Alton Towers has just issued a press release about its expansion plans. There is much talk of the employment opportunities and spin off to local accommodation providers. Good, good, we like that. The detail of the many statistics, however, didn’t mention how many of the employees at the hotels and theme park are actually from Staffordshire, I suspect considerably more are from seasonal workers from places like eastern europe. Stop me now! I am trying to stick to the the good news . . .
In the report in our local paper, The Sentinal,( http://ow.ly/5mQ7 for full report) Liz Greenwood, Alton Towers communications manager is quoted as saying that they are wanting to move from a teen attraction to a family-friendly destination. Let’s hope they are successful at that. Ms Greenwood said:
"We are trying to reposition ourselves from a teenage market to cater for families. In trying to encourage families to stay for longer, there is a need to provide further accommodation of some kind."
Ms Greenwood said the resort would seek to do more than just erect "world class" roller-coasters – such as the Corkscrew's replacement for 2010, "Secret Weapon Six" – to entice thrill-seekers from all over the UK. She said: "In 2008, we worked extremely hard to attract families and we were very successful – growing in this sector from 35 per cent to 50 per cent of our total volume.
"Now, 75 per cent of our rides and attractions are suitable for children under 10."
Trouble is, that it’s impossible just to stick to this glimmer of good news when there is detail buried in these statistics. Ms Greenwood added that only 10% of the visitors stay at the on site hotels. I shall add to that my guestimate that another 10% stay locally. That means that 80% of the 2.5m visitors are travelling to and from the resort as day trippers (although that isn’t the thrust of the story). That’s a lot of traffic on our country roads, but let’s not start the bypass debate right now! This is another reason why I am focussing on the positive of marketing to families coming for more than one day. I shan’t miss the scary driving habits of the day-tripping twenty-somethings playing hooky off work who, in their eagerness, are pumping their accelerators. Nor shall I rue encountering those enormous coaches of day-trippers that I now associate with the possibility of having dodgy brakes. I shall herald their replacements – I am imagining a stream of well driven family Prius-type cars . . .
So to end on a positive. . . .! I am delighted that more families are being encouraged to come to Alton Towers because many will stay over longer and discover that there is so much more to this area than a theme park. I am confident these families will have a holiday to remember. We will make you welcome. Families of 4 or 5 report that they love it at our holiday cottage, Barks.