SEASON ticket holders at Paultons Park have spoken of their anger following the introduction of a £1 per person charge each time they book.
The tickets, which cost £169 for those a metre and above in height, usually give a year’s unlimited entry to the park.
As reported in the A&T, the park closed on 20th March following the coronavirus outbreak. Following the lifting of some government-imposed restrictions, it reopened on 4th July.
However, due to a reduction in capacity, season ticket holders were told they must book visits online in advance, with slots released every Friday morning for trips for the following week.
Many were left angry after the slots set aside for them ran out in hours, while the public were still able to buy tickets for the same days. The park later announced it would allow season ticket holders to visit on any day after 2pm without needing to book.
But now the park’s managing director Richard Mancey has revealed that pass holders must pay £1pp to secure a slot to visit, which will be donated to the Southampton Children’s Hospital.
In an open letter published on its Facebook page, he said: “After closely reviewing the figures for season ticket holder visits over the last two months we have been disappointed to see many misusing the pre-booking system and not using our freely available cancellation portal if they are not visiting.
“We have still been seeing a no-show rate of over 30%, with some individuals pre-booking over 30 tickets and only visiting four to five times. I can assure you this was the last thing we wanted to do [but] the situation with overbooking and no-shows has increased over August with last week getting to unacceptable levels.”
He added: “All the major theme parks and zoos in the UK have also introduced this £1 booking charge. We have resisted doing this because we knew it would be an unpopular move, however, using their experience it would appear to be the fairest way to control and make the situation workable for all.”
Commenting on the announcement, one season ticket holder wrote: “For a family of five like us it’s £5 a time on top of the ever-increasing cost of a season ticket. I fully support charities and regularly donate [but] this is another kick in the teeth towards season ticket holders.”
Another added: “I have already paid over £300 for season tickets for my son and I. To now visit just once a week will cost us more than £100 extra. Not everyone can afford to pay that, even if it is going to charity.”
Others queried why Paultons were not penalising those who failed to turn up after booking tickets. One said: “I don’t understand why the charge cannot just be [applied] to the people that don’t turn up instead of penalising everybody.
“I certainly won’t be renewing at present after 12 years of having a season ticket. I am not prepared to pay £5 pound per visit for my family on top.”
Mr Mancey reassured visitors that the charge would be under “constant review” and he hoped to be able to remove it “very soon” along with the need to pre-book visits.
The family-run park, which opened in 1983, covers 140 acres and has more than 70 rides and attractions including Jurassic-themed attraction Lost Kingdom and Peppa Pig World.
In 2019 it won TripAdvisor’s best-rated UK amusement park for the fourth year in a row –the only park to achieve this.