Attractions industry news

29 Dec 2023

Universal Studios eyes the UK for first European resort

Universal Studios is assessing the feasibility of opening its first European resort in the UK, following the purchase of a former brickworks in Bedfordshire.

The theme park operator has confirmed it’s in the “very early stages of exploring the possibility of a potential park and resort experience in Bedford.”

Parent company, Comcast Corporation has purchased the 480-acre site, which previously had planning permission for 1,000 homes. Universal Destinations and Experiences has also had positive conversations with various local and national stakeholders, including Bedford Borough Council and the Mayor of Bedford Borough. However, the company has stressed plans are still in the early stages and it is likely to be many months before a decision is made.

Universal Destinations and Experiences has cited the UK’s large population, creative industries, strong tourism industry, transportation infrastructure and close proximity to Europe as making it an attractive proposition for a resort.

The Bedfordshire site is just 45 minutes from London, within easy reach of tourism magnets Oxford and Cambridge and has half of the UK’s population – including the Leisure Media/Attractions Management HQ – within two hours. As well as being close to the A1 and M1, Luton Airport is nearby.

With the Harry Potter Studios located just 40 minutes away in Watford, Bedford is an ideal destination for touring theme park enthusiasts.

Universal has five entertainment and resort complexes around the world - Universal Orlando Resort, Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Japan, Universal Beijing Resort and Universal Studios Singapore. The resorts offer technologically advanced film and television-based attractions; hotels, food and beverage and live entertainment.

Universal has been responsible for some of the world’s most famous films including Jurassic Park, E.T., Back To The Future and Despicable Me. Its parks also feature franchises produced by other studios, including Harry Potter and The Simpsons.

If this project goes ahead it will be a massive win for Bedford: Bedford Borough Council currently flags up The River Great Ouse as one of its most attractive features. It's a growing town, with around 27,000 new homes planned by 2040 and expectations that the population – currently at 185,000 - will keep growing. Major companies, including Amazon and Fuji Film, have already chosen the town as their operational base.

Universal theme parks create thousands of jobs, generate significant positive economic impact, both locally and further afield. The company is also committed to protecting the ecology of the areas where they operate and has a strong track record of working with local communities.

A website has been launched https://universalukproject.co.uk to update locals and allow them to give feedback.

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