Attraction ticket provider Attraction World will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on May 19. Group chief operating officer Tony Seaman reflects on its growth and plans. Jennifer Morris reports
It has been an eventful 10 years for Attraction World. Setting out “with no visibility at all”, in a climate where “there weren’t really attraction providers around”, Tony Seaman has seen the company persevere through the 2008 financial crisis to become a business forecasting an £80 million turnover this year.
Attraction World, which says it has a 50:50 split between trade and direct sales, started life as Seligo Attractions before it was taken over by Seaman and then managing director Paul Stobbs, who took a share in the company before leading a £6.9 million management buyout in 2010.
“We didn’t have any visibility at the beginning,” says Seaman. “We grew the business over time and it’s been a real journey.
“When we set out there weren’t really attraction providers around. Keith Prowse [the ticket provider that collapsed in 2010] was our biggest competition but our model was much more new age. We were doing e-ticketing and were much more user-friendly.
“I didn’t come up with the idea for Attraction World but I identified an opportunity.
“One of the first things we did was restructure the budgets to give us more marketing spend and we put a sales team on the road – just a couple of people.”
Seaman says when he started, 95% of the business was trade-oriented. “Our trade business has grown phenomenally, but so has our direct business because the market changes,” he adds.
“You have to have a foot in both camps if you want to maximise the business. But we make sure we give our trade customers huge support.”
Attraction World has signed a deal to become exclusive ticket provider for Thomas Cook Group. The deal followed a drop-off in Attraction World sales through Thomson agents after Tui created an in-house ticketing operation.
The deal is expected to boost trade sales from 50% to 75% over the next year, and the size of the Attraction World team has increased from 55 at the end of 2014 to about 75, including six on‑the-road sales staff.
This month, Attraction World also acquired the Day Out With The Kids company, which is expected to boost its turnover to £100 million by 2018.
“All the new contracts that come from this process will flow through to Attraction World so we’ll have a much stronger UK presence in six months’ time,” says Seaman. “It shows the strength of our business.”
Seaman believes there is an opportunity for more independent agents to get on board with Attraction World.
“There is massive potential with ticket sales via agents, but the challenge is they just don’t ask customers.
“Even Thomas Cook, which is producing huge business on tickets, knows its conversion rate could be higher.
“I hate to say it but it tends to be independent agents who are just not on the bus.
“We’ve got all the tools for them and it’s an easy sell. You go on our system, book it, a ticket goes into your inbox, you give it to the customer and they’re off.
“They’re missing out. Through us they’ve got peace of mind, can give good service and are adding revenue to their own business.
“When people go on holiday, generally they’re going to do something; you can’t just turn up at Alcatraz – it’ll be sold out.
“Why wouldn’t you ask your customer what they are going to do when they’re away?”
“The change in the market due to terrorism is massive,” says Seaman.
“We can contract and change very quickly – there is no commercial penalty for us if we pull an attraction.
“We watch the Foreign Office advice and in the past we’ve decided to take things off sale of our own accord.
“But often it’s the tour operator that’ll take a more cautious view.
“We have a really robust health and safety policy, making sure everything and everyone is vetted, insured and qualified.”
Seaman describes attractions and tours as a “massively growing sector”. He highlights the success of Viator in the US and its acquisition by TripAdvisor, along with “start-ups in Germany”.
Seaman says Attraction World would be interested in floating on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market.
“We have investors and shareholders and we have to keep one eye on the value of the business for them, because at some point they’re going to want to get a return for their money, which can only really be done through an acquisition or a sale, or partial sale,” he says.
“It would be nice in another 10 years to be able to say we’ve doubled our size to a £200 million business, but I think the acceleration will be quicker.
“If you think how many people there are in the world and how many things there are to do, there is space for a lot of people to do attractions.”
To mark its anniversary, Attraction World will host a dinner for key agents and suppliers, and is giving agents the chance to win 10 pairs of tickets to 10 UK attractions, every week for 10 weeks.
Among the featured attractions are Bateaux London Dining Cruises, The Shard and regional attractions such as the Sea Life Centres and Alton Towers.
No bookings are necessary; agents just have to look on the website each week to see what is up for grabs and send an email.
There will also be surprise gifts arriving at agencies on May 19.
Seaman says: “This is just a small way for us to show our appreciation to agents for the last 10 years, as without their support the company wouldn’t be where it is today.
“Here is to the next 10 years.”
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