APPENDIX TO THE REPORT
Report by the Visitor Manager
LINE OF ROUTE TRIAL
6 August29 September 2001
1. Executive Summary and Conclusions
2. Future Recommendations
4. Financial Summary
6. Marketing and Public Relations
8. Pricing at other visitor attractions
SECTION 1 EXECUTIVE
1.1 Duration and Volume
The tours were offered between Monday 6 August
and Saturday 29 September:
26 full days x 3,000 places =78,000 places.
20 half days x 1,500 places =30,000 places.
Less the allocation for the Autumn Visits Schools
Programme, 3,855 places.
Total = 104,145 places available for sale.
3,000 tour places were lost when Parliament
was recalled on 14 September. A further 625 places were lost due
to a fire evacuation on 15 September. Refunds were given and incurred
1.2 Total visitors amounted to 86,284. This represents
a +110 per cent increase on last year's figures. 51,102 (59 per
cent) were sold by the temporary Ticket Office which was created
in Westminster Hall. 35,182 (41 per cent) were sold by Ticketmaster
and their outlets who were contracted as our Sales Agency for
the period of this Trial.
1.3 Estimated Result [After VAT]
(6 wk opening) £
NB Provisional figures at 5.12.01.
1.4 The subsidy, reached by dividing the operating deficit
by the number of visitors, (contribution funded by Parliament)
per visitor was £6.26 in the year 2000. This year this subsidy
was reduced to £2.31 per visitor.
1.5 Visitors' Reaction
Visitor reaction was again tested. The abnormally high response
rate that we experienced last year was repeated. The normal visitor
response rate to any tour of a museum or attraction is between
2-5 per cent. At more than 8 per cent, ours was very high. We
analysed 4,000 selected comment cards and written comments in
our visitors' book. These revealed that:
95 per cent of visitors said that the tours had
greatly exceeded their expectations.
16 per cent of visitors said that they had difficulties
with the ticketing and associated queuing and sales systems.
3 per cent said that they were too rushed on the
tour and wanted more time. 4 per cent said they wanted to see
more of the Palace.
Just over 1 per cent criticised the facilities.
In particular the lavatories and lack of seating for the elderly.
Many of these comments were noticeably vehement.
1.6 Visitor Profile
A similar analysis has been carried out on the authorship
of the written comments. This showed that at least 50 per cent
of these came from overseas visitors. This, together with our
own observations and the demand for language tours, validates
the view that at least 50 per cent of visitors came from abroad.
At over 43,000 this represents a 500 per cent increase on the
previous trial, where only 8,000 visitors came from abroad. Visitors
from the UK regions outside the southeast also increased by 20
1.7 As a trial the exercise worked well. A great deal
more was learned about how to run a guided-tour operation based
on a throughput of 3,000 visitors a day. Experience was also gained
in how to manage an in-house ticket office and also how to cope
with site disruption and plan around it.
1.8 The Chairman of the Administration Committee addressed
the House of Commons on 26 February 2001. The Chairman made reference
to the 2001 business plan that had been put to the Steering Group
and the 85,000 visitors that the plan required to remain within
the planned deficit limit of £230,000. Furthermore, this
plan was based on the assumption that market conditions would
be stable. This was not the case. Furthermore the plan reflected
the need for much higher productivity. The result shows this was
achieved. This could not have been done without the longer working
days and the very hard work put in by the temporary staff that
were employed by the team.
1.9 Clearly the enthusiasm of the public be they British
or overseas visitors is completely undiminished despite the events
that have influenced tourism elsewhere in the UK this year. The
very positive response seen last year was repeated. Once again
we received a very high response rate from our visitors. Over
5,000 comments cards were completed and from the 4,000 that were
analysed these comments reveal a depth of feeling and enthusiasm
that is, in all probability, unrivalled by any other attraction
in this country. More than 95 per cent of these comment cards
said that the tour exceeded their expectations. Particular praise
was reserved for the Blue Badge Guides.
1.10 The view of the 120,000 visitors over the past two
years will create an expectation in the market, and the received
view was that they would recommend a visit to 10 others, creates
a potential market of 1.2 million.
