When UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson used a speech at a business conference to wax lyrical about a weekend trip to Peppa Pig World back in November, he was slammed as “rambling” and “embarrassing.”
However, it seems he – as the father of two young children, we should add – is not alone in enjoying coming out of lockdown and enjoying the family-friendly attractions of a trip to a theme park.
International visitor attractions operator Merlin Entertainment reports an encouraging post-pandemic recovery of 35.2 million visitors across its global operations in 2021, an increase of over 13 million on the previous year.
Its revenues also doubled in the last year to £1.26B ($1.65B) and significantly reduced losses, although remaining far short of its 2019 reported pre-tax profit of £234m. Underlying earnings and operating figures were also much healthier than during 2020. Merlin is the world’s second-biggest visitor attractions operator, and most of the 24 countries in which it operates have now lifted Covid restrictions, which brought the industry to a standstill the year before last. However, the company’s chief executive Nick Varney told the Times that its sites in China remained closed, and the company faces continued challenges and uneven global recovery.
Merlin hosts attractions starring Bear Grylls, Gangsta Granny and Mythica and owns brands including Madame Tussauds, Sea Life and Legoland. Founded in 1999, it was bought out for £6billion in 2019 by Kirkbi, working with Blackstone and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
The Bear Grylls attraction, based at Merlin’s site in Birmingham in the UK’s Midlands, was working particularly well, according to Varney, with the company building on the adventurer’s international appeal and looking to develop the Grylls concept in other sites across the world.