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NEWS
New Merlin CEO, Scott O'Neil, reveals his plans for the post-Varney era
POSTED 07 Jun 2023 . BY Tom Walker
O’Neil was appointed Merlin CEO in November 2022 Credit: Merlin Entertainments
Scott O'Neil has revealed that data will play a major role in attractions giant Merlin's future plans
The American took over from Nick Varney as Merlin CEO in November 2022
O'Neil said what got the company to where it was now was "probably not going to get it to where it ultimately wants to go"
O'Neil was speaking exclusively to Attractions Management
Scott O'Neil has revealed that data will play a major role in attractions giant Merlin's plans to upgrade its existing attractions and further grow its business across global markets.

Speaking exclusively to Magali Robathan, editor of Attractions Management, the American – who took over as Merlin's CEO from industry legend, Nick Varney, in November 2022 – outlined his priorities after five months in the job.

He revealed there's likely to be a change in approach as the company moves into the "post-Varney" era.

“What got Merlin to where we are now is probably not going to get us to where we ultimately want to go," he said.

"A lot of my focus is on our strategy – how do we reset that? What’s it going to look like?

Describing himself as a “bit of a data junkie,” O’Neil said a major focus will now be to understand more about Merlin’s customers and their preferences – rather than simply "building new rollercoasters".

“Data will help us understand what experiences we should be acquiring, enable us to custom-tailor our experiences for our visitors and encourage them to come back more often,” he said.

“A lot of our emphasis will be on pricing, data, F&B and retail to make sure those are four things we do at a world-class level.

“It may not be as interesting as building a rollercoaster or doing the next deal with Sony Entertainment or Ferrari, but these things are at the core of the business.”

In terms of pricing, O’Neil is keen to implement new practices, such as “a more sophisticated dynamic pricing model".

"The guest experience is hugely impacted by how many people are side by side with you," he said.

"If you’ve been to an overcrowded theme park, you’d be hard-pressed to say that it was as good an experience as if the numbers were regulated – and one way to regulate that is with dynamic pricing.”

O’Neil added, however, that the new, data-driven direction of travel doesn't mean Merlin won't be investing in new attractions.

This has been reflected the number of new projects announced since his arrival.

These include North America’s second Peppa Pig Theme Park, which is due to open in north Texas in 2024; the construction of a £35m 150-lodge Legoland Holiday Village at Legoland Windsor; and a global partnership with Ferrari to develop immersive themed brand experiences at three Legoland theme parks.

“We’re in a growth phase right now and we’re very bullish about our future,” O'Neil told Attractions Management.

“When we last updated the market, we said trading is good, the US and the UK have been particularly strong. Asia’s still got some recovery left, but Europe’s been good, Australia is doing well. We’re doing great."

* To read the full interview in Issue 2/2023 of Attractions Management, click here.
RELATED STORIES
  FEATURE: Interview: Scott O'Neil


US sports and entertainment veteran O’Neil is now CEO of Merlin Entertainments and he has big plans for the company. Magali Robathan sat down with him
  Merlin plans to make London Eye a permanent fixture


Created as part of the millennium celebrations more than 20 years ago, the 135m-tall observation wheel opened to passengers in 2000 and has since become one of the UK's most popular paid-for visitor attractions.
  Merlin promotes Fiona Eastwood to chief operating officer


Merlin Entertainments has named Fiona Eastwood as chief operating officer for its midway attractions and resort theme parks divisions.
  Scott O’Neil takes the reins from Nick Varney at Merlin Entertainment


Merlin Entertainments, the UK-based global attractions operator which is second only to Disney in size, has chosen its new CEO, following the retirement of its founder, Nick Varney.
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Museum director Cecilie Hollberg has come under fire for comparing the city to a sex worker due to uncontrolled mass tourism.
Populous reveals plans for major e-sports arena in Saudi Arabia
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Vekoma Rides has a large variety of coasters and attractions. [more...]
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David & Lynn Willrich started the Company over thirty years ago, from the Audio Visual Department [more...]
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The company was initially established in 1997. Terry Monkton and Andrew Roberts are the key stakeh [more...]
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IDEATTACK is a full-service planning and design company with headquarters in Los Angeles. [more...]
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08-08 May 2024

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NEWS
New Merlin CEO, Scott O'Neil, reveals his plans for the post-Varney era
POSTED 07 Jun 2023 . BY Tom Walker
O’Neil was appointed Merlin CEO in November 2022 Credit: Merlin Entertainments
Scott O'Neil has revealed that data will play a major role in attractions giant Merlin's future plans
The American took over from Nick Varney as Merlin CEO in November 2022
O'Neil said what got the company to where it was now was "probably not going to get it to where it ultimately wants to go"
O'Neil was speaking exclusively to Attractions Management
Scott O'Neil has revealed that data will play a major role in attractions giant Merlin's plans to upgrade its existing attractions and further grow its business across global markets.

