Guests at three of Merlin Entertainments' UK theme parks have raised a considerable number of complaints in the past week, with the number of people in the parks and the negative impact on the experience being at the forefront of many grievances.
Guests at Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures and Alton Towers raised complaints on social media and TripAdvisor about excessively long queues to enter the attractions, access rides and purchase food. Common to all three parks were guest claims of only being able to access a couple of rides in a full day, from a combination of long queues and ride reliability.
Whilst a warm May half-term can always be expected to be busy, there was an expectation that capacity would have been significantly reduced inline with requirements for COVID safety and aiding social distancing.
At Thorpe Park, guest complaints included the park appearing busier than pre-COVID, with excessively long waits to enter the park, poor crowd management and little social distancing. Writing on Twitter, user @davetubbs commented: "@THORPEPARK @MerlinapUK - covid secure environment? This is just the queue to get in, no form of control or spacing of people, just a mass gaggle". Inside the park, the reporting of queue times was adjusted midweek such that queues above 90 minutes were simply listed as 90+ minutes on both the official app and in park queue boards. In replies to guests, the park stated that capacity limits were in place and that enhanced cleaning and social distancing on the rides can extend queue times.
Alton Towers complaints similarly noted extremely long queues, with the stated queue times frequently being far lower than the actual time. On TripAdvisor, user Mmajunkie100 wrote: "Absolutely terrible, way too many people, only got on 4 rides as the queues were hours long and none of the wait times were accurate. Impossible to social distance as the park was so busy". Whilst TripAdvisor user wise g shared a picture of the TH13TEEN queue full with no notable social distancing. We were unable to find a publicly stated comment from Alton Towers in response to concerns raised by guests.
Chessington World of Adventures' complaints reached a head today, with guests sharing images of massive queues of guests snaking throughout the car parks, waiting to enter the park. In a day long news coverage, SurreyLive shared images and accounts from guests who struggled to even enter the park, with some giving up and going home before making it to the gates. The park issued the following statement to SurreyLive: "Having welcomed today the same number of guests to the Resort that we have done each day over the last week during half term, the reason for the queue this morning, was as a result of a large proportion of today’s guests arriving at the same time. Staff were present (more than the ‘two people taking temperature checks’ as reported) and we subsequently opened another entrance to clear the queue as quickly as possible, while still carrying out our usual security and COVID checks.".
In contrast, guest reviews for Paultons Park during the same time frame appeared overwhelmingly favourable, with the majority of TripAdvisor ratings being 4 or 5 stars. Whilst some guest complaints were raised about exiting the car park, to which the park suggested there were mitigating circumstances on the local roads, the majority of reviews praised the park and overall guest experience.
Editor Note: The Escapism Project has not approached any of the above attractions for comment. However we are happy to update this article with responses from any of the park media teams.