Adventure Island boss on rides, Southend and Brexit

Adventure Island, Southend

Philip Miller is the owner of the Adventure Island amusement park on Southend’s seafront.

The park begins its 2019 season this weekend, some 43 years after the Miller family took over the site.

Speaking with Ride Rater, Philip says that last year was an “OK” kind of season, being about 5% down on 2017.

“But we never have a bad year!” he adds.

Miller describes how the park feels unsupported by the British government, and in the case of the local council, actively hindered.

“Tourism is on the decline in Southend unfortunately,” he says.

“The only way to reverse this five/ten year trend is for the council to embrace the seafront and help not hinder businesses like mine.”

Adventure Island, Southend

He also sees the long-running London Resort – formally Paramount London – proposals in Kent as representing a threat should they ever become a reality.

Miller says: “If it happened, it would hurt all coastal businesses within close range on both sides of the bridge.

He adds that he thinks the large theme parks operated by Merlin Entertainments would also “take a hit”.

“We are at saturation point, not just in amusement parks like Adventure Island, but in attractions generally,” he says.

In terms of business modelling, Miller does not believe that Adventure Island’s current walk-on admission policy, with no entrance fee, is likely to change.

He says: “I doubt it. We rely too much on secondary spend, paid gates cuts your footfall.”

‘Giant coaster’

In 2007, Adventure Island made an impressive statement of intent with the opening of the Rage rollercoaster.

“Rage was a major signing for us, at the time punching way above our weight,” Miller remarks.

Rage rollercoaster, Adventure Island

He adds that the park has attempted to add further significant ride additions over the years, only to be scuppered by the local council, but investment in the park continues nonetheless.

“We have looked and tried for various other big hitters over the years, but the council nearly always find a way of stopping us,” he says.

“We once went for a giant coaster to go over and under the Pier – the planners thought we were mad!

“We have a new ride arriving at the end of the month, we are just preparing footings as we speak.

“It’s quite a large lump, around the million pound mark, so we are hoping for good summer weather wise.”

Government’s Brexit ‘atrocious’

In terms of politics, Miller is a passionate advocate of Brexit – the United Kingdom’s process of leaving the European Union.

He does not, however, have much enthusiasm for the government’s handling of the process.

“The government’s handling of Brexit has been atrocious,” he exclaims.

“We have had the wrong people negotiating for the wrong reasons, making mistake after mistake.

“Business will always do business, it’s just a matter of the government making life easier for us for a change. After all they create nothing and spend everything.

“If they keep strangling the golden goose with regulations and taxes, there will not be enough cash to pay for the police, National Health Service or teachers.

“My hope is once we are free of the EU bureaucracy and costs, life should become easier.