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, who is speaking at Travel IQ in Sydney on October 24, predicts that visitor numbers to Merlin’s local attractions for 2018 will be up by 3% to 4% over last year. 

Highlights include:

  • Excellent natural snow fall boosting visitor numbers at its Mount Hotham and Falls Creek ski resorts in Victoria.
  • 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 “very very good growth out of Sea Life Melbourne”.
  • Continued buoyant international tourism.

Smith says the Australian attractions market is becoming increasingly competitive.

One reason is the international tourists – which comprise around 50% of its business – are taking shorter breaks.

“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,” says Smith.

He says that Merlin’s local growth is largely predicated on the health of Asian inbound tourism market, India and China in particular, and adds that expansion is very much on the agenda for Merlin in Australia.

Smith says 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.

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