UK-based theme park giant Merlin Entertainments was able to overcome last year’s terrorist attacks and deliver improved profits as visitor numbers hit a record 66 million.

The company reported a 4.8% rise in annual pre-tax profits to £271 million as the number of visitors to its attractions grew by 3.5% over 2016.

Revenue for 2017 was up by 11.6% to almost £1.6 billion.

Merlin is in the process of creating themed accommodation and developing its theme parks into short break resorts with 644 more rooms due to be opened this year on the back of 383 in 2017.

The group expects to spend between £70 million and £80 million a year in the “medium term” on the short break positioning.

CEO 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.

“We also announced in October plans to open a Legoland park in New York State in 2020, and the launch of two new IP based attraction formats – ‘The Bear Grylls Adventure’ and ‘Peppa Pig’.”

He added: “Furthermore, we were motivated throughout 2017 to review our approach to capital allocation and reflect upon recent performance which has fallen short of our expectations in some areas.

“This has resulted in a number of medium term adjustments – most notably the reduction in Midway and Resort Theme Parks existing estate capex [capital expenditure] which will be reallocated towards our highly successful accommodation roll out and increased focus on the productivity agenda [costs].

“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.”

The company described trading at this seasonally quiet winter point in the year as being in line with expectations.

“Whilst recent foreign exchange movements could materially affect our 2018 reported results, our underlying expectations remain positive and unchanged,” Merlin added.