�2.4 million boost for Pleasurewood Hills at Lowestoft

One of the region's main leisure parks has revealed it is planning to invest around �2.4m in new rides and upgrading attractions.

The investment for Pleasurewood Hills, confirmed over the weekend, follows the takeover earlier this year by HIG Capital France.

It now clears the way for new mega-rides at the Lowestoft park and also an opportunity for attraction managers to update other facilities.

Reflecting on just over a year in charge at Pleasurewood Hills, general manager Alexis Camelin said the drive to continue to improve customer service, push up attendance with more focussed promotion and extend the age-range appeal of the venue remained key areas.

Mr Camelin said: 'It has been an amazing journey from where we were last year.'

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In that time the park has been one of seven taken over by the French firm and now operates under Looping Holding.

'They promised an initial investment of 20m euros for the seven parks and we have just learned we are getting 2.7m (�2.4m) over the next three years,' he said.

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That will go on improving the landscape of the park and two major mega-rides including a 55-metre drop down tower which is to be considered by planners at Waveney District council tomorrow. Details of the second mega-ride have yet to be announced.

The park has seen increases in visitor numbers and also expects to report a profit for the first time in seven years.

'Pleasurewood Hills has been making a loss over the last seven years but for the year ending April 2011, we are anticipating a profit,' said Mr Camelin.

'We have challenged our contractors on price and made savings elsewhere while improving our quality of service.'

The financial figures are due to be released in September.

The emphasis has also been on improved customer focus, with stricter selection of seasonal staff after 2,000 people applied for a two-day selection session.

'We had a pre-selection of 400 staff and from that 180 were chosen to be part of our team. We have incentivised our people to be part of the park experience and emphasised the importance of a good customer experience,' he said.

Other recent changes have seen a new �55,000 children's play area, �30,000 spent on developing conferencing and event facilities and the traditional Carousel ride given a new lease of life in a project that saw it dismantled with the 30 horses sent to schools and art colleges across east Anglia for students to paint.

A �150,000 upgrade is planned to the Enigma roller coaster ride while park operators are also satisfied they have now addressed noise issues with local planners surrounding the Wipe Out roller coaster ride following complaints from nearby residents.

The aim, said Mr Camelin, is to top 250,000 visitors for the current year.

'We have changed the way we promote Pleasurewood Hills. We used to be passive in promotion, advertising without talking to our clientele and without knowing what they really wanted,' he said.

With more targeted promotion and sales, he said visitor numbers are already up on their target for this year by 11,000.

'Of course, some of that is weather-related with the good weather we have had earlier, but it is also due to the change in our approach.'

However, as with any outdoor attractions, its vulnerability to bad weather was seen at the weekend with thunderstorms seeing many of the rides temporarily closed but there are plans to help offset that impact with covering for the go-karting area and a new indoor laser labyrinth game planned.

Mr Carmelin said: 'We believe we are improving the experience we offer, continuing to offer value for money and looking to extend our age range appeal.

'We are missing out on the 13-22 age group at present but by investing in the mega rides and a new laser labyrinth game, we hope to target that group while still being a family attraction.'

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