Consumers in the UK and the US are ready to return to visiting theme parks and other attraction destinations. This was the finding of research from Oracle and Merlin Entertainments.

The rising consumer confidence is being labelled as the ‘JOLA phenomenon’ – the Joy of Looking Ahead.

In the US, there was a 12% rise in consumers getting back to leisure activities, jumping from 68% to 80% in May and June. Similar confidence is shown in the UK, with 80% of consumers saying they are optimistic about visiting leisure attractions with friends and family.

The research sought to understand how consumers are booking and behaving in relation to holidays and outings this summer as Covid-19 continues to dominate the headlines.

The study highlights how technology will enhance the visitor experience at favourite attraction sites like Alton Towers, Legoland and London Eye.

It found that in the US 1 in 3 travellers are staying closer to home. This figure stood at 1 in 5 in the UK. In the US, 20% are booking more weekend trips and shorter stays than pre-pandemic. In the UK, 25% of visitors are exhibiting this behaviour.

Guests of both countries are increasingly looking at planning and personalising visits. 54%, for example, would love to plan their itinerary in advance so they can stave off queues. 59% said they would favour a “fast pass” system, which would provide them with priority access to food, shops and facilities. 40% would pay extra to pre-book their day’s activities in advance.

Lee Cowie, chief technology officer at Merlin Entertainments summarised the findings of the report: “After a difficult year, with limited entertainment, guests are excited about a summer of fun. With the ‘Joy of Looking Ahead’ effect in full flow, our customers want to plan and purchase ahead too. Pre-ordering meals, refreshments, photos and checking-in online are all happening before they even arrive.

“Our guests are excited for feel-good experiences, but they want to feel safe and in control at the same time. For Merlin, the pre-planning technology we’re bringing in offers guests the ability to tailor and personalise their stay while allowing us to flex our business to allow for things like social distancing, staff support and food and beverage pre-ordering,” Cowie added.