Touts await Royal opening: Plans to control Buckingham Palace ticket sales appear flawed

ELABORATE precautions surrounding the sale of public tickets for the first opening of Buckingham Palace appear to have left considerable scope for ticket touts to cash in on what promises to be one of the hottest attractions in London.

Each person in the queue will be allowed up to four tickets, which, legally, can then be re-sold. Palace aides claimed at an unattributable press conference yesterday that they believed the arrangements for tickets, costing pounds 8 for adults, were as fair as possible while 'reducing opportunities' for ticket touts.

Tickets will only be sold on the day, from 9am, and each will be allocated a time of entry, reducing the time for touts to make a re-sale. Visitors who miss the timed entry will not be admitted. Police will patrol the area around the ticket booth in St James's Park to enforce the by-law that prevents unauthorised trading in royal parks.

As an additional deterrent, each block of four admissions will be on a single piece of paper, detailing the number of adults and children, making it harder for touts to satisfy demand. But with tickets expected to be worth 10 times their face value, touts are likely to be present in force in the daily queues.

A further loophole in the attempts to prevent profiteering has been the advance sale of 10 per cent of tickets to parties of up to 25 people, including 25,000 to the travel trade, which has been able to sell expensively packaged exclusive tours based on admission. The palace conceded that travel companies were free to sell their allocation of pre-booked places at whatever price they chose. Tickets have been advertised in newspaper personal columns for pounds 100 each.

A spokesman for the Royal Collection Trust, which will manage the opening, said that there had been abuses, which he was not prepared to discuss but which were being investigated. He understood that some operators had been charging 'silly prices' but that customers had not been paying them.

Buckingham Palace is to open for two months from 7 August, charging pounds 8 for adults and pounds 4 for children, and pounds 5.50 for the over-sixties. Up to 7,000 visitors a day will be admitted. The pounds 1.75m income from tickets expected in the first of the five annual opening periods will go towards the pounds 30 to pounds 40m costs of rebuilding the fire-ravaged Windsor Castle.

Guidebooks in six languages will cost pounds 2 each, and there will be no tour guides. People in wheelchairs and with walking difficulties are being asked to make advance bookings. A shop will sell 'tasteful' souvenirs and a video of the tour, and no photographs will be allowed.

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