Richard Mancey, Paultons Park, UK
Richard Mancey recently took up the role of chairman of the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions (BALPPA). Here InterPark editor Andrew Mellor talks to him about the goals he has for the association during his two year term of office, the challenges facing members, trends in the UK and European parks sector and other aspects of the theme park industry
Andrew Mellor: When did you first become involved in the park/attractions industry and in what capacity?
Richard Mancey: Paultons Park opened in 1983 so I’ve been involved in the industry for 36 years. At that time it was a very much smaller, family partnership of which I was a part with my wife Sara and my mother and father. In those early days it was a case of multi-tasking with many different hats on.
AM: When did you first join BALPPA’s Management Committee and, if any, what specific areas have you been involved in for the association?
RM: I joined the Management Committee in 2009 and Paultons has been a member of BALPPA for over 25 years. Currently I am chairman of the association’s Planning, Development and Rates Committee. I’ve also been on various other committees, including those covering health and safety and engineering. Paultons is a registered zoo so I have input on the zoo side too.
AM: Do you have any particular goals you would like to achieve during your tenure as BALPPA Chairman or that you would like to see BALPPA as an organisation achieve?
RM: The main one would be trying to increase membership. I would like to see if we can reach out to smaller operators and get them involved. We only get out what we put in. I’d also like to drive the message of this being a very safe industry as the core message and be better at putting this message out. We are starting to do this and continue to do so.
We’ll also continue to lobby government in areas affecting the industry. Brexit is a main issue, for example, and affects everyone who runs a business. Both operators and trade members are waiting for our political masters to sort out that particular mess. The state of uncertainty is not good for anyone. It affects projects via the impact on the economy so once we know where we are heading it will be a much better situation for everyone. We will also continue to support the Amusement Device Safety Council (ADSC) and the Amusement Device Inspection Procedures Scheme (ADIPS) in the work they do, which is very important.
As BALPPA, we need to grow as an association and engage with the wider public with what we do as an industry and why we do it.
AM: What do you feel are the key benefits BALPPA can offer its members, both operators and trade members?
RM: BALPPA provides the opportunity for both trade and operating members to connect with each other. The association also covers areas such as health and safety, HR, operations and a whole range of other things related to running a business, as well as organising a range of seminars that are specific to the industry. We also hold a variety of functions and social events where members can come together. It also provides a lobbying voice for the industry and guidance on policy decisions politicians may be making.
Additionally, some operators may have been through problems that others may need help on so our gatherings allow members to engage with each other to discuss such things. As an industry-wide organisation BALPPA represents a range of different attractions which also brings a number of benefits to the membership as a whole.
AM: What would you say are the main challenges facing BALPPA and its members today?
RM: As an association BALPPA has been around for a long time. We need to keep member numbers up and provide the services members want. Current challenges are undoubtedly Brexit and what that brings. Also the fact that we are nearing full employment in the country so recruitment is becoming more difficult and staff are now wanting a better work-life balance so don’t necessarily want to work the hours that are required in a tourism business. The overall cost of employing staff due to pension auto-enrolment costs, the apprenticeship levy and the pace of wage increases due to the National Minimum Wage and the Living Wage is also a big challenge and the industry is having to swallow all these costs. Higher property rates are a growth limiting aspect for many now too.
The government must realise that it can’t keep adding costs to running a business without eventually stifling the entrepreneurial spirit!
AM: How effective are BALPPA’s lobbying activities?
RM: It’s a slow burn. You never quite know when you might get a breakthrough. We’ve had some successes, such as objecting to the total deregulation of when school holidays fall, which otherwise would have been very bad for the hospitality and attractions industry. We also continue to make our voice heard with regard to a reduction in the VAT rate for tourism.
When asked, operators should be there to give their opinions and to react to what’s happening at the time. People say we aren’t effective necessarily but we can be and are. As a wider hospitality industry it’s important for us to be there and for government to take some notice of us.
AM: How do you see BALPPA developing in the coming years?
RM: BALPPA has been around for a long time and it changes and evolves according to the needs of the industry and its members. As new ideas and industry sectors come on stream we need to adapt. We must be at the forefront of safety, embrace new technology and communicate to the general public.
AM: What would you say are some of the key trends in the UK attractions industry at the moment and in the wider European industry too?
RM: Audio visual, sensory experience type attractions are changing very fast. There are some fantastic ideas out there. They were out of reach for many years for many operators but costs are coming down so this is changing. They will never take over the adrenalin rush of a fast ride but they are an important part of the industry.
IPs and secondary spend are massively important and guest aspirations in these areas continue to grow. Rides themselves haven’t changed dramatically but you can do a lot with a ride with its surroundings, theming, etc. I believe we will see more of this type of technology in parks over the next five or so years.
AM: Paultons has enjoyed huge success with Peppa Pig World since its introduction in 2011. In relation to this, the use of IPs generally has become very popular within parks around the world? Do you think all parks should consider introducing an IP of one form or another?
RM: The use of IPs in parks has become very popular. The guest perception of being immersed in a brand has driven this. Parks should consider IPs but it has to be appropriate for the core market they are aiming at. You don’t want to drive people away with the wrong IP. Inevitably it’s a capital investment of some kind but there are no guarantees on return on investment. I would advise approaching with caution when considering the introduction of an IP. It will bring changes to operations too.
AM: Apart from perhaps introducing IPs, what else do you think parks should be doing to ensure future success?
RM: I think they should concentrate on providing good quality, clean and inviting attractions with high standards of customer service. They should have a good, clear website and the use of apps is becoming expected both before and after guests arrive on site. Guest expectancy has risen over the years and we must face that challenge as it goes a long way to attracting people to your park or attraction.
AM: What future developments are in the pipeline for Paultons Park?
RM: We continue to invest to provide a quality day out for families with children aged up to 13-years-old. We expanded Peppa Pig World in 2018 and are now recognised as one of the best pre-school attractions in the UK.
The plan is to turn our attention to the five to 13-year-old age group more now for our next major investment. We are starting on a new themed area which is due to open in 2020. This is on a four acre site and will feature five new rides, one of which will be a world class roller coaster for families and a UK first. In total it will be a £10m to £11m investment and I very much hope we can deliver a great area for children up to 13 and maybe beyond that age.
- Not a lot of people know this but I am very good at … growing all types of soft fruit and veg
- The most interesting place I’ve ever been to is … Marrakech
- Family aside, the prized possession I value above all others is … Paultons Park
- My favourite film is … the Jason Bourne films
- When I’m not working I like to … read a book
- The person who has influenced me most is … my father. He was a hard task master but taught me never to accept second best
- My favourite musician/band is … Supertramp
- If I could invite a celebrity to dinner it would be … Winston Churchill
- My unfulfilled ambition is … to become a grandfather at some stage!
- To really chill out I … go to Portugal
- I really dislike … rain!