Legoland parent Merlin Entertainments saw operating profits rise by more than 12% to £222.5 million last year.

The improvement was attributed to increased visitor numbers, continued international expansion, new attractions and ongoing investment in the existing estate.

The world’s second largest visitor attraction operator, with 88 attractions in 19 countries, achieved “strong and resilient growth” in sales and profitability against a tough economic backdrop.

Capital investment rose by around £20 million to £174.1 million in 2011.

Chief executive Nick Varney said: “While the outlook for the consumer economy remains uncertain we believe our strong brands and our relentless focus on customer satisfaction mean we will continue to provide thrilling days out for our millions of customers.

“We will continue to invest for growth under our proven strategy of growing our strong brands in a portfolio of attractions balanced by geography, product and demographics and we are therefore confident that Merlin will again make good progress.”

He added: “Last year was the most exciting in the history of Merlin Entertainments as we delivered a further step-change in the performance of the business, while significantly extending our international profile.

“The highlights have included the hugely successful opening of Legoland Florida, the addition of a whole new leg of the business as we bedded in our new Australian businesses and identified a second acquisition to add to them, and our most ambitious ever opening plans with seven new Midway attractions added across our five brands.”

He added: “Against this backdrop we approach the start of our key trading period in confident mood.”

The company plans to open its sixth Legoland park in Malaysia and expand its business in the Asia Pacific region. New attractions are planned for the US, Japan, Australia and the UK.

New rides in the UK include The Swarm at Thorpe Park and Nemesis Sub-Terra at Alton Towers.