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Merlin planning global rollout for Bear Grylls attractions, says Varney


After announcing its intention to develop a Bear Grylls attraction in the UK, Merlin CEO Nick Varney has revealed further plans for the adventure survivalist, with plans to take the concept overseas in a major attraction rollout.

Opening in 2018, the first Bear Grylls attraction will be based at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre (NEC) and will target the adventure-based experiences market with a high ropes course and a skydiving experience.

Earlier this year, Merlin lodged plans with Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council for the secret £20m (US$26.4m, €22.3m) scheme, then dubbed “Project Thor”, with the 145,000sq ft (13,500sq m) park having capacity for up to 2,000 visitors a day.

“As we started talking to Bear Grylls, it turned out that he and his team had already begun thinking about a similar product themselves, so in a way, this was a marriage which happened because we met in the middle to develop this brand concept,” said Varney speaking during an earnings call.

“Bear Grylls, is a truly international brand. As well as earning recognition in Europe, he is extremely big in the US and in China, which are the two big markets we are focusing on.”

The deal sees Merlin gain worldwide exclusivity to roll out the Bear Grylls’ Adventure concept, with that agreement running until 2026. Similar to Merlin’s existing deal with Lego, that agreement could be extended as new Bear Grylls attractions open. Work has already started on the Birmingham attraction, with the operator also in negotiations for sites in China and the US.

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