Speaking exclusively to Magali Robathan, editor of Attractions Management, the American – who took over as Merlin's CEO from industry legend, Nick Varney, in November 2022 – outlined his priorities after five months in the job.

He revealed there's likely to be a change in approach as the company moves into the "post-Varney" era.

“What got Merlin to where we are now is probably not going to get us to where we ultimately want to go," he said.

"A lot of my focus is on our strategy – how do we reset that? What’s it going to look like?

Describing himself as a “bit of a data junkie,” O’Neil said a major focus will now be to understand more about Merlin’s customers and their preferences – rather than simply "building new rollercoasters".

“Data will help us understand what experiences we should be acquiring, enable us to custom-tailor our experiences for our visitors and encourage them to come back more often,” he said.

“A lot of our emphasis will be on pricing, data, F&B and retail to make sure those are four things we do at a world-class level.

“It may not be as interesting as building a rollercoaster or doing the next deal with Sony Entertainment or Ferrari, but these things are at the core of the business.”

In terms of pricing, O’Neil is keen to implement new practices, such as “a more sophisticated dynamic pricing model".

"The guest experience is hugely impacted by how many people are side by side with you," he said.

"If you’ve been to an overcrowded theme park, you’d be hard-pressed to say that it was as good an experience as if the numbers were regulated – and one way to regulate that is with dynamic pricing.”

O’Neil added, however, that the new, data-driven direction of travel doesn't mean Merlin won't be investing in new attractions.

This has been reflected the number of new projects announced since his arrival.

These include North America’s second Peppa Pig Theme Park, which is due to open in north Texas in 2024; the construction of a £35m 150-lodge Legoland Holiday Village at Legoland Windsor; and a global partnership with Ferrari to develop immersive themed brand experiences at three Legoland theme parks.

“We’re in a growth phase right now and we’re very bullish about our future,” O'Neil told Attractions Management.

“When we last updated the market, we said trading is good, the US and the UK have been particularly strong. Asia’s still got some recovery left, but Europe’s been good, Australia is doing well. We’re doing great."

* To read the full interview in Issue 2/2023 of Attractions Management, click here.
RELATED STORIES
FEATURE: Interview: Scott O'Neil


US sports and entertainment veteran O’Neil is now CEO of Merlin Entertainments and he has big plans for the company. Magali Robathan sat down with him
Merlin plans to make London Eye a permanent fixture


Created as part of the millennium celebrations more than 20 years ago, the 135m-tall observation wheel opened to passengers in 2000 and has since become one of the UK's most popular paid-for visitor attractions.
Merlin promotes Fiona Eastwood to chief operating officer


Merlin Entertainments has named Fiona Eastwood as chief operating officer for its midway attractions and resort theme parks divisions.
Scott O’Neil takes the reins from Nick Varney at Merlin Entertainment


Merlin Entertainments, the UK-based global attractions operator which is second only to Disney in size, has chosen its new CEO, following the retirement of its founder, Nick Varney.
MORE NEWS
Heartbreak for Swedish theme park, Liseberg, as fire breaks out
A fire has destroyed part of the new water world, Oceana, at Liseberg in Sweden, and a construction worker has been reported missing.
Museum director apologises after comparing the city of Florence to a sex worker
Museum director Cecilie Hollberg has come under fire for comparing the city to a sex worker due to uncontrolled mass tourism.
Populous reveals plans for major e-sports arena in Saudi Arabia
Populous have unveiled their plans for a state-of-the-art e-sports arena, designed to stand as a central landmark in Qiddaya City’s gaming and e-sports district, Saudi Arabia.
Raby Castle reveals ambitious plans to become a major visitor destination
Raby Castle, known as one of the finest medieval fortifications in England, is nearing the end of an ambitious two-year renovation project.
Wake The Tiger launches new 1,000sq m expansion
Wake the Tiger, the Bristol-based immersive art experience, is set to open its 1,000sq m expansion on Friday 2 February.
Merlin teams up with Hasbro and Lego to create Peppa Pig experiences
Merlin Entertainments, the LEGO Group and Hasbro have teamed up to create Peppa Pig experiences.
+ More news   
 
COMPANY PROFILES
Vekoma Rides Manufacturing B.V.

Vekoma Rides has a large variety of coasters and attractions. [more...]
DJW

David & Lynn Willrich started the Company over thirty years ago, from the Audio Visual Department [more...]
Simworx Ltd

The company was initially established in 1997. Terry Monkton and Andrew Roberts are the key stakeh [more...]
IDEATTACK

IDEATTACK is a full-service planning and design company with headquarters in Los Angeles. [more...]
+ More profiles  
CATALOGUE GALLERY
+ More catalogues  
DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

08-08 May 2024

Hospitality Design Conference

Hotel Melià , Milano , Italy
04-07 Nov 2024

Global Wellness Summit (GWS)

In person, St Andrews, United Kingdom
+ More diary  
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2024

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT NEWS
ATTRACTIONS HANDBOOK
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