Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard aims to get a million visitors a year

BIG PLANS Lincoln Clarke at Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard
BIG PLANS Lincoln Clarke at Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard
Ian Luckett with Steven Small

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THE man in charge of tourism at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard has unveiled bold plans to get a million paying visitors a year through the gates by 2022.

Lincoln Clarke told The News a new ticketing strategy is key to trebling the number of people flooding through the doors.

It comes after what he called a ‘challenging year’ as visitor numbers dropped due to the Olympics and poor summer weather.

Mr Clarke, who took on the role as chief executive of the heritage site in August, has already overhauled the entry price.

Visitors can now choose to pay to see individual attractions, such as HMS Victory, or opt for a year-round ticket to the whole site and a harbour boat tour for £25.50, which can be used as many times as people want over the course of 12 months.

With the launch of the new £35m Mary Rose museum and the centenary of the First World War from 2014 to 2018, Mr Clarke said the future was bright.

He added: ‘We have around 300,000 paying customers per annum at the moment. The reason I joined is we have established an agreed strategy that aims to seek 600,000 in five years’ time and up to one million in 10 years’ time.

‘There’s a lot of work we need to do but we’ve got nationally and internationally recognised collections and the jewels in the crown, particularly with HMS Victory and the Mary Rose.

‘I think we probably need to work much harder, but we’ve certainly got the ammunition.’

Mr Clarke revealed visitor numbers had dropped this year because of the London Olympics, but was not willing to give figures.

He said: ‘Visitor numbers declined, but I don’t think that was a surprise to anybody. That’s the downside of the Olympics in the year they are held. But what is good about the Olympics is it is the best possible advertising for England. You take a hit in the Olympics year, but that then drives tourism for the next three or four years.’

He spoke as politicians, business leaders and tourism chiefs from Visit England gathered at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard on Wednesday for a ‘tourism summit’ to thrash out plans to boost city visitor numbers, which is key to driving the local economic growth.

A new Destination Management Organisation has been set up by the former Lord Mayor Cllr Cheryl Buggy to stitch all the city’s sights and attractions together for a big marketing push.

She said: ‘I get a sense there is a real getting-together and a realisation that Portsmouth is and should be a visitor destination of global importance.’

James Berresford, the chief executive of Visit England said: ‘I’m not just saying this because I’m in a room of Portsmouth natives, but the product is fabulous. It can stand up to anywhere else in the country.

‘You need to work together very closely to maximise the ambitions you have if you are to compete in a very competitive environment nationally and internationally. If you can do that, then believe me when I say it’s all to play for.’