Global icon has given city a £10m boost

THOUSANDS of visitors from around the globe are flocking to Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower, which is now an established global icon.

And the success of the towering landmark is estimated to have ploughed an extra 10m into the city's economy in the past 12 months.

As the sail-shaped harbourside icon prepares to celebrate its first birthday tomorrow, the number of people going up the 550ft tower has exceeded all forecasts, putting it in the premier league of UK tourist attractions along with the London Eye and the Eden Project in Cornwall.

Almost 600,000 paying visitors have gone to the top.

That's 150,000 more than operators Heritage predicted when the tower finally opened last October, five years late and at a cost of 39.1m – nearly four times the original estimate.

The runaway success of the first year even means the city's taxpayers are finally getting some of their money back after seeing huge swathes of public cash poured in to keep the project afloat.

Tom Wright, the chief executive of national tourism agency VisitBritain, said: 'The Spinnaker Tower is fast becoming one of the must-visit places on overseas visitors' itineraries.'

A large proportion of the 600,000 visitors have been drawn by canny advertising campaigns promoting Portsmouth in London.

Visitors have paid an average 5 each to go up the tower, spending 3m for the privilege, but there has also been a huge spin-off for the city's other attractions.

The effect is felt along The Hard too, at the Historic Dockyard.

Spokeswoman Jackie Shaw said: 'We've had an extra 30,000 visitors since the tower opened which should mean we beat the figure for 2004 this year. We don't include last year because the figures were skewed by the success of Trafalgar 200.'

An economic study for VisitBritain estimates that the economic benefit to Portsmouth is about 10m.

Lib Dem council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: 'The first year of the tower has been a great success.

'I hope it continues so that over time the people of this city can be paid back the money they have put into it.'

chris.owen@thenews.co.uk