – Not all about organic growth, Varney is keen to acquire attractions of all sizes that can fit into the Merlin portfolio.
With AECOM/TEA 2010 Global Attractions Attendance Report showing a 6.5% growth in attendance for Merlin compared to 2009 to 41 million visits they’re definitely still rocking!