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The BBC's Nick Higham reports
"Mr Gerbeau says that, with the Easter holidays and the summer season, he is confident of hitting 10 million"
 real 28k

Friday, 3 March, 2000, 07:53 GMT
Dome awaits million milestone
Dome
The Dome has recovered from some wounding criticism
The Millennium Dome is expecting its millionth visitor on Saturday, and says it is now on course to meet its revised target of 10 million visitors this year.

Helped by a busy half term break - it had to turn people away on several days - the Dome chalked up 569,538 people last month. But many of these were given complimentary tickets.

February's figures are a 55% increase on the previous month's, which triggered the departure of chief executive Jennie Page.

She was replaced by Pierre-Yves Gerbeau, who had helped revive fortunes at Disneyland Paris, and he said on Friday: "I am delighted with the attendance for February and look forward to welcoming our one millionth visitor this weekend."

The 1,000,000th visitor, likely to arrive about lunchtime, will be given a champagne reception, a VIP tour, lunch in a Dome restaurant and an all-expenses-paid return trip.

Similar prize packages will be available to each millionth visitor throughout the year.

'On course to meet targets'

The New Millennium Experince Company, which runs the Dome, needs at least 10 million admission-paying visitors during 2000 to break even, and hopes to attract 12 million.

Mr Gerbeau said the Dome was "still on course to meet all its targets".

Among the February figures were 83,425 people admitted free, of whom 63,755 were children on school trips.

The half-term week saw 178,047 visitors and included the highest single-day figure so far - 27,621 on 21 February.



The Dome was sold out for much of the half term
The lowest daily attendance was 11,516 on 2 February, which compared with the previous month's low of 5,084.

National Lottery retail outlets sold 29.6% of February's tickets while 17.6% were bought through the travel trade and 15.4% were purchased via the Dome's ticket line.

Full-paying adults made up just over half of the visitors, with children making up 40%, senior citizens 5.9% and students 3.3%.

Bad start

The Dome has recovered since the opening night fiasco when thousands of invited guests spent hours queueing at Stratford station in east London.

There was further criticism of NMEC when long queues formed at certain zones when the Dome opened in January.

Later, attendances tailed off and the company was forced to ask the Millennium Commission for a 32m loan to help ease cashflow.

Evening sessions, which will boost attendances, will begin on Saturday 1 April and operate throughout the summer.

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See also:

22 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Dome a national embarrassment - Tories
15 Feb 00 |  UK
Dome ops director quits
17 Feb 00 |  UK
'Month to rescue Dome'
21 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Dome an 'embarrassment' say Tories
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