1.11 Many visitors commented on the level of the administration
fee at £3.50, which was seen as a ticket price. Many made
comparisons with the nearby London Eye, Buckingham Palace and
the Tower of London, charging a great deal more at £7.45,
£11.00, and £10.50 respectively. There is no doubt that
this fee could be increased without causing resentment amongst
1.12 The ticket office proved a difficult operation and
it should not be repeated on a temporary basis. The location,
requiring as it did, a security clearance for visitors before
purchase, proved frustrating for both the queuing public and the
police. The office was undermanned for peaks and under resourced.
There were long queues. Visitors were frustrated by having to
clear security both at St Stephen's and Black Rod's Garden before
starting their tour. Any permanent solution needs careful evaluation.
1.13 The tour assembly at Black Rod's Garden Entrance
was uncomfortable and noisy. The building works around the area
made the whole assembly experience unpleasant and sometimes dangerous.
It is clear that we could not have anticipated either the withdrawal
of the use of the Victoria Tower or the scale of work on Abingdon
Road. This should not be repeated in future.
1.14 3,000 visitors a day is clearly the optimum level.
Volumes could not be increased further without increasing the
opening hours and related costs. The operation could trade more
effectively and improve advance sales with tour operators if it
was permitted to sell advance allocations at a lower tariff and
therefore allow bulk operators to make a margin. This is a matter
of policy and needs to be examined in the context of any increase
to the Administration Fee. Extension of the tour itinerary to
include Portcullis House will reduce volume and slightly increase
1.15 The objectives of increasing foreign visitors and
wider penetration across the UK were achieved. This, together
with the market demand for foreign language tours, much of which
went unfulfilled, confirms that at least 43,000 of our visitors
were from abroad. The Ticketmaster sales breakdown shows a 20
per cent increase in sales from the UK regions.
SECTION 2: RECOMMENDATIONS
2.1 If guided tours are to become a permanent feature
at the Palace and form part of the strategy proposed by the Group
on Information for the Public then investment will have to be
made. It is recommended that a cross-departmental working team
be formed, reporting through the current Steering Group to the
Committees of both Houses.
2.2 This should include a permanent Visitor Management
core team to be established by the Steering Group.
2.3 This team is then to be tasked to report on the establishment
of a permanent Tour Management Office by May 2002. Specifically
the team should be tasked to produce the following:
An analysis of investment required in systems,
property and staff.
A Business Plan to support this proposed investment.
A recommendation on future organisation and role
within the Parliamentary management structure.
2.4 Any operation next year will have to recognise the
commitment made by the House of Commons Commission to the Golden
2.5 However 2002 should also be used to test any development
work or suggestions put forward by the cross-departmental team.
Amongst the changes to be evaluated during 2002 might be:
the impact of the inclusion of Portcullis House
on the tour operation;
a re-sited Ticket Office and an improved and perhaps
alternative Ticketing/Booking System prior to the establishment
of a Permanent Tours Office.
SECTION 3: BACKGROUND
3.1 The House of Commons approved the report and recommendations
of the Administration Committee on the trial opening in Summer
2000 and agreed to a further trial opening in Summer 2001, operating
within the following framework:
No interference with the Parliamentary Works Directorate
(PWD) Summer refurbishment programme.
No alterations to the Autumn Visits Programme
No interference with the work of Parliament as
a working building.
Visitors should again be charged at £3.50
to cover the ticketing charge and guide services.
There should be in the planned deficit limited
to an absolute maximum of £232,000.
3.2 Recommendations resulting from the 2000 trial included:
The opening of an on-site Ticket Office.
The introduction of foreign language tours.
To introduce a wider sales network across the
A change in marketing direction to improve sales
from outside the southeast region of the UK and overseas: it was
hoped that more overseas visitors would improve shop sales.
3.3 A further recommendation was that Portcullis House
should be open to visitors at no charge during the annual London
Open House weekend only.
3.4 A Steering Group, jointly chaired by the Serjeant
at Arms and Black Rod, continued to supervise the management of
the trial, with the Visitor Manager leading a cross-departmental
project group towards the implementation on 6 August 2001. This
is the report proposed by the Visitor Manager on the conclusion
of the second trial summer opening in Summer 2001. The reappointment
of Michael McDonald and Charles Day, as Visitor Manager and Assistant
Visitor Manager respectively, has greatly assisted in making a
true comparison with the trial summer opening in 2000 for which
they were responsible.
