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Entrance fees and repeat visit concessions

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by Herald, May 19, 2016.

  1. Herald

    Herald Member

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    Just wondering what people's thoughts and experience is of various marketing concessions to entice extra visitors and receipts. Looking across various railway centres and competing heritage museums and attractions there seem to be a wide variety of different ideas about entry discounts e.g.:
    • child and family ticket discounts which vary on ordinary days from a free child with each adult ticket (e.g. Ffestiniog) to small discounts relative to the adult price (e.g. 20% at Didcot) ,
    • reductions for society members, heritage railway or BR staff passes (some societies such as the Ffestiniog and Talyllyn being particularly generous with free travel and others such as Bluebell recently deciding to include BR passes),
    • local resident concessions, and,
    • 12 months free return entry as part of Gift Aid arrangements e.g. Beamish and Crich
    Does anyone know of sources of analysis of the effectiveness of different pricing and discounts in boosting overall visitor numbers and the commercial benefits of the various ideas (e.g. additional shop and cafe sales from 12 month entry or simply tipping the balance of a visit because of the perceived added value from the 12 month offer)?.
     
  2. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    Are you thinking of museums, or all preserved railways? I ask as there is the VAT dimension to consider for railways that offer a journey.
     
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  3. Herald

    Herald Member

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    I wasn't aiming to make a distinction as I was really interested in visitor motivation from a marketing perspective rather than from a tax efficiency point of view.

    You are correct that the intricacies of VAT, Gift Aid and Charity structures may have a major bearing on the tax position, its impact on the entry charge and the amount the volunteers can retain to develop their attraction.

    A quick look at various guidance suggests that under VAT Notice 701/47 a museum may meet the conditions for VAT exemption on admissions whilst VAT Notice 744A shows Passenger transport has a 0% VAT rate provided certain conditions are met. Worryingly section 8.1 of that VAT notice includes:

    "If you supply any of the following transport services, you must charge VAT at the standard-rate:
    • where the supply of transport services includes the right of admission to fair-grounds, museums, stately homes, theme parks, safari parks, water parks, piers, zoos and other places of entertainment, historic or cultural interest. Your transport services are standard rated whether you charge an overall admission price, which includes transport, or make a separate charge for the transport."
    That notice implies that great care needs to be taken where the railway ticket or marketing literature suggests it is inclusive of museum or other entry.

    Possibly a separate thread on tax structures would be useful for those who wish to arrange their activities to best effect.
     
  4. huochemi

    huochemi Well-Known Member Friend

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    Gift Aid is a rather murky topic. Like you, I thought Crich did this but if you look at their site, they don't appear to offer an alternative lower non-gift aided fee, which the guidelines say you have to https://www.gov.uk/guidance/gift-ai...ities-and-cascs-can-claim-on#the-benefit-rule, nor indeed mention gift aid at all - http://www.tramway.co.uk/plan-your-visit/tickets/ Beamish is similarly mysterious but at least they offer a link which takes you to info on gift aid, but I cannot see a non-gift aid alternative. http://www.beamish.org.uk/plan-your-visit/

    The Talyllyn offers gift aid on fares and flags this on its site http://talyllyn.co.uk/fares, plus advises of the non-gift aided alternative. The gift aider gets a discount at the café/shop which takes the net cost below the non-gift aid fare, but I don't think there is 12 month availability. I suspect that the 12 month availability, albeit required by gift aid rules, sugars the pill of the £16 / £18.50 entrance fee (for Crich/Beamish) as in reality the cost of accommodating persons who take advantage of this is probably small, plus they have the opportunity to extract more cash at the café and gift shop each visit.

    But on the general topic of the tariff, in many ways this is the most important matter the board will need to approve each year (perhaps for the NYMR it is availability of traction;)). My sense is that heritage railways are generally expensive. The North Norfolk Railway's family ticket (to take an example) is rather ungenerous in that at £40 it is only £1.00 less than two adults and two sprogs, albