As the winds of change sweep over the UK, its tourism brands have taken a bullish stance, building on and investing in resorts both new and old. According to BALPPA’s Paul Kelly, this trend looks set to continue into 2020 in yet another fast-paced year for the industry.
Over the past few years, as environment- and cost-conscious Brits have increasingly opted for staycations, the leisure sector has signalled its confidence with a spate of new investments and projects such as the London Resort theme park that will begin construction next year. Amid all the excitement around the ambitious £3.5 billion project, BALPPA CEO Paul Kelly believes there’s a wider story to be told about continued investment in resorts across the UK, with well-known brands tirelessly seeking to build on and improve their offer.
“The UK leisure market is quite a mature market, so it is always exciting to see significant new entrants to the sector,” said Kelly. “But whilst the London Resort offering looks interesting, I think I would focus more on the opening of the latest Gulliver’s attraction near Rotherham or the huge investment that has gone in to Paulton’s Park which have both been in the making for a few years. “Both of these investments will improve the strong brands that have been developed at these attractions over the years.”
With the staycation bug firmly gripping the nation, Kelly expects the trend towards resort creation to continue long into 2020 as the leisure industry looks for fresh ways of catering to the demand caused by Brexit and the weakened pound.
“Many attractions now offer an on-site short break option for families,” he said. “This has worked well and will continue to be popular as more attraction visitors decide to have short breaks and holidays in the UK.”
But while the weak currency clearly shoulders some responsibility for the number of Brits avoiding foreign travel, the trend can also be attributed to an increased awareness of environmental issues that has swept across the industry. As consumers seek to minimise their environmental impact by steering clear of planes, the sector’s businesses have also embraced the green philosophy, says Kelly.
“All attractions are looking at sustainability,” explained Kelly. “This covers a number of different areas from the straightforward changing of plastic straws to the consideration of how power is supplied. Governments should be aware of that changing trend and be supportive of those initiatives.”
In a sector so heavily reliant on hours of sunshine, the issue of climate change is particularly close to home for the leisure sector, with volatile weather having a knock-on effect on coastal businesses and resorts across the nation.
“An acknowledgement of the change in severity of weather patterns is something we are getting used to, so any government initiatives in this area would be timely,” added Kelly.
Paul Kelly says… “All attractions are looking at sustainability. This covers a number of different areas from the straightforward changing of plastic straws to the consideration of how power is supplied. Governments should be aware of that changing trend and be supportive of those initiatives.”
CS: There is a growing emphasis on leisure in reviving the UK’s high streets. Does BALPPA see a key role for its members in this area?
PK: There are certain leisure operations that would suit a high street location. If they are given the opportunity to establish themselves then they could definitely be part of the change that is happening. For that to happen the types of rates and regulations that are applied to retail outlets would need to be completely
CS: It’s been a tough year for the global parks and rides sector. The industry’s response to health & safety issues has been swift but how can bodies like BALPPA help and develop progress in this area?
PK: BALPPA is dedicated to H&S within our industry. We are currently running our 3rd annual ride survey throughout the UK, supported by the HSE, which is helping attractions to analyze how they manage H&S. We also sit on the Amusement Safety Device Council and will look to help that organization meet the challenges of the future within our industry.
CS: Cat D machines are a significant earner for many parks and attractions. How are you pressing the Gambling Commission on this and what are your concerns at over regulation?
PK: Our focus in this area is to support the current initiatives that Bacta have been working on and to keep a close contact with the members of the Bacta division one operators.
CS: What are the key issues facing the association and its members currently?
PK: In simple terms it will be the economy and the weather. Despite the changes that there have been in the 30 something years I have been in the industry, the actual overall challenges remain the same. It is only the detail within them that alters. Maybe one day we will be worried about how many people are taking their holiday on the moon, at the moment its back to basics.
CS: What are the key areas of growth and expansion for the sector?
PK: I think sustainability is actually is an opportunity. If attractions and destinations can tune into the national desire and become beacons for this new wave of interest then we, as an industry, could lead the way.
CS: And your key targets for the year?
PK: Getting a government to do something other than Brexit; focus on Health and Safety and Sustainability and accessibility.