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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 21:08 GMT 22:08 UK
Dome too 'risky', admits boss
The Dome was dogged by queues in its early days
Families from Scotland and the north of England consider a visit to the Millennium Dome to be a "risky purchase", its chief executive has admitted.

Pierre-Yves Gerbeau said negative images of the London attraction were deterring people from taking the time and expense to see it.

We won't go back to the Millennium Commission for more money

Chief executive Pierre-Yves Gerbeau
He appealed to the public to have a balanced opinion of the Dome.

Mr Gerbeau said it was the Dome's own research which showed that potential visitors considered the effort would outweigh the enjoyment of a trip.

In evidence to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, he said people from Greater London were able to risk their time on a visit.

Tickets usually cost 20 for adults and 16.50 for children, or 57 for a family of four.

But minister for the Dome Lord Falconer of Thoroton said sales of free or reduced price tickets had been steadily rising and reached 50% in June.

In a Lords written answer he revealed that 26% of visitors have taken advantage of discount packages.

Dome at night
Visitors believe the time and cost "too risky"
Mr Gerbeau, a former executive at Disney's Paris theme park, was recruited to turn round the flagging 758m showpiece earlier this year.

He told the select committee: "I've got a lot of sympathy with what happened in the past, and we will have to do a statement at the end of the year to see what went wrong.

"But why focus on what went wrong when we are focusing on what is going right and I think there's a fine a balance here."

Leisure time 'at risk'

He told the committee: "This is why I feel very strongly - because in our latest survey, there is a perception that the Dome is now a risky purchase.

"And if you look at the different markets we are targeting ... in Greater London people are going to take that risk because they are not too far away.

"But when you live in Scotland, or when you live in the north of England it's difficult to make that call because it's not only the money issue, but it's also the leisure time you spend with your family.

"People are just looking at it and saying: 'Is it worth the risk?"'

Mr Gerbeau said parents were working so hard they had little leisure time with their families and that the Dome's image problem was "really putting people off."

"And I feel that this is very unfair," he added.

War with sponsors

Surveys showed visitors who made the trip to Greenwich were overwhelmingly impressed, he stressed.

London Eye
The London Eye is now a rival attraction
A survey in February found the Dome is London's top attraction for customer service.

But he acknowledged there was a range of problems when he arrived, including the Dome being "at war" with disgruntled sponsors.

There had been "no market potential" for attracting the target of between 10 and 12 million visitors.

"It was pretty clear as soon as I stepped in ... in my experience it took, with a brand known around the world, five years to reach those kinds of numbers."

He confirmed that the Dome had been on the verge of bankruptcy when it received a 29m lifeline in May, but told MPs he would not seek further handouts.

Also giving evidence, NMEC chairman David Quarmby said former chief executive Jennie Page had been sacked despite completing the Dome on schedule because the management team had been "exhausted".

Mr Quarmby said: "The team was exhausted and, as Jennie herself said, needed fresh management to do what was a very difficult task, from turning a huge construction project with an immovable opening date into a customer-focused visitor attraction."

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See also:

25 Jun 00 | UK
Dome bonuses despite cuts
15 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Dome was days from bankruptcy
24 May 00 | UK
MPs demand Dome inquiry
24 May 00 | UK Politics
Dome 'monument to Labour vanity'
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