co.uk 2012). These issues can negatively affect the economic impact of the parks operations.
- Visitor Experience and Quality
As noted above, variability can have a huge impact on economics. However, the intangibles of visitor experience and quality have been affected as well. Visitor perceptions have a lot of relationship to the visitor experience and its quality. This is what the attractions sell and it is much more abstract and harder to qualify which is why this critical feature of management is often ignored (Week 8: Visitor Experience 2012). The performance of the attraction itself will have a direct impact upon user experience and satisfaction (ibid). Swarbroke notes "Visitor attractions are at the heart of the tourism industry, they are motivators that make people want to take a trip in the first place (Swarbroke, 2002)."
This author visited the park on March 21th, 2012 and had a chance to play the Swarm, which was operating normally. As for the malfunction incident, they believe that this will have some effect on the number of visitors who want to play the new ride and will affect the park's income. This is due to the payment structure of the park. By paying the admission fee, the customer can play most of the older rides for free (by not all the rides). New ones such as the Swarm have to be paid for separately. However, because the malfunction happened on the first day, it is understandable that a problem might occur. Moreover, the target of the park are young people, so they tend to forget this minor malfunction and give it a try as the incident was not serious.
As far as wait times, the author got the fast track ticket to play the new Swarm ride but from there were not so many guests as expected for a new ride. However, this maybe because it was near the closing time for the park. The author noticed that there were more than hundred of people waiting to play on the ride. The waiting time board said 45 minutes (which is unrealistic). As the ride can carry around 28 people at a time and it takes only 45 seconds to play, they could have been quickly and easily accommodated so that the user experience and quality would not have been adversely affected.
Part Two-Improvement of the Attractions
In all, the author found the user experience satisfactory. It appears as though the present season should be as good for Thorpe Park as the 2011 season was. However, as with any major new ride, the Swarm will have problems. This will be a problem for the management to overcome so it does not negatively affect the user experience quality, especially at busy times when people might have to wait and tempers would be up. This will only work its way out with time. The other problem is the payment structure where some rides have to be paid for separately. If there was one park fee, this could overcome the problem and increase the park efficiency process. There also could have been more live entertainment in the park. This gives an air of spontaneity that the author believes was less that optimal. Bands such as You Me at Six recently revealed their new song the Swarm which was written for Thorpe Park's new roller coaster (Sugar Scape 2012).
Thorpe Park Marketing
Thorpe Park is very good at all of the aspects of its marketing and this has proven results. They follow the 4 P's, which is otherwise known as the Marketing Mix. The 4 P's for marketing Thorpe Park are a) Place b) Product c) Price d) Promotion (Belohlavek 2008, 14).
The park was located in a very good spot that is completely surrounded by water. This can be used as a river and attracts people for the wet rides. It also attracts people due to its nice views. Thorpe uses the water scenery to advantage on the rides (Fyall, Leask, Garrod and Wanhill 2008, 65). The park is just some twenty miles from the very centre of London and very close to the M25 and M3. This gives it good access roads for the public which have to travel from a distance to get to there. The road itself is a tourist attraction (Barkham 2012).
Recommendations for Improvement-
The problem with the park is definitely the wait times. This makes it very time consuming to use the park and this makes the user experience negative. The whole idea behind a theme park is to be timeless and this cuts into that feeling. Further, waiting only makes the user edgy and nervous, causing unnecessary irritations. No one wants to go to a park where they have to wait.
Also, there needs to be one fee for the park. This would lower wait times and speed up the lines at the rides. Otherwise, the ticket system needs to be revamped by providing more ticket sellers and more lines to buy tickets. The fast track tickets need to be able to be used on all of the rides and not just the older ones.
There needs to be better ambulance and emergency vehicle access. It is very difficult for the emergency vehicles to get through. Also, there are safety concerns with the Swarm. While in the park in line, the author spoke with many people who were afraid to get on the ride due to its having stopped recently. While it is expected that a ride should have some teething problems, it also needs to be tested thoroughly before being put into operation.
There are a number of sundry issues that can be listed. The locker price needs to be lower. There also need to be more picnic tables and garbage cans and they need to be more spread throughout the park. There needs to be more food variety in the park. There also needs to be more live entertainment. The live music would help when having to wait at rides to make the experience more pleasant and the time go by faster.
There needs to be more attention to customer service in the park. If there were more questionnaires in the park for customers to voice concerns, this would be better. After all, the user experience and quality is based upon customer service and if there are no questionnaires available, it makes the park look as if it does not care about the customer at all.
Additionally, there needs to be more poster advertising and bulletin boards so that one does not have to text all the time on their PDA to find out about park updates. One can not be texting all the time and the SMS costs a lot of money if you use it too much on your call plan. It is not the customer's responsibility to keep informed about the park's happenings. This is the responsibility of the park to advertise effectively on its website and on posters and TV and radio ads. The customer should not have to run up their phone bill too much for this.
Also, the author thinks that it is very to have bare chested stars promoting the rides. The author heard a lot of bad comments about the publicity stunt that the park did recently with the television star Mark Wright where he rode rides without a shirt on (Peace FM Online 2012).
In this short essay, the author has provided a critique of the management of Thorpe Park, both good and bad. In it, we examined the topics of marketing, operations and impact management and visitor experience and quality. In Part One, we examined the marketing, operations and impact management and visitor experience and quality. In Part Two of the critique, we focused upon the improvement of the Thorpe Park visitor attraction, including improving features that do work well.
All things being said, Merlin Entertainment is a large company that is in business to make money. If they were not running Thorpe Park with some efficiency and managerial sense, Merlin would either sell or close the park altogether. However, as we noted, the high quality of the user experience is the all encompassing goal of visitor attraction management. If it is neglected, any business can suffer, especially in hard economic times. This would be unfortunate, as Thorpe Park seems to have weathered the present recessionary downturn successfully to this point. More attention to this point can insure that it will do so into the foreseeable future to come.
Bbc.co.uk. (2012). Thorpe Park Rollercoaster Swarm Stops, Leaving People Stuck. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-17389375. Last accessed 1 April 2012.
Barkham, P. (2012). M25 is UK's newest tourist attraction. Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/mar/12/m25-coach-tour-surprise-hit?newsfeed=true. Last accessed 2 April 2012.
Belohlavek, P. (2008). Unicist Marketing Mix . New York: Unicist Research Institute. p. 13.