Visitor targets dwarfed rival attractions

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The Independent Online

The visitor targets at the Dome were, according to the National Audit Office, so high that the project had to "attract more than four times as many visitors as the next most popular pay-to-visit attraction, Alton Towers".

The visitor targets at the Dome were, according to the National Audit Office, so high that the project had to "attract more than four times as many visitors as the next most popular pay-to-visit attraction, Alton Towers".

The Dome's commissioners accepted visitor projections of 12 million, a figure which towers above any other attraction in Britain. Alton Towers manages around 2.6 million visitors a year as does the Madame Tussauds waxwork museum, while London Zoo, St Paul's Cathedral, and Edinburgh Castle together receive fewer than four million.

The Dome has achieved 3.8 million paying visitors this year, making it the country's most visited attraction, but numbers are less than a third of the original projections. In London, other millennial attractions have proved tough competition. The London Eye, with entrance fees of £8.50 for adults and £5.00 for children, has already passed the two million mark, and the Tate Modern, where admission is free, has received more than three million visitors since it opened in May.

Both these have had a good press, compared with the negative media coverage for the Dome. The New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) reckoned that each time the Dome received a "bad press", sales inquiries dropped by between 30 and 50 per cent in the following week.

The controversial lack of a car park has helped prevent the Dome achieve its visitor ambitions, the NMEC says. By contrast: "We own an awful lot of land, and have ample car parking," a spokeswoman for Alton Towers said.

The 12 million figure was, back in 1997, justified by consultants by the high visitor rates expected for other major one-off events. At the time, the projection for the Hanover Expo were as high as 40 million, although the actual number has fallen far below.

It helped that eight and a half million people had visited the Festival of Britain in 1951, and the Liverpool Garden Festival had attracted six million.

"Lots of research was done, but the consultants asked people - are you likely to go and is it possible that you will go? And they got enormous numbers of possibles," a Dome insider said. In this event, the possibles failed to show up.

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