Town tourism suffers as visitors plummet

PUBLISHED: 16:00 06 January 2012

Archant

VISITOR numbers to a Somerset museum fell by 65 per cent in 2011, causing the attraction to make a loss for the year.

The introduction of admissions charges at Axbridge Museum in The Square, Axbridge, combined with the effects of the recession, saw the huge fall in visitors.

Museum trustee Phil Wookey said that visitor numbers in the town seemed to have fallen overall, a sentiment backed by other businesses in Axbridge.

The Oakhouse Hotel in Axbridge Square also reported seeing a big drop in visitors in 2011.

Manager Hannah Brown said: “There have been a lot less people here than there were before and it has impacted on our business.”

Phil Breaney, owner of the butcher’s shop in the Square, said: “There aren’t as many people coming from Cheddar Gorge any more, and there was definitely fewer people in the Square over the summer.”

Sedgemoor District Council removed the museum’s grant for 2011, forcing it to charge visitors for the first time.

The museum is also appealing for more trust members to come forward and help out with fundraising events to help it survive.

Community groups within the town have already helped the museum with new grants last month, from Harvest Home Committee and the Progressive Supper Committee.

Dr Wookey said he hoped the museum might turn a profit again within the next two years.

He also said that the visitor figure doesn’t take into account that in 2010 visitors would be counted if they came into the museum at all, but now it only counts people who pay to look around all of the displays.

He said: “Our feeling is that this season was a quiet one and there were fewer people coming into the town.

“We are working on the basis that the first year of charging is bound to be a shock to the system.”

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