The ‘staycation’ factor – impact of Brexit, local politics, domestic tourism and coastal regeneration on family entertainment centres (FEC).

It would be churlish of me not to acknowledge the positive prevailing winds currently blowing the FEC business merrily along. But equally I am a great believer in ‘99% perspiration and 1% inspiration’, and all of our  FEC teams have worked exceptionally  hard to continue developing our offer and with it the all-important customer experience. We are also fortunate to have a really stable workforce, and a host of general managers and other staff members who have many years of industry and customer service experience.  These attributes are incredibly important in any business, but particularly so in a consumer facing operation whose business is all about delivering ‘fun’.

As part of the Fabulous Showboat rebranding, we are trying to create a centrepiece attraction in each FEC, whether it be bowling, bingo, or a remote control truck track. Next season, as a trial, we may well invest once again in an   ‘Arabian Derby Racer’ (I think the last time I bought one of those was in 1996!) as they are fabulous pieces of kit and I read with delight recently that some of the guys from Pan are making them again.

Our refurbished flagship venue at Burnham performed well last year and provided us with the empirically-based encouragement needed to roll out the themed concept across our entire estate. Work continued over the winter, with some new decor and the injection of a lot of new machines and we are delighted with performance so far in 2017.

While domestic tourism is reportedly on the rise, we haven’t seen a particular increase in international visitors due to the weak pound, but we do hear a great deal of domestic visitors saying how glad they are to have made the decision to holiday in the UK. Long may that continue!

I don’t believe Brexit is going to influence coastal amusements: I think other geopolitical events have done and will continue to make some people feel more comfortable going to Hunstanton or Morecambe rather than some overseas destinations. Then it is in our hands to ensure that when they do visit they have a great experience and wonder why they ever went abroad in the first place. It is a truism, but it really is in our hands. We have to be better than just ‘good’ at delivering a first class experience, we have to be ‘excellent’ and that means having great equipment provided in quality locations by staff who are really good at what they do. In turn that means recruiting well, training well and then ensuring that we pay well.  Its obvious really…

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