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'Disappointing' visitor figures on Weymouth Tower could have bearing on future
‘DISAPPOINTING’ visitor figures to the £3.5million Weymouth Tower could have a bearing on its long-term future, its manager said.
General manager Craig Dunkerley said the resort’s newest tourist attraction didn’t attract as many visitors during the Olympics as anticipated.
Although Merlin Entertainments, which runs the 53m (173ft) tower, would not give attendance figures, Mr Dunkerley said visitor numbers for the summer of 2012 were ‘disappointing’.
He said warnings issued by Olympic organisers ahead of the Games about traffic congestion were partly to blame for people staying away.
Mr Dunkerley said: “The numbers coming to the tower have been below expectations.
“People were thinking they weren’t going to go to Weymouth during the Games because they thought the whole place would be in meltdown.
“Last year was a bad year for tourism.
“Yes, the summer was poor but it’s been and gone and things are looking up for this year.
“We all hope it will be a good year.”
Mr Dunkerley said visits to the other Merlin-owned attractions in Weymouth - the land train and the Sea Life Park - were also down.
Figures showed that the expected 30,000 to 60,000 visitors to Weymouth which were predicted by Olympics organisers never materialised.
The Bayside Festival – sited on the same Pavilion peninsula as the tower – closed on August 3 last year because of lower than expected visitor numbers.
Concerns have been raised with Weymouth and Portland Borough Council about the poor summer, Mr Dunkerley said.
“I’ve now been asking: ‘What’s the plan to drive the footfall?’ “You talk to some of the local businesses that aren’t supported by a big company like we are – that’s their whole living that’s been affected,” he added.
The Weymouth Tower was given planning permission to remain on the Pavilion site for five years after it was put up in June 2012.
Mr Dunkerley said: “The visitor numbers will have a bearing on what happens after the five years are up.
“We always said we had a longer term commitment but we will be talking to the council.
“There are so many factors that will affect the commercial sustainability.
“It’s too early to say anything about the long-term future. We’re focusing on the positive side of it this year.
“Tower staff are working with the Weymouth Business Improvement District (BID) to attract more visitors in 2013. We cannot change what’s happened but there have been lots of lessons learned. We’ve spent a lot of money and we need to carry on with it. The hard work starts now,” Mr Dunkerley added.
He said ticket prices are reviewed every year and will be reviewed for the coming season. Entry to the tower for adults or children currently costs £8.10 each, or £5.67 each if booked online in advance.