Dome cuts ticket price in half to halt slump

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The Independent Online

Ticket prices for the Millennium Dome are to be reduced by up to 50 per cent in a final attempt to reverse the continuing slump in visitor numbers.

Ticket prices for the Millennium Dome are to be reduced by up to 50 per cent in a final attempt to reverse the continuing slump in visitor numbers.

The cut-price ticket initiative has been launched after visitor numbers over the school holidays failed to rise sufficiently to meet the Dome's heavily reduced target of six million paying visitors, which works out at 21,600 people a day.

As a result the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC), the operators of the Dome in Greenwich, south-east London, will be offering half-price adult tickets from today through the bank holiday weekend at £10 rather than the normal price of £20.

The Dome is also hosting Channel 5's recording of the relaunched It's a Knockout gameshow over the next three days. However, it is competing with the Notting Hill Carnival, which will attract 1.5 million people to north London on Sunday and Monday. It took the Dome seven months to draw 3.5 million visitors.

For the last three months of the year, the travel trade will be allowed to sell adult tickets at £12.50 and family tickets at £40, reduced from £57. This is meant to counter an expected fall in demand during the winter. NMEC had claimed visitor numbers would rise in November and December as visitors rushed to catch the show before it closed, but that is no longer expected to happen.

The Millennium Commission and other observers believe potential last-minute visitors may decide not to go to the Dome because it has been sold to Nomura, the Japanese bank, which plans to build an £800m "urban entertainment resort" on the site.

In an effort to meet a running deficit in its day-to-day income, NMEC has now taken £13m of a £43m loan the commission agreed after the company was guaranteed £53m from the Dome's sale to Nomura.

Gez Sagar, NMEC's head of media strategy, denied that the cut-price bank holiday offer was a last-minute initiative. He confirmed that promotional advertising in the media only began yesterday, but defended the strategy. Many theme parks had similar promotions, he said.

"We've found that when we promote these special offers, we get the biggest take-up from impulse buyers; the people who say: 'We haven't got anything to do today, we'll go down to the Dome'."

Mr Sagar refused to discuss the latest visitor figures, which are due out next week, but he confirmed: "We still have a hill to climb. That's why we're bringing more and more promotions into play."

Initiatives offering half-price tickets to loyal customers of Dome sponsors, such as Tesco and British Telecom, have also been unveiled.

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