The drop in the number of people visiting the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth is of course a cause for concern but, we suggest, is better viewed as a challenge than a calamity.
At first sight, perhaps, the revelation that annual visitor totals have more than halved since its first year is grim.
But we should bear in mind several contributory facts. Business projections showed numbers would be lower after the opening year because of the initial rush when the attraction opened.
And of course, the recession that has bedevilled us for too long has had a damaging effect on all sides of the tourism industry. Many people simply do not feel that they have too much money at present to spend on leisure activities.
There’s no doubt too that the tower’s difficult birth got it off to a slow start image-wise and although it has long since gained the iconic status supporters always said it would, the continued inability to achieve the seemingly-simple task of getting the outside lift to work has had a detrimental effect on the tower’s appeal.
Given that the outside lift has long since been as dead as a dodo, it’s just as well, we feel, that the ghost is finally being given up and that particular aspect of the tower finally and firmly consigned to the dustbin of history. What’s key now is defining and delivering a workable plan to get the number of visitors back on track.
Heritage, the firm which operates the landmark for Portsmouth City Council, has shown its commitment with an investment of £300,000 in the tower for the next three years.
It has exciting plans, including new displays and the installation of a ‘ship spotter’ linked to real-time shipping movements.
A close look should be taken at marketing – the tower is iconic, but are we selling it hard enough, particularly right here in Portsmouth? City residents get discounted prices, but how many have never been back after an initial visit when the tower first opened?
Part of the answer could lie closer to home than might first be apparent.
owing historic images of the city.
It will also install a ship spotter, which will give people on the first viewing deck information about any vessels they can see from the tower.
And the tower is also taking part in the Passport for Portsmouth scheme, in which venues across the region offer visitors discounts and promotions to encourage more visits.
Chief executive Juliana Delaney said: ‘There’s a lot of potential.
‘The tower’s got a life of at least 50 years more, so we will look at things a number of times to refresh its offer and attract more people.
‘And we’re really looking forward to beginning to do that, if that’s what the council decides.’
A ‘drop’ ride at the top of the tower was in the original plans for the attraction, though that could prove too expensive to add in the near future.
Cuncil leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘There are a number of possibilities.
‘We could have a restaurant on top of the ground floor.
‘It would have commanding views of the harbour and I think that could be a real success. And an attraction at the top would be good. We will take a look at what can be done.