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Merlin Entertainments looks at Australian expansion

Merlin Entertainments looks at Australian expansion
October 12, 2018

Merlin Entertainments - the biggest owner of visitor attractions in Australia and New Zealand - is on track for a record year and actively scouting for expansion opportunities.

Divisional Director Rob Smith is predicting that that visitor numbers to Merlin’s local attractions for 2018 will be up by 3% to 4% over last year.

According to Smith, the improved performance is based on excellent natural snow fall boosting visitor numbers at its Mount Hotham and Falls Creek ski resorts in Victoria over the winter; strong full-year performance from its newest attraction, LegoLand Discovery Centre Melbourne, which opened last April; robust visitation for its major attraction, Sea Life Sydney Aquarium complemented by what Smith says has been “very very good growth out of Sea Life Melbourne” and continued buoyant international tourism.

However, Smith is mindful that the Australian attractions market is becoming increasingly competitive, partly as a result of international tourists - who make up around 50% of its business - taking shorter breaks.

Smith explains “you could almost say that Australia is becoming a short-break destination for certain international markets - the average length of time spent in destination is definitely shrinking.”

As reported by Travel Trends, Smith sees that that Merlin’s local growth is largely predicated on the health of Asian inbound tourism market, in particular from India and China.

He also advised that Merlin is actively scouting further sites for another LegoLand Discovery Centre while the company is also interested in bringing its ‘Dungeons’ brand to Australia.

Merlin Entertainments is the world’s second largest ‘family entertainment’ company behind Disney with more than 130 attractions globally.

It’s been operating in Australia since 2011, when it entered the market through the acquisition of the Sydney Attractions Group for $110 million.

The deal included Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Tower and Sydney Wildlife World.

One year later it spent a further $140 million to buy Living and Leisure Australia Group, which included Melbourne Aquarium, and the Mount Hotham and Falls Creek ski resorts.

It also owns Madame Tussauds and operates a total of 13 attractions in Australia and New Zealand.

Smith is a speaker at Travel IQ - a new one-day conference exploring the business of tourism - being held at The Langham, Sydney on Wednesday 24th October.

Travel IQ is aimed at entrepreneurs, owners, directors, investors, managers and key executives.

Click here for more information on the Travel IQ conference in the Australasian Leisure Management industry Calendar.

Images: Merlin is looking to introduce its Dungeons brand into Australia (top) and Rob Smith (below).

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