People going to major attractions such as Alton Towers and Legoland will face paying more on certain days of the year. The owner of attractions which also includes the London Eye, Thorpe Park and Madame Tussauds is introducing “dynamic pricing” - which means people will pay more on sunny days when they go for a family day out.

Merlin Entertainments said it would help offset a decline in visitors since the pandemic. Around 20 of its global venues will see the changes this year.

Merlin Entertainments already uses off-peak and peak-time pricing which, like many organisations, allows seasonal fluctuations to dictate demand and therefore price. But the introduction of machine learning will make flexible ticket pricing faster and more detailed.

For example, if a sunny Saturday during the summer holiday turns out to be less busy than expected, the firm could lower ticket prices on the day. Merlin said in a statement that such a pricing structure “makes sure that the peak period experience is optimised by avoiding overcrowding”.

It added that “these changes enable greater flexibility for guests booking online to choose discounted prices for select dates and times”. The group’s chief executive, Scott O’Neil, said the move means its attractions can adapt prices based on the time of year and control the number of visitors. “We had it in 2023 and we had the highest guest satisfaction scores in the history of the company, and seven million additional guests,” Mr O’Neil said.

However, there has been some criticism of the “dynamic pricing” model used by companies such as Uber and restaurants, partly due to its lack of transparency about why prices are high some of the time.

“So we’re definitely getting the signal that our processes are moving in the right direction.” He said “dynamic” pricing helps “protect the guest experience” during busier times of the year by managing queues, where wait times can be more than an hour for top attractions.

The opportunity to buy tickets at discounted prices during off-peak times, which could be a rainy weekend in March, makes the experiences “available and accessible to all”, Mr O’Neil explained.

He likened it to “happy hours” used in bars, as well as hotels and airlines which typically hike prices for travel during peak times but offer cheaper prices off-season. “It is not a new concept, but our focus is on two things that matter most; the guest experience and making sure that we are accessible and value-based for families,” he said.

Merlin revealed its sales soared to a record high last year as more visitors flocked to city-centre attractions. Total revenues jumped by 8% to £2.1 billion in 2023, compared with the previous year, and it had 62 million total visitors across the globe.

About a quarter of all tourists to London visited one of its attractions last year, and 40% of those visited more than one, according to the company. However, Merlin revealed it swung to a pre-tax loss of £214 million last year, from a profit of £106 million the previous year, which the company said was due to one-off costs including refinancing some of its debts.

The group said it had agreed to buy Orlando Wheel at Icon Park, the tallest ferris wheel on the US east coast, which will strengthen its presence in a top global tourist hub. Mr O’Neil also said it was expecting a boost from a new rollercoaster opening in May at Thorpe Park, named Hyperia, which will be its tallest and fastest ride.

He also said consumer demand has been “off the charts” for the Nemesis Reborn ride which recently launched at Alton Towers Resort. Mr O’Neil added: “Coming out of Covid, we learned that we need each other, we need experiences, and we value memories over things.”

Consumers have been “gravitating toward quality” experiences, he said, with branded attractions like Legoland and Pepper Pig theme parks remaining popular.

In February, US burger chain Wendy’s was quick to clarify that it was not introducing dynamic, or “surge” pricing. One of the company’s most high-profile critics, left-wing senator Elizabeth Warren, said the plans meant people “could pay more for your lunch, even if the cost to Wendy’s stays exactly the same”.