SECTION 4: FINANCIAL
SUMMARY [VAT ADJUSTED
LINE OF ROUTE 2001INCOME AND EXPENDITURE ACCOUNT
|Cost of Sales
|Total cost of Sales
|Gross Operating Profit
|Portable Lavatory Hire
|Advertising and Marketing
|Total Operating costs
|Net annual Surplus /(Deficit)
1. Actual sales exceeded budgeted sales mainly due to
the establishment of a ticket office within the precincts of the
2. Retail of souvenirs was lower than anticipated which
is reflected in both the sales and cost of sales figures.
3. Ticketmaster fees were lower than anticipated due
to the high proportion of direct sales which attracted a lower
4. Promotional tours and language tours generated guide
booking fees that lead to higher than budgeted spend.
5. Lower than forecast staffing levels, plus a high degree
of flexibility lead to staff cost savings.
SECTION 5: OPERATIONS
5.1 Black Rod's Garden. At a meeting held on 19
March with PWD, the impact of the summer works programme was reviewed.
At the time it was agreed that the contractor, working on the
refurbishment of Victoria Tower, be asked to avoid use of the
Victoria Tower hoist during our working hours.
5.2 By Easter it became clear that this would incur further
cost which PWD could not accept. An alternative holding area for
groups in Black Rod's Garden Entrance was proposed. This involved
unbudgeted expenditure in both manpower and minor building works
(see Financial Summary). Some adjustments were made to the contractor's
schedule on the House of Lords car park (World Squares) project.
In fact no work appeared to take place in Victoria Tower until
2 September. It is probable that some savings could have been
made had this been known in advance.
5.3 Access to Black Rod's Garden Entrance was restricted
both by road works in Abingdon Road and made uncomfortable by
the consequent levels of noise and pollution. The House of Lords
car park work was well confined within a fenced area. The lack
of foul weather cover proved uncomfortable on seven occasions
when wind and heavy rain made working and waiting conditions very
difficult. There was criticism from some visitors regarding both
the lack of seating for the elderly and the lack of lavatory facilities.
The assembly and access flows were dependent on at least three
staff being available at all times and wheel chair and baby buggy
handling proved cumbersome. There was no proper storage area for
5.4 Temporary Ticket Office. The Committee asked that
the sales of the tours be expanded across the UK to broaden the
visitor base and that a ticket office be established in-situ,
to enable visitors to purchase tickets on the day of their visit.
The Committee also required an increase in the proportion of overseas
visitors in relation to the total visitor base.
5.5 The temporary ticket office was created in Westminster
Hall by converting the existing Refreshment Department's souvenir
sales kiosk, with two selling positions. A large notice advertising
its existence was put up at St Stephen's Entrance. This notice
showed availability of tour places to the queues.
5.6 This ticket office was always an interim solution.
It involved visitors passing through St Stephen's security checkpoint
before buying tickets. In effect this created two queues: one
on the pavement and one inside Westminster Hall. This proved both
an irritant and a source of confusion, especially when we required
visitors to pass through a further security check on entering
the Palace at the Norman Porch entrance. This contributed to the
relatively large number of critical comments (617) that we received
5.7 Two slim-screen personal computers were purchased,
linked to the processor and ticket-printing machines installed
and owned by Ticketmaster. A royalty in lieu of rental was paid
on this equipment at a rate of 10p per ticket to Ticketmaster.
5.8 At the planning stage maximum sales were calculated
on the combined potential of the two sales points. On any day
that this maximum was exceeded queues and delays could be anticipated.
Till 1 + Till 2 = ( 30 x 2) = 60 transactions / hour
Average transaction= 2 tickets
Tickets sold / hour = 60 x 2 = 120 tickets / hour
Tickets sold / day= 120 x 7 hours
Total= 840 tickets = Maximum sales / day
This maximum was exceeded on 32 days during the 46 days of
the trial. System training was provided by Ticketmaster and the
operation of the system proved to be comparatively simple.
5.9 Difficulties occurred in the complexity involved
in refunding tickets, because of the low-level technology offered
by Ticketmaster system we used. In particular this was true of
the link for credit card payments. Daily cash takings of over
£4,000 were banked twice a day. The temporary nature of the
trial meant that a postal bank account had to be used which gave
limited service. Difficulties were experienced in aquiring stocks
of paying-in books and even cash reconciliation proved difficult
due to delays in receiving bank statements. These issues would
be resolved by any future working group which will include a member
of the Finance and Administration Department.
