POOLE’S leisure attractions giant Merlin Entertainments saw a record numbers of visitors last year – but said tourists had been put off London by terror attacks.

Merlin blamed last summer’s atrocities for a 17 per cent drop in trade at its venues in the capital, which include the London Eye, the London Dungeons and Madame Tussauds.

Despite the impact in the UK, Merlin’s attractions worldwide saw a record 66million visitors inn 2017, up 3.5 per cent on the previous year.

Chief executive Nick Varney said: “A year that started well with positive momentum in almost every part of the group was ultimately defined by the unprecedented spate of terror attacks in the UK and poor to extreme weather throughout the summer season in Europe.

“Despite this, thanks to the efforts of our extraordinary team, we have reported overall growth in revenue, profit and cash flow, welcoming 66 million visitors – our highest on record.

“Against a difficult trading backdrop, we continued to make good strategic progress. We opened 383 new accommodation rooms, six new Midway attractions, including the launch of a new brand – Little Big City – in Berlin, as well as a new Legoland park in Japan."

It had also announced a Legoland park in New York and two new formats, The Bear Grylls Adventure and Peppa Pig.

A trading update showed Merlin's revenue had increased by 11.6 per cent, although bad weather in Europe contributed to a 0.4 per cent fall in revenue at its theme parks.

Pre-tax profits rose 4.8 per cent to £271m.

The FTSE 250 company said it would now shift £100m of investment away from its Midway attractions – which include Madame Tussauds and Sea Life – and use it to develop new hotels instead.

The Midway group saw a five per cent fall in operating profit to £152m, with like-for-like revenue down 1.2 per cent.

Mr Varney added: “Merlin continues to evolve and, with attractive market fundamentals and the right strategy in place, we remain highly confident in the long term prospects for the business.”

Stephen Wolstenhulme, who heads the Ashley Cross office of investment management and stockbroking firm Redmayne Bentley, said: “Investors will be well aware of the impact of last year’s terror attacks on the company, as its share price fell 20 per cent in one day following its trading update of in October last year and, in December, it dropped out of the FTSE 100."

But he said the latest update was “optimistic, with the company confident in its strategy and long-term future”.