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Getting to Alton Towers from the M6 is a bit like going on a big dipper--it feels interminable and leaves you feeling shaken Clearly signposted from both the M1 and the M6 says the brochure But it doesnt tell you that it takes over an hour through Staffordshire countryside which isnt much fun in the pouring rain You cant blame Alton Towers for the weather But the British climate certainly wont help it to compete with the UK theme parks worst nightmare--EuroDisney Opening this weekend the much-hyped EuroDisney claims it will attract over 11 million visitors in its first year with around one million visits from the British and a total of 26 million visitors by the end of the century It is the biggest threat yet to the UKs L110m theme park market Surrey-based theme park Thorpe Park is investing L15m into promoting itself as the South-easts best attraction EuroDisney wont be shaking in its boots How does Alton Towers plan to survive the Disney challenge Through branding says marketing director Nick Varney We want to brand Alton Towers as the most magical event in Britain Varney joined in September 1990 from the fast moving consumer goods school of branding at Reckitt Colman which has trained others before him to go out and knock leisure marketing into shape Liam Strong ex-marketing director at British Airways now chief executive at Sears is one prominent example And Varneys approach to Alton Towers reflects what he sees as some of the similarities between theme parks and packaged goods Getting in front of the customer is very important The Disney threat has focused Alton Towers attention on its customer base There is one big problem Half the two million annual visitors are young--between 15 and 24-years-old They are drawn by a product mix which Varney concedes is dominated by roller coasters and other
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