Merlin Entertainments looking to acquire theme parks

Tiger Rock, Chessington World of Adventures

Merlin Entertainments has indicated that it plans to expand its portfolio of theme parks through the acquisition of existing attractions.

In an interview with the Attractions Management magazine, Merlin chief executive Nick Varney said that the company would “like to own more resort theme parks”.

“We won’t be building on any greenfield sites, other than for Legolands, so that would largely be an acquisition play,” he said.

In recent years, Merlin has largely concentrated on expanding its theme park portfolio via the construction of new Legoland attractions internationally.

Varney said the long-term strategy for Merlin’s resort theme parks was to encourage guests to stay on site for two or three days.

He said that guests then “have much richer experiences and spend more”, adding that it was also desirable to encourage guests to travel from “further afield”.

Although Merlin has steadily increased accommodation capacity at its UK theme parks, it is not until the recent re-openings after COVID-19 lockdowns that park opening hours have been significantly extended.

The company is expected to unveil proposals for a major new rollercoaster at Thorpe Park in a consultation event with local residents later on Thursday.