Merlin Entertainments has posted a bullish prediction for the future of its global attractions estate, following the “short-term challenges” of 2020 – which saw revenue decline 64 percent.
Merlin Entertainments has stated it remains “confident” in the future of the business despite recording a 64.2 percent decline in revenue for 2020, with takings dropping from £1.74bn in 2019 to £629m last year.
With visitor figures falling from 67 million to 22 million due to Coronavirus restrictions, the Legoland, Thorpe Park and Alton Towers operator revealed a £319m loss for the period, almost mirroring the £342m profit recorded in 2019.
“Despite the many short-term challenges presented by Covid-19, we remain confident in the opportunities for the future that our diverse business has,” said CEO Nick Varney. “On reopening we have seen surging domestic demand and we are now recovering strongly.”
“When we were able to open our attractions, it became clear that there is still demand for high quality days out with family and friends, despite the restrictions imposed by social distancing.”
Noting that Merlin “got experience of the pandemic early” through its extensive Asian attraction portfolio, Varney outlined the range of cost-cutting measures implemented by the firm, such as reducing marketing and advertising spend and reducing planned capital expenditure, while taking advantage of international furlough schemes.
The operator also raised £428m in additional liquidity by issuing five-year bonds in April 2020.
Despite the revenue decline, guest satisfaction remained at 94 percent for the period, as Merlin pivoted its event offering toward large-scale outdoor events when restrictions permitted, such as Oktoberfest 2020 at Alton Towers and Thorpe Park, and its extensive Halloween programme.
Reflecting on the progress made since the reporting period, Varney added “our hotels, resort theme parks and Legoland parks have benefited from the staycation impact, with those in Europe and the UK performing particularly well. Our Sea Life centres, especially in coastal areas, also saw strong demand.” “Our Covid-secure attractions, adopting Merlin’s best in class health and safety protocols, have allowed the public to enjoy quality time together, which after the stresses of the pandemic are so crucial to people’s mental health and wellbeing.” Looking ahead, Merlin stated it will focus on expansion of its Resort Theme Parks and Legoland properties, opening a number of “second gate” offerings alongside major attractions; such as the Peppa Pig Theme Park due at Legoland Florida in 2022.