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Merlin Entertainments marks five years of operations in Australasia

Merlin Entertainments marks five years of operations in Australasia
April 27, 2016

Merlin Entertainments has recently marked five years of operations in Australia and New Zealand.

The world's second-biggest visitor attractions group behind Walt Disney, outside of the leisure industry UK-based Merlin is better known to consumers and visitors by its individual brands and attractions - operating 11 visitor attractions and two ski resorts in Australia and New Zealand under names such as SEA LIFE, WILD LIFE, Madame Tussauds and Treetop Adventures.

Merlin entered the Australasian market in 2011 when it paid Village Roadshow $115 million for its Sydney Attractions Group that include three of Sydney’s top tourist attractions - Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife World and the Sydney Tower Observatory and Skywalk, as well as Manly Oceanworld, the Hamilton Island Wildlife Park and Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World in Auckland.

Within 12 months of its arrival, Merlin completed takeover of the failing Living and Leisure Australia (LLA) Group’s interests including the Melbourne Aquarium, Underwater World Mooloolaba, the Victorian ski resorts of Hotham and Falls Creek, the Otway Fly and Illawarra Fly treetop walks, along with Asian assets including Siam Ocean World in Bangkok, Thailand; Shanghai Chang Feng Ocean World in China and Busan Aquarium in South Korea.

Following its arrival in the market, the company quickly undertook a multi-million dollar investment and rebranding program (the aquariums added the SEA LIFE brand while the Sydney Tower Observatory and Skywalk became the Sydney Tower Eye and SKYWALK) and other initiatives to optimise the potential of their new assets, several of which had underperformed under their previous owners.

Merlin also introduced Madame Tussauds Sydney, shoehorning the attraction between the WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo and SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium.

Mindful of the need to attract new guests and return visitors, Merlin have set out to offer new experiences and products on a regular basis that are compelling to its target markets.

As Divisional Sales & Marketing Director, Rob Smith (who has been Divisional Director - Australia & New Zealand since last August) commented early last year “we have achieved category leading results within the Merlin attractions in the Australian and New Zealand markets.

“Our work on innovation, analytics and improvement are regularly held up as benchmarks within the Group around the world."

Within individual attractions, Merlin have added additional experiences allowing guests to have access to premium and ‘behind-the-scenes’ personal offerings. These have included WILD FLIGHT - a self-propelled ride through WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo’s aviary travelling above Rex, a five metre crocodile, python and echidna encounters as well as cassowary feeds at WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo; Shark Reef snorkel tours at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium; private and multi-lingual SKYWALK tours at Sydney Tower Eye; a new ZIPLINE experience at the Illawarra Fly in the Southern Highlands and an Ice Age 4D branded experience and a glass bottom boat ride at SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium.

As the world’s biggest global aquarium operator, Merlin has also achieved some remarkable conservation work, particularly with the rehabilitation of distressed and injured marine life.

A unique element of Merlin’s Australian operations has been the management of ski resorts, acquired through its takeover of LLA, which has seen ongoing success backed by an investment of $4.5 million worth of snow-making equipment at Mt Hotham.

With Merlin having a growing footprint across Asia, operating Madame Tussauds attractions across the region as well as LEGOLAND Malaysia - and with other LEGOLANDs under development in Japan and Dubai, the LEGOLAND concept is also set to hit Australian shores.

Construction of Australia's first LEGOLAND Discovery Centre is set to begin in the coming months at Melbourne's landmark Chadstone Shopping Centre with a 2,800 metre² attraction scheduled to open in April 2017.

Looking to the future, Rob Smith concludes “the market continues to show great potential and with a growing competitor landscape, it will ensure Australia’s strength as a leisure destination with a portfolio of diverse destinations to appeal to both domestic and international visitors.

“With such on-going improvement, we continually review the product we offer, how we communicate this to our potential guests and how they seek information on the choices available.”

In Australasia, Merlin Entertainments operates the Hotham and Falls Creek Alpine Resorts in Victoria; WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo and WILD LIFE Hamilton Island; Madame Tussauds, Sydney; Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures and Otway Fly Treetop Adventures & Zip Line; the Sydney Tower Eye & SKYWALK; SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary, SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium, Underwater World SEA LIFE Mooloolaba, Queensland; and Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE Aquarium in Auckland.

The full story of Merlin Entertainments five years in Australia and New Zealand can be read in the March/April 2016 issue of Australasian Leisure Management.

Images (from top): Madame Tussauds Sydney, Zip line at the Illawarra Fly and Rob Smith.

24th April 2016 - SEA LIFE MELBOURNE AQUARIUM CELEBRATES WORLD PENGUIN DAY

27th August 2015 - WILD LIFE SYDNEY ZOO CELEBRATES BIRTH OF KOALA JOEY

19th August 2015 - AUSTRALIA’S FIRST LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTRE TO OPEN IN MELBOURNE

3rd August 2015 - WILD LIFE SYDNEY ZOO LAUNCHES NEW WILD FLIGHT AERIAL ADVENTURE

30th December 2014 - ZIPLINE CANOPY TOUR LAUNCHES AT ILLAWARRA FLY

18th August 2014 - ATTRACTIONS AND FACILITIES LINK WITH WOOLWORTHS EVERYDAY REWARDS PROGRAM

16th July 2012 - SYDNEY AQUARIUM TO RELAUNCH AS SEA LIFE SYDNEY AQUARIUM

16th May 2012 - MERLIN TO RELAUNCH OCEANWORLD MANLY AS MANLY SEA LIFE SANCTUARY

18th February 2012 - MERLIN CONFIRMS LIVING AND LEISURE AUSTRALIA TAKEOVER 

10th August 2011 - MERLIN GIVES SYDNEY TOWER A FACELIFT 


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Asking a small favour
We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?

The news we publish at www.ausleisure.com.au is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.

Subscriptions cost just $90 a year.

Click here to subscribe.

 

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