Select Committee on Administration First Report


Key findings from the survey undertaken by the University of Greenwich Business School

Visitor Profile

UK Residents accounted for 78 per cent of visitors (a very large proportion coming from London and the South East). Overseas visitors mainly came from the USA, Australia and Europe.

The tours generally attracted an older audience (49 per cent of respondents were aged 55 and over).

Visitors tended to be well educated, with 58 per cent of respondents having received higher (age 18+) or postgraduate education. In terms of the socio-economic scale, a large majority falls into the ABC1 category (77 per cent).

A very large percentage of visitors were of white/European ethnic origin (94 per cent). It seems that the tour did not appeal to a culturally diverse range of visitors, either from abroad or within the UK.

Visit Description

Almost one third of respondents had visited the Palace of Westminster before, mostly on guided tours or for special occasions.

People accompanied by their partners formed the largest single category in terms of visitor groups (31 per cent).

The tour did not seem to appeal greatly to families with children.

Only a small percentage of respondents had come as part of an organised tour group (4 per cent).

Newspaper advertising had the greatest impact as a means of promoting the tours.

"Word of mouth" recommendation seems likely to be an important factor if the tours are continued as 92 per cent of respondents stated that they were "very likely" to recommend the tour to others.

Most visitors had come as part of a day trip from home (71 per cent) and had largely used the train and tube network to get to the Palace of Westminster.

A "general interest in heritage" was the motivating factor cited by the highest number of visitors, although respondents generally recorded more than one reason for deciding to visit the Palace of Westminster.

Simple curiosity as expressed in "the desire to explore a building not normally open to the public" was a popular reason, as well as the educational value of "learning about the history of Parliament".

Younger visitors were also particularly attracted by the "desire to visit the centre of government in the UK".

Ticketing Process and Price

A large majority of people on the tour had experienced no problems with the Ticketmaster ticketing process (83 per cent), although there was a greater tendency to describe the process as "complicated" and "inconvenient", even when "reliable".

Particular problems mentioned by respondents covered a number of general areas from the impersonal nature of the system and the length of time spent on the telephone, to difficulties with internet booking and tickets not being sent or received in time.

Response to the price of tickets in terms of value for money was extremely positive. 85 per cent of respondents described the price as "good value for money", although some visitors commented that concessions should be available.

A majority of visitors are happy that the Houses of Parliament should charge an admission fee for the tours (67 per cent), and that the admission fee should reflect the costs involved in providing the tours (66 per cent).

During the course of the survey period, a great deal of adverse comment on the ticketing process was received from visitors to Westminster Hall who had been unable to obtain tickets for the tours.

Expectations, Experiences and Satisfaction

The visitor satisfaction level with the guided tour product and the performance of the tour guides was exceptionally high.

Visitors in general were particularly unimpressed with the toilet facilities.

The 'Voters of the Future' exhibition in Westminster Hall also received a lower satisfaction rating, indicating that either the exhibition did not meet the expectation of the tour audience in general, or that they did not perceive it as an integral part of the tour experience.

The majority of visitors seemed happy with the range of gifts and souvenirs on offer, although 20 per cent of respondents seemed not to be interested in the retail outlet at all.

Visitors were generally very happy with the overall length and content of the tour, 91 per cent were unable to single out anything about the tour that they had not enjoyed.

Miscellaneous comments highlighted the following areas of dissatisfaction:

    —  complicated/inefficient ticketing process
    —  lack of seating
    —  time spent queuing/waiting
    —  being rushed
    —  tours not suitable for children
    —  lack of/poor toilet facilities

Visitors felt very strongly and were very positive about the importance of continuing to offer public tours during the summer recess.

A very high proportion of visitors indicated that they were likely to visit again and recommend the tour to others. This is encouraging if tours are to be provided in the future.

In a verbal rating of their overall experience, 95 per cent of respondents rated the tour as "very good", and a further 4 per cent as "fairly good". It seems reasonable to assert that, over the course of the summer, the Houses of Parliament provided a very consistent and well received product.

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© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 8 February 2001