5.10 As noted in paragraph 5.8, volumes exceeded the
maximum forecast on 32 days of the 46 day trial. Long queues developed
during peak times on the pavement outside St Stephen's entrance.
This caused congestion which was exacerbated by the roadworks
5.11 The daily operation of the ticket office taught
many lessons. An average of over 200 ticket collections a day
were dealt with. Queuing constraints, together with only two sales
tills, did mean that we could not offer a dedicated pick-up location
or queue. One member of staff had to constantly patrol the queue
for those collecting pre-purchased tickets to avoid them missing
tours because of the long wait.
5.12 Refunds at the ticket office were complicated and
difficult. There was no integral credit-card facility on the Ticketmaster
system made available to us. This meant that credit-card validity
was established separately. Two manual entries on the value of
the transaction were mandatory. If a refund was called for, and
visitors often spontaneously changed their plans, we were unable
to record such a refund on the system despite the fact that it
had been made. This complexity, together with a very large volume,
further complicated by language problems, led to some discrepancies.
These are still subject to reconciliation.
5.13 The system itself stopped and crashed seven times
during the eight-week period. The Ticketmaster help service was
prompt and effective. However restricted as we were to two sales-points
meant large queues rapidly accumulating when this happened.
5.14 Without doubt the operation of this facility proved
the most challenging part of the trial. Significantly 16 per cent
of the comments analysed identified ticketing as the least satisfactory
aspect of the visit. The creation of any permanent facility will
need to be the subject of detailed evaluation together with further
and more substantial investment. We do not believe that it should
be located within the Palace itself.
5.15 The Open House weekend, 22-23 September, attracted
6,500 visitors on Saturday and 6,000 visitors on Sunday. The route
through Westminster Hall and Portcullis House was successful although
queuing arrangements outside St Stephen's need to be reviewed.
The siting of the ticket office outside the environs of the Palace
will help to resolve these difficulties in the future.
6. MARKETING AND
6.1 It was possible to plan ahead as the lead-in time
for this trial was two months longer than the last trial. Advertising
and promotional activity started in February 2001. Given that
it was an objective to increase overseas visitors, extensive use
was made of the British Tourist Authority recommended media, especially
in North America. However this was still too late for tour operators
to include in their 2001 marketing publications.
6.2 By the Spring it became clear that the market was
in decline, however extensive brochure distribution and direct
mail shots took place in North America. An article was put into
British Airways' magazine "High Life".
6.3 During the Summer a joint marketing programme with
Ticketmaster concentrated on the sales outlets in the UK regions.
Many of these are located in record stores. Effectiveness and
product knowledge of the sales staff in these stores left a lot
to be desired.
6.4 Extensive use was made of direct mail throughout
the UK regions. Regional Press Advertising was widely undertaken
and a programme was developed with Ticketmaster and the Omega
organisation, creating visits sponsored by local newspapers. In
June and July advertising concentrated on London based travel
publications and London's main press. The budget was limited.
Spend fell into the following categories [NB: Figures not VAT
|Travel & Trade Media
|Point of Sale Material
6.5 Several promotional/educational visits were held
for journalists, tourism industry staff etc to the Palace. However
the ability to create awareness in the leisure market is still
inhibited by low budget provision.
6.6 A press conference was held at the Palace in March.
The attendance was disappointing and coverage poor. It was felt
that it was too far in advance of the event.
6.7 Media coverage in July was good. The opening was
shown on SKY NEWS, GMTV and BBC London Live (Robert Elms) and
"The Afternoon Drivetime Show".
The merchandising operation was significantly smaller than
in the summer of 2000, in line with the experiences and findings
of last year. The most noticeable difference was the reduction
in the number of souvenir lines for sale (reduced from 124 in
2000 to 47 in 2001). Based on experience in 2000, the range offered
was aimed at the lower spend market and was again made up of souvenirs
from both Houses of Parliament.
The top 20 selling items, by volume, are shown in the table
|House of Parliament Postcard (Small)
|Guide Book (Jarrold)
|Palace of Westminster Post Card Pack (10)
|Chocolate Mint Creams200g
|Travel Sweets, Palace of Westminster200g
|Gel Roller PenPalace of Westminster
|Milk Chocolate Bar85g
|Leather Key Fob
|Linen Tea Towel
|Mini Teddy with Rucksack
It is worth noting that despite the different visitor profile
achieved this year, 15 of the 20 most popular souvenir items were
also ranked in last year's best selling list. In common with last
year, the vast majority of the most popular items retailed at
a price of less than £3.00.
