Career Story: Phil Royle
This week we shine the spotlight on Phil Royle, our Director of Development & Operations for Korea and China, and a man who’s worked for Merlin for 19 years.
So, Phil, tell us a little about yourself...
I am currently responsible for the initial setup of Operations for our Resort in Korea and China; it starts off with Development and moves into Operations as we get closer to opening.
I spent the last 4 years in New York getting our resort approved and underway before moving out to Korea.
I am based in the romantic city of Chuncheon, South Korea, that is what it is known for, romance! I have lived there for the last year but we still have our family home in sunny Florida, USA which is where our dog lives while enjoying his retirement. Our home is just 5 minutes away from the best theme park in Florida, LEGOLAND Florida Resort!
I love to bike ride and even have a very on brand LEGOLAND cycle outfit that everyone laughs at me for. Other than that, my wife and I enjoy traveling and spending time on the lakes kayaking when we are in Florida.
You’ve had an extraordinary career within Merlin, starting as a Rides & Attractions Team Leader and working your way up to a Director. Tell us about how you started and where your journey went from there?
I was fortunate enough to start at what I consider our best type of property in the business, one that includes rides and animals, Chessington World of Adventures Resort.
I was there for 5 years before moving to the London Eye, only when I got that job did my grandparents congratulate me on getting a “real job”. I don’t think they even realized that my time at CWoAR was setting me up for my career ahead, they just saw it as a bit of fun.
I moved to the US 11 years ago and my American journey started there!
Not only have you worked within many of our different brands, you’ve also been able to work across different countries. Is this something you’ve always wanted to do? What are the challenges of bringing Merlin’s Magic to the world?
I have been very fortunate to live in the UK and the USA, that has included California, Texas, Florida and New York. We operate in some amazing locations.
I don’t think I ever really thought about moving around and wanting to do it, it just kind of happened. When I first applied for Madame Tussauds Hollywood, I also applied for SEA LiFE Weymouth and I remember being more excited about that application than Hollywood, I just never thought I would get the chance to move to America and so concentrated my application on the little seaside town!
Our challenges that we have around the world in my opinion are language and time zones, it is so hard to get everything done when language slows us down. That said with my very basic French, I am always amazed at my colleagues who speak multiple languages and command English better than I can say “Hello” in Korean or Chinese! Knowing multiple languages is truly amazing and I wish I was better at them!
Looking back over the last 19 years, what do you see as your greatest accomplishments within Merlin?
I am pleased as to where I am now, I am very fortunate to have worked for some amazing leaders who have challenged me, trusted me and pushed me to where I am now. Adrian Jones and John Ussher have pushed me the most in the last 11 years.
I am personally very proud of what we did to get New York approved. We opened our Florida park in 2011 but it was on the home of a former theme park, another major theme park had not been built in the US since 1999 so to get approval to build on 500+ acres just 65 miles outside of New York City was amazing.
I will always cherish my time there and hopefully the good footing we put that resort on to open in 2021!
Things are pretty exciting for you right now, with the construction of a new LEGOLAND Park in Chuncheon, Korea. Tell us a little bit about your role in this project? How did it come about?
I work within LEGOLAND Developments under the leadership of John Ussher who has led all of the LEGOLAND Development since Germany in 2002. John asked me to head to Korea last year as construction was ramping up. He took my wife and I out to dinner and asked us both about living and working in Asia. That meant a lot to us both.
The hardest thing about working in Korea is actually the fact that Korea does not like to import much! They want to drive their own economy which I completely understand and respect, it just makes things a little harder when we are so used to importing things from all over the world.
I am most proud of seeing a very small team right now embrace the LEGOLAND culture and when we go out to lunch and all wear our LEGOLAND brightly coloured jackets, it makes me proud to see what we are going to contribute to that community as we grow our team. Each LEGOLAND Resort brings at least a 1,000 new jobs to its host community and the economic benefits are incredible.
I just love knowing the good that we will come to our host community through our team and our economic generation.
Obviously, we love having you as a part of our leadership team Phil, but what’s kept you working within Merlin for so long?
I have always loved who I have worked for and the people I work with. I told my old boss Adrian Jones that I would park cars all day long as long as I worked for him, and our people are what I love the most.
To anyone interested in joining Merlin whether in the UK or Chuncheon, what would your advice be?
My sister actually joined Merlin about 5 years ago, she lasted two seasons in F&B at Chessington and I was very proud of her. I knew she would not be with us long before wanting to move into the Police but Merlin gives people an amazing view point of life, we are a very real company and don’t hide things away from our teams. I wanted her to see real life and hard work, I believe she saw it.
Merlin is a great company to teach people the basics and then advancements of the leisure and hospitality industry!
My final question for you: You’ve worked in the UK, the US, China and now Korea… so who makes the best food?
I love British Fish ‘n’ Chips, American Burgers, not so much the fried Chicken feet I saw in China but I have come to enjoy Korean BBQ, they LOVE GARLIC though, everything is smothered in it so you can enjoy it but you have to be careful when eating it!