This analyst adds that Andy Davies of the Tussauds Group that operates Alton Towers reports that park visitors subscribing to the "Magic Moments" DVD "simply see it as a fun souvenir," and adds, "Research shows that our visitors have a positive propensity to purchase these products, providing themselves with a personalized reminder of the day they and their friends and family had at Alton Towers. The system proposed will allow guests to relive their unique day time and time again through personalized digital video footage'" (quoted in Tucker at 10).
These types of innovative marketing initiatives are important for a theme park competing in the United Kingdom today because of the approaching saturation levels that appear to be developing in some regions of the country. For instance, besides the historic attractions that are ubiquitous throughout the United Kingdom, Alton Towers is also in competition with a number of other theme parks and resorts in the area that a part of the Merlin Entertainments Group, including Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures, Sea Life and Legoland Windsor.
A discussion of the nature of international visitors that the attraction receives presently
International visitors to London and its environs have a veritable smorgasbord of destination choices available to them, and some indication of the respective popularity of some of the leading attractions in the area can be discerned from the "top fifteen" list provided in Table __ and Figure __ below (Figure __ illustrates the top ten tourist destinations for clarity's sake).
Top Fifteen Tourist Destinations in London and Environs
Number of Visitors
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
British Museum, London
National Gallery, London
Palace Pier, Brighton
Alton Towers, Staffordshire
Westminster Abbey, London
Madame Tussaud's, London (a part of Merlin Entertainments Group)
Pleasure Beach, Great Yarmouth
Tower of London
St. Paul's Cathedral, London
Tate Gallery, London
Natural History Museum, London
Figure __. Top Ten Tourist Destinations in London and Environs
Source: Munson 1999
As can be seen from Figure __ above, Blackpool Pleasure Beach was the top destination draw in terms of the number of visitors, with Alton Towers following in fifth place among these selected destinations. According to a report from Munson (1999), "
It is interesting to note that apart from Alton Towers and Southport's 'Pleasureland' (both 'leisure parks'), the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and the three cathedrals, the other venues were all creations of the nineteenth century" (2). Although this data was from several years ago, it does provide a useful benchmark by which informed estimates of the number of Thai visitors who would likely select these destinations from the array of choices available to them. There are some important considerations involved in this analysis, though, including the fact that Thailand enjoys numerous beaches and scenic vistas that are unmatched in the world, suggesting that Thais might prefer something different from a beach-based experience. Moreover, many Thais may not be aware or interested in a theme park adventure because of the lack of comparable facilities in their own country. In many ways, the offerings of amusement parks in Thailand are similar to the situation in the UK. For instance, Bangkok has several outdoor amusement parks and a growing number of indoor facilities that are being constructed as additions to department stores and shopping centers (Thai amusement parks 2010). For example, Thais can enjoy Siam Park in Minburi, Dream World, or the Siam Water Park (Suan Siam) which offers a large man-made swimming pool that features artificial surf, beach, whirlpools, fountains, waterfalls and towering water slides; the park is heavily landscaped and also contains additional attractions such as children's playgrounds, aviaries, an open zoo and botanical gardens (Thai amusement parks 2010). Other attractions include Thailand's largest open zoo, Safari World (Thai amusement parks 2010). Outside of Bangkok, though, there are few attractions available, with the resort city of Pattaya offering an indoors Ripley's World of Entertainment and Pattaya Park providing a package deal where park visitors are provided with an overnight stay in the hotel included (Thai amusement parks 2010).
The competitive environment in which Alton Towers competes is also characterized by this concentration of attractions in the capital city. In this regard, Munson advises, "Again, the problem London faces in 'managing tourism' is seen in the fact that of the fifteen top attractions, eight were in the capital. Holidays have been for many decades a marked feature of British life and it was an Englishman, Thomas Cook, who created the idea of the 'package holiday'. As a result, various seaside resorts like Blackpool or Great Yarmouth sprang up in the nineteenth century, places where urban residents could escape the pollution and noise for the fresh air and, relatively, clean water" (2). As noted above, because some Thai visitors may be uninterested in a beach-based adventure but will be unaware or uninterested in a theme park adventure for various reasons, any marketing initiative intended to promote interest and attendance by Thai visitors must take these factors into account. Furthermore, it is reasonable to suggest that some mix of the remaining top non-beach destinations noted in Figure __ above were among the most attended by foreign visitors in general and Thai visitors in particular, an assertion that is supported by Munson's observation that, "It is interesting that of 56,000,000 'long holidays', 33,000,000 were taken in Britain itself. This statistic, and not the foreign visitor, explains the estimate of 6,700,000 visitors to Blackpool, the most famous Victorian seaside resort" (1999, 2).
A recent news article ("Win 5 Family Breaks to Alton Towers Resort" 2008) illustrates some of the ways the park has teamed up with local media sources to promote itself. According to this report, in an event that was intended to celebrate Father's Day, Alton Towers Resort teamed up with Homes & Holidays to award five lucky families with so-called "Family Breaks" that are described as follows: "Our lucky winners can imagine they're on the high seas in one of the resort's new Pirate-themed areas, Mutiny Bay, as each prize includes two days' entry to the theme park and water park, a round of Extraordinary Golf and access to the Alton Towers Spa. There's also overnight accommodation in the Pirate-themed room at the Splash Landings Hotel with dinner and breakfast included" ("Win 5 Family Breaks" 2008).
A report from Brown ("Merlin Will Rival Disney with [Pounds Sterling]1bn Tussauds Deal" 2007) noted some of the corporate reorganizations that have taken place within Merlin Entertainments Groups that will likely have at least some impact on attendance at Alton Towers and which make the parent company one of the world's largest entertainment enterprises (second only to Disney). "Madame Tussauds' waxworks museums are being bought by the owner of Legoland and the London Dungeon in a deal that creates a [pounds sterling]2bn leisure giant, second only to Disney in the visitor attractions market," Brown notes, and adds that there is an enormous amount of incentive involved for management of Alton Towers: "Merlin Entertainments Group could now head for the stock market in a few years time - a move that would net around 100 staff, including managers of theme parks such as Alton Towers, an average of [pounds sterling]720,000 each. The deal, subject to regulatory approval, means Merlin's Legoland, Dungeons and Sea Life brands will come under the same umbrella as Tussauds Group's six waxworks museums, the British Airways London Eye, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and Chessington World of Adventures" (Brown 73).
In July 2006, Alton Towers sponsored a "Fun Day" for Moslems that met with mixed reactions from the public; although the event was intended to be for both Moslems and non-Moslems, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee did not in any way endorse this fun day and took efforts to emphasize that it has been organized by Muslim Leisure (Fun day for all faiths, 2006). Likewise, other marketing initiatives by Alton Towers that have been intended to increase weekday attendance have been met with mixed reviews. In article entitled, "Theme park 'pushing absenteeism'" Lorimer (2004) emphasizes that, "One in three adult weekday visitors to Alton Towers lied to get time off. The theme park Alton Towers has been strongly criticised by business groups for encouraging people to make false excuses to get time off work to visit. The park has discovered one in three of its adult visitors during the week has lied to employers to spend a day there" (3). In response to claims by the Federation of Small Businesses that the marketing efforts by the park are contributing to these trends, Alton Towers counters that it is not their responsibility to address absenteeism in the workplace, notwithstanding the seriousness of its own findings (Lorimer 2004). In fact, a study by the park found…