7.1 Operationally, the layout and dimensions of the sales
and display areas worked well. The aesthetics of the merchandising
outlet require some enhancement, so as to capture greater numbers
of departing visitors.
7.2 Considering the high proportion of international
visitors participating on the tours, for whom English is not their
principal language, a move away from the catalogue style retail
outlet process should be taken, unless order forms, guidance notices
and signage are accommodated in a variety of international languages.
7.3 The House of Lords Refreshment Department should
make a greater contribution to the Line of Route Merchandising
venture. The operation is designed as a "joint" venture
between both Houses. The management, staffing and provision of
souvenirs need to be a shared responsibility.
7.4 In general the product mix was popular. Consumers
were vocal with their expectations and assumptions of product
lines. Distinct gaps for visitor souvenirs are for those that
are generic to the Palace of Westminster and not specific to either
House. Pictures, paintings and souvenir replicas of symbolic features
of the Palace are products demanded by visitors.
7.5 Although there is demand for specific items exclusively
available in both Refreshment Department outlets, there is a need
and demand for products representative of the visitor experience.
7.6 The design, sourcing and procurement of a separate
range of souvenirs specifically geared towards the needs of the
Line of Route would require significant investment, both in terms
of time and money. Specialist merchandising knowledge, particularly
of the heritage market, would need to be recruited or bought in.
Such investment would constitute a significant commercial risk,
and a direct cost that would need to be included in the Line of
Route budgets should this direction be taken in future development
of the product range.
7.7 Consistent supervision and staffing of the merchandising
outlet is difficult to achieve. Refreshment Department staff can
only be redeployed after the needs of all catering services have
been covered, and even those staff who can be spared for the Summer
Line of Route may not have the ideal skills set, nor be able to
work at weekends. It has, therefore, proven essential to make
extensive use of external, short-term contracted staff. The main
source of such staff this year was from a pool of college/university
students, but we encountered severe problems staffing the operation
during the latter half of September when the students returned
to their colleges. Use of agency casuals would in future overcome
this, but there would be an increased cost to the Summer Line
7.8 The merchandising operation did not achieve projected
sales and profit targets. Only 47 per cent of target income was
achieved. The principal reason for this stems from the notion
that every visitor will spend £2.55, whereas the net average
spend per visitor was actually £1.16. Bearing in mind that
the actual net average spend in 2000 was £1.00 per visitor,
the target appears over-optimistic. In actuality, retail sales
represented just 21 per cent of visitors purchasing souvenirs,
each spending an average of £5.64.
7.9 When setting sales targets and spends, consideration
must be given to the customer profiles of those participating
in the Summer Line of Route tours. Visitors to the Houses of Parliament
paying only £3.50 may well have very different proportions
of disposable income (PDI) to the market segment prepared to pay
£11.00 for a tour of Buckingham Palace. If the Line of Route
continues next year on broadly the same basis as during the two
years trial, a realistic and achievable retail sales budget would,
we suggest, be 25 per cent of Summer Line of Route visitors spending
a net amount of £6.00 (alternatively put, an average spend
of £1.50 per visitor).
7.10 After accounting for staff costs and other operating
expenses, the merchandising operation for the Summer Line of Route
contributed an estimated net profit of £10,000, a significant
improvement on last year's reported loss of £15,000. The
Committee will recall, however, that last year's merchandising
accounts included expenditure of over £22,000 for the purchase
of the sales counters and storage units, which were re-utilised
this year at minimal cost. If the Summer Line of Route is continued
in future years, financial provision needs to be made for the
periodic replacement of these counters.
8. PRICING AT
£5-£10 Admission for Adults
|London Transport Museum
|Tower Bridge Experience
|Imperial War Museum
|Globe Theatre Exhibition
|British Museum (Tour)
Source London Tourist Board 2002.
Over £10 Admission for Adults
|Hampton Court Palace
|Tower of London
Source London Tourist Board 2002.
GUIDED TOURS TO GREAT STATE BUILDINGS 2001-02
|St Paul's Cathedral