Merlin Entertainments, Europe’s leading visitor attraction operator, has reported a 6.2% rise in its 2018 core earnings, driven by record numbers of visitors to its theme parks.

Merlin Entertainments, which owns many of Europe’s most iconic and popular theme parks and attractions, including Alton Towers, the Legoland parks and Chessington World of Adventures, welcomed a record 67 million visitors through its doors in 2018, up 1.4%.

Revenue at its Resort Theme Parks division increased by 9.1%, while its Legoland parks saw a 6.4% rise in revenue.

The group’s Midway Attractions division, which includes popular attractions around the world including Madame Tussauds and the Sea Life brand, witnessed a 1.1% growth in revenue.

Merlin Entertainments says trading in 2019 is in-line with expectations and the outlook for year is “positive and unchanged.”

Nick Varney, chief executive officer at Merlin Entertainments, said:

“2018 saw improved momentum across most of our businesses reflecting the strength of our diversified portfolio and geographic spread. Resort Theme Parks benefited from successful product investment such as ‘Wicker Man’ at Alton Towers; LEGOLAND Parks growth was driven by record levels of accommodation openings; and, in addition to the contribution of seven new attractions, Midway saw improving trends in London.”

2018 was also a record-breaking year for Merlin accommodation with the opening of 644 new rooms throughout the year. Accommodation revenue for the year increased by 28%, representing 21% of the combined revenue of Legoland Parks and Resort Theme Parks, an increase from 17% in 2017.

Merlin Entertainments is due to open a further 372 rooms in 2019, including the Alton Towers Stargazing Pods in mid-April, designed to provide an affordable glamping experience. Also opening this spring, is the Gardaland Magic Hotel, comprising of 128 large themed rooms.

These venues are part of Merlin’s ambitious accommodation strategy that caters for a diverse range of budgets and experiences, from glamping to premium hotels.

Justin Platt, Merlin’s chief strategy officer, commented on the record accommodation openings.

“We are very pleased to see further delivery on our accommodation strategy this year which extends a day-long park experience into an immersive family short break. Our short break positioning is proving successful as we continue to invest in creating world-class themed accommodation, incorporating some of the best-loved family brands including the Gruffalo, CBeebies, Peppa Pig and, of course, LEGO,” said Platt.