We’ve just spent the last couple of days at Alton Towers with an overnight stay in their new star gazing pods.

They’re a real tight squeeze. A double bed in the back with 2 singles at the front & a gap the size of a school ruler in-between.

Certainly no space for a small bathroom or even hanging your clothes up. To be fair. For 1 night. It’s an affordable option & after a long day in the park we we’re all asleep before 10 anyway.

Showers, sinks & toilets are provided in a brand new purpose built building & a breakfast roll (bacon, sausage or vegetarian) with a drink is provided as part of the deal.

To call them star gazing pods is a stretching it though. Alton Towers only provide 3 (poor viewing quality) small telescopes between 102 pods. Potentially thats over 400 people each night wanting to do some star gazing. I can see some frustrating times ahead.

Overall though the deal was pretty good. Especially for Easter. 2 full days (with early access) in the theme park for 4 (2 adults, 1 teen & an 8 year old). An overnight stay in a star gazing pod. Breakfast & free parking. For £260.

Alton Towers business model has always been about paying a large entrance charge to access all the attractions for free (with no extra charges (except food & drink). Over the years though things have started to change.

First. They introduced games you’d normally find on Blackpool pier. Like shooting cards. Knocking cans over. Throwing rings on bottles & kicking footballs at targets. Charging extra & getting away with it. As they’re not really classed as theme part attractions. Just side shows.

Next came the dreaded fast track

It’s great for those who can afford it. But for those who can’t. It’s a real kick in the teeth. You pay all that money to get in (up to £56 each). Queue up for ages & then at the last minute. Alton Towers let people in before you. Just because they paid extra cash.

I analysed what was going on over the weekend. And when the parks busy. Fast tracking greatly increases the queueing time for those not able (or willing) to pay the extra. It’s not just a little extra either. For an unlimited fast track pass it’s an additional £100.

As an example. We queued for over an hour for Congo River Rapids & I can honestly say 30 minutes of it was caused by the fast trackers. At 1 point we got right up to the fast track gate. To be held back for a good 15 minutes whilst rafts of fast tracking families came in.

It’s not sour grapes & I’m not blaming the fast trackers. I just feel it’s wrong that Alton Towers charge a large entrance fee & then penalise those who can’t (or won’t) pay more with longer than normal queueing times. It’s a simple equation. Take fast tracking away & queueing times will go down.

This brings me onto my final rant. For the first time ever. Alton Towers are charging extra for a new attraction. The Alton Towers Dungeon is the new attraction for 2019. With a sting in the tail. Everyone’s got to pay an additional £7.50 to ride it. In addition to your entrance fee.

Is this the start of things to come? And the way Merlin (Alton Towers owners) will keep entrance fees low enough to still attract us all in the future. Whilst making extra profits through charging extra for new attractions?

For me. This is all getting a bit daft. The original concept was 1 relatively high entrance fee with everything else included (except food & drinks). Not charging us extra for side games, fast tracks & now new attractions.

In our business. When we provide a service for a fixed monthly fee we guarantee it will never increase. Like our £24.99 small organisation printing service or our £11.99 home printing service.

The price you pay includes the printer, unlimited cartridges & guaranteed support if it breaks. We don’t put the price up if you print more than you normally would & we don’t send others to your business or home to use it before you, because they’ve paid us a few quid more.

Yes. Alton Towers need to make profits & Merlin has to satisfy shareholders. But for us. The most transparent way is to slightly increase entrance fees once a year. Ditch fast tracking & extra charging for new attractions. Allowing the same experience for all & covering any new attraction costs.

My team & I always believe honesty, transparency & the same experience for every customer is our priority. But what do you think? You might have an even better idea for Alton Towers?