Dome attendance figures drop to their lowest since January

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The Independent Online

Visitor numbers at the Millennium Dome sank last month to their lowest since January, increasing pressure on the attraction's operators to introduce special offers to meet its revised end-of-year target.

Visitor numbers at the Millennium Dome sank last month to their lowest since January, increasing pressure on the attraction's operators to introduce special offers to meet its revised end-of-year target.

The New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC), the operator of the Dome, reported yesterday that 464,284 people visited the attraction in Greenwich, south London, in September, attending at an average of 15,442 a day.

The figure - the lowest since the year began so badly in January with only 366,420 visitors - also included 73,555 free school trips, thus reducing the more important figure for paying visitors to 390,729. The slump comes after the furious row last month over the Dome's finances and the appointment of a new executive chairman, David James.

The attraction's reputation seemed to take a further knock after the Royal Mail apparently "downgraded" it to a second-class, 19 pence, stamp, after it had initially planned to use a picture of the "pregnant woman" in the Body Zone on its first-class stamps, worth 27 pence.The series of stamps to mark the Millennium will now feature the Dome's acrobatic Millennium Show dancers.

A spokeswoman for Royal Mail insisted yesterday that designs regularly changed, and said there was "absolutely no link between the value of a stamp and the size or importance of the subject matter."

But these results still put the NMEC in line to meet the heavily reduced target of 4.5 million paying visitors, a figure set for the year by Mr James. Despite initial claims that the Dome would attract 12 million people, the number of paying visitors stood at just 3.85 million by the end of September.

The NMEC's chief executive, Pierre-Yves Gerbeau, insisted yesterday that the Dome was still a success. Last month, he said it would surpass Mr James's 4.5 million target by reaching nearer 6 million visitors. "We are getting thousands of satisfied visitors through the Dome every day, and the overwhelming majority enjoy a fantastic day out," he said. He added: "There are only 91 days left in which to visit the Dome and I would urge people not to miss out."

The need for 650,000 more paying visitors to hit the target will increase the importance of planned promotions and special events, including a Halloween week and a retailers' loyalty-card scheme that will offer half-price tickets.

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