British Museum hit by slump in tourism

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The Independent Online

The British Museum could have to close some galleries and lay off staff after a severe drop in visitor numbers to London led to a £5m loss. Managers at the museum said they would havea to cut spending by 15 per cent after visitor numbers fell 900,000 short of the projected 5.5 million.

The museum, whose spectacular Great Court development had been hoped to spearhead a big growth in visitor numbers, has already had to shelve plans for an £80m annexe in central London.

Senior staff confirmed yesterday that further cuts would have to be made with reductions in the number of one-off exhibitions and permanent galleries among the options. Redundancies at the museum in Bloomsbury, which celebrates its 250th anniversary next year, may also be required when a package of cuts is presented to its board of trustees by April.

Christopher Jones, the British Museum's accounting officer, said "core values" would be preserved but warned that cuts were inevitable.

The admission-free museum has an annual budget of £45m, of which £36m comes from government grants. Since the opening of the Great Court, income per visitor has doubled.

A new director, Neil MacGregor, who has been credited with revolutionising the National Gallery, is due to take over this summer.

The terrorist attacks on America, as well as the effects of the foot-and-mouth epidemic, have kept millions of tourists away from Britain.

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