Universal Attractions

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Universal Attractions's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Universal Attractions is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett, MP
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles, MP


Founder Norman Wallis
Family-friendly experiences
are tourism’s life-blood
Norman Wallis is an international tourism expert who
specialises in creating family-focused entertainment.
From dynamic theme parks and immersive experiences
to educational and inspirational visitor attractions worldwide,
he has spent the last 11 years regenerating a derelict and
abandoned seaside amusement park. It has returned to
profitability and is now an acknowledged attraction that draws
more than half a million visitors a year to the coastal town of
Southport. Norman tells
The Parliamentary Review
My vision is not limited to the town of Southport, the borough or even the region.
Through our work we have helped demonstrate that seaside resort entertainment
can thrive, proving that it’s just a question of understanding your customers
and pushing the envelope to put an end to seasonality. I am planning a series of
heavyweight improvements to make the Southport theme park a year-round, must-
visit attraction that will boost the region’s economy.
Investing in Britain
The next 12 months will be a pivotal period for tourism in the UK. Now is the time
to make sure we capitalise on what we have – and go a step further. Whatever
changes are incoming, thanks to a different relationship with Europe, the tourism
industry is well placed to capitalise on them. The UK is unique and British influence
has always made a global impact. Not only did we absorb elements of other
countries’ culture, from cotton and silk to plants and cuisine, but we also left traces
of our own.
»Founder: Norman Wallis
»Based in northwest England
»Services: Family-focused
entertainment and attractions
»Founded Southport
Pleasureland family
amusement park in 2007
»Universal Attractions has 30
years’ experience in tourism
consultancy and management
Universal Attractions
Highlighting best practice
Returning from another international
industry conference in Europe with
some of the sector’s most prominent
leaders, it struck me even more
strongly that the world remains
fascinated by our heritage and history.
Britain is compact – it’s small enough
to allow visitors to see a meaningful
amount of all we have to offer within a
relatively small space oftime.
Britain benefits from ease of
communication for foreign travellers.
English is one of the most widely
spoken and understood languages in
the world. Along with some of the
oldest European communities such as
Italy, Britain is one of the cradles of
Western culture. This island has a well-
documented written history, world-
class archaeological heritage and royals
that did much to shape the world as it
is today.
Staycations and a blooming
incoming tourism economy
The combination of a weak and
fluctuating pound and fresh layers
of foreign travel red tape for
outward-going Brits is likely to boost
domestic UK tourism and incoming
Other, related, supplier industries can
expect an uplift as UK theme parks
shop closer to home for manufactured
items that were previously imported.
Manufacturing is also likely to
benefit from new markets and a
Ride and parts manufacturing moved
away from the UK when the industry
started shopping abroad at more
favourable prices, backed by a stronger
currency in addition to lower production
costs. China has taken an increasing
share of the rides manufacturing
market, with a rise in product quality,
alongside Italy, Germany, Poland and
the CzechRepublic.
Many UK manufacturers stopped
production, but it’s encouraging to
see pockets of production beginning,
because British-made still stands for
quality. We have a chance to step back
into the fold and sell to Europe. We
need to create our own sustainable
There are new phases to be added to
the Southpark park, from a dinosaur
park and undercover rides to mega
zip wires across the lake and a revival
of the towering water splashdown
ride that was a feature when the park
opened almost 100 years ago. We are
also looking to bring in multistorey car
parking and high-quality family hotel
accommodation as we expand into a
multi-visit attraction. What parks like
ours offer is a destination attraction.
Three or more days’ worth of
attractions means visitors will stay
longer and explore the wider region,
interspersing park days with trips to
museums, wildlife sanctuaries and
other places of interest – and eat out
and enjoy evening entertainments –
right across the region. The tourist
industry can do more to stay in step
with the government’s own desires
for regenerating coastal communities
and addressing seasonality, but the
government can do more to help.
The Caterpillar
Coaster at Southport
Pleasureland: a perennial
favourite with the little
Britain is
compact – it’s
small enough
to allow
visitors to see
a meaningful
amount of all
we have to
offer within a
relatively small
space oftime
VAT change for growth
The government has looked at
establishing coastal enterprise zones.
Its own figures for coastal destinations
claim that 177 million visitors each
year spend £13 billion in the local
economy. It needs to do more to
help us expand and grow the tourism
economy, and one way to do that is
to free theme parks from per-ride VAT
charges. An International Association
of Amusement Parks and Attraction
report is also behind a campaign to
secure competitive VAT rates for theme
and amusement parks.
The IAAPA’s immediate objective is
to ensure that theme parks continue
to qualify for a reduced VAT rate
linked to labour-intensive services.
The amusement park sector is labour
intensive, with an average turnover
per job of less than 100,000 – slightly
higher than other labour-intensive
sectors such as hairdressing and
catering, but lower than sectors such as
manufacturing and mining. The rate of
VAT that applies to amusement parks
has increased more than twice as fast
and there are many anomalies in the
application of VAT between theme
parks and cultural attractions, which
causes competitive distortions and
penalises commercial operators.
The question of how high VAT rates
are likely to affect the performance
of the theme and amusement park
sector depends on the extent to which
operators can absorb or pass on tax
increases. The operator’s skill lies in
arriving at a pricing point which offers
value for money.
Operators are generally cautious
in changing pricing strategies, and
depending on wider market conditions,
may have little option but to absorb
VAT increases. While larger operators
have some discretion in their pricing
strategies, smaller local theme parks
have to compete with other leisure
activities and large operators. They
have to accept the prices set by market
leaders and local competitors and
cannot easily pass on VAT increases.
Ride prices favour round sums so adding
20 per cent wouldn’t work as the public
likely won’t accept it. Under the VAT
law introduced in 1996, museums,
galleries, zoos and art exhibitions are
exempt from VAT on their admissions
under certain conditions. In practice,
the conditions provided a significant
fiscal advantage to the voluntary sector
at the expense of the commercial
sector, which is the sector creating the
paid jobs. A competitor that has no
requirement to be competitive has, in
effect, a stranglehold on attractions
actively contributing to the visitor
economy – now is the time for change
for widergain.
needs to do
more to help
us expand and
grow the
economy, and
one way to do
that is to free
theme parks
from per-ride
VAT charges
Centuries-old buildings and
structures, national parks of great
beauty, a diversity of culture,
heritage buildings, great cities and
the geography to promote outdoor
activities from skiing to surfing –
this country is incredibly attractive
to foreign visitors. As we settle into
the new order brought about by
the 2016 referendum, uncertainty
may be one of its most bankable
benefits – at least for tourism.
We have the talent to
drive the UK’s tourism
sector, it’s the same
talent that’s already
leading development for
other countries


This article was sponsored by Universal Attractions. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster