Why do UK parks lag behind others in the world?

Cinderella CastleWhen it comes to theme parks – specifically the ‘theme’ bit – the UK staggers behind the rest of the world.

The quality of theming at parks in Europe and the United States is fair superior in appearance and effect than that of even Britain’s most popular theme parks.

The reasons for these differences are not as clear-cut as one may assume.

Disney is a publicly-owned company that is known for effective techniques in squeezing secondary spending from guests that have already paid to come through its parks’ gates.

Yet it still manages to create magical worlds that are as pleasing on the eye and absorbing of the mind as they are thrilling in their rides.

It is somewhat obvious why Britain’s smaller independent theme parks are unable to compete with others on the world stage, but not so much so in the case of those operated by Merlin Entertainments.

The US is considerably richer than the UK, but the people of Western Europe earn around the same salary as the average Briton.

So why is it that parks in Germany, Spain and others are so far ahead of those in Britain?

The Thirteen crypt was widely criticised for its lack of effects

The Thirteen crypt was widely criticised for its lack of effects

Missed opportunities

Undoubtedly the cost-benefit analyses performed by Merlin Entertainments have determined tight budgets for theming.

It could however be argued that they are flawed.

When Alton Towers’ Thirteen was opened in 2010, there was a sense of anti-climax when the train entered the indoor crypt and the track dropped.

The falling track was truly a great innovation, but potential for greater theatre and fanfare immediately before and after was greatly under-acheived.

Merlin therefore missed out on the opportunity to create something truly memorable. It is a trait that can be seen time and time again in the attractions it has installed since its 2007 takeover of Tussauds theme parks.

Ultimately the UK seems to sell itself short. While the smaller independent parks appear to try their best with limited resources, the big player seems to go through the motions with massive resources.

Creating a more memorable experience, sense of wonder and a capturing the imagination is a recipe for success – but one that is difficult to get past the accountants and shareholders in the initial stages.

No doubt the eyebrows raised when the Cinderella Castle at Disney World was planned and built at extreme cost – turned smiles in the ensuing decades when it became a beacon of the need to inspire magic.

There is certainly no lack of imagination or inspiring concepts among UK ride designers and artists, but the execution by those with the money leaves much to be desired.