Long time lurker, 1st time poster.
Excuse the long post, there is an on-topic observation at the bottom
TP has been a big part of my life, from visiting the park in the late 80's to throughout the 90's. I then worked there for 15 years (2000 - 2014), in a variety of departments.
Retail - some of the best times of my life (I've made life long friends from working in this department)
Park Development and Planning - one of the most rewarding jobs I have had to date (see below)
Facilities Management/Engineering - this is where my journey ended
Park Development and Planning - I was the project lead for the land expansion project, and was involved in some of the early design/planning activities on SAW The Ride, SAW Alive, Kobra (CWoA), The Swarm, and an early Ghost Train concept. Whilst working in this department I learnt some fascinating history about the park. For example, did you know when the park was being constructed in the 1970's, RMC flew in an Imagineer from the States to help design the entrance and car park?
Anyways, back on topic...
I visited the RTP's for the 1st time (since leaving TP) last year and noticed that the overall quality has dropped across all 3 parks (CWoA probably was my favourite park out of the visits last year TBH). I noticed that at AT, unless you like roller coasters or kids rides, there actually isn't that much there. Duel should have been removed and replaced, or even reverted back to its former scary self years ago, and Hex is a shadow of its former self. I have never liked the Rapids since they removed the old boats.
TP - DBGT - Ok this was not what I had originally envisioned for this plot of land. I found it to be an interesting concept, however it was not delivered well. The queue lines design (or lack of) makes it one of the worst (if not the worst) queues I have ever been in. I strangely found IACGMOH to be quite an enjoyable experience. I think TP are now in a weird position where they have got to develop two large areas of the park - the island next to Swarm (Island A) or Loggers. Which one do you do first? Island A needs that development to remove the dead end at Swarm (Parks should never have dead ends, they need to be free flowing), or do you develop Loggers which is a dead corner of the park? Is the investment there?
CWoA seems to have flown under the radar a bit, and appears to have missed a lot of the Merlin clusterf**ks that have happened over the years. However, the drop tower replacing Rameses is again lacklustre and screams of "cant be bothered to develop this park properly"...
Which leads me onto why I think these parks are suffering:
The Smiler accident - I should imagine the insurance premiums across the UK parks are now extremely high, effecting large scale investments
As far as I am aware, Merlin did not operate any theme parks until acquiring Legoland and the Tussuad's Group. I've noticed that all of the Merlin investments to date have either been lacklustre or poorly delivered (Ok Wickerman was good, however not too sure a pre-show was required - even though the show is good). I think there is a lack of interest within the company (I found this out when I was working at TP, and was shocked to find so many senior people not interested in the industry - a lot of them had never been to a Disney park... Its just a job to them)
If you look at what parks around the world are announcing as new attractions, Merlin's UK offering is waaayyy behind everyone else.
One of the most heated discussions I had whilst working at TP was surrounding the lack of a decent family zone/area. My argument was that parks such as Six Flags and Cedar Point (parks TP tries to emulate) all have decent (ish) kid friendly/family friendly areas. The answer from management was a return on the investment would not be possible as "how would they sell it"?
Hopefully when (if) Paramount Park gets built, it will give Merlin a kick up the backside in getting there act together.
Just my two cents...