Now Miss World gets call to save the Dome

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The Independent Online

They have tried later opening, free school visits and special floor shows, but to no avail. Now it is the turn of feminine beauty - albeit presented in a sexist fashion - to try to save the Millennium Dome.

As organisers yesterday admitted the Easter holidays had failed to lift attendance, Miss World visited the Greenwich attraction. Yukta Mookhey, from India, was there for the announcement that her country's film awards will be at the Dome on 24 June. But her presence fuelled speculation that the Dome would host the Miss World event, usually held in the Seychelles or some other sun-kissed location, in autumn. Yesterday the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) confirmed it was in discussion about staging the event.

The beauty contest may be the Dome's only salvation as attendance figures continue to disappoint: 120,072 people visited it 17-23 April but though this included Good Friday and Easter Sunday, attendance was lower than the 135,635 recorded from 10 to 16 April.

There were no free school visits between 17 and 23 April, while there were some 15,000free visits the previous week. Even after subtracting these visits from the April 10-16 total, the latest statistics show that there were still fewer visitors last week than the week before. Last week's figures were also well down on the record seven-day total of 178,047 achieved during the school half-term week of 21-27 February.

An NMEC spokesman said: "A lot of people decided to go abroad this Easter. We expect attendances to rise this week. You have to look at attendance figures in the long term. We expect our really big crowds in the summer and towards the end of the year." The disappointing Easter figures have come despite longer opening hours, new promotional events and changes to the ending of the Millennium Show that takes place in the central area.

Earlier this week the NMEC chief executive, Pierre-Yves Gerbeau, denied claims he was seeking a £20m government bail-out. The NMEC was "assessing the financial situation" but he was not looking for more money from the National Lottery "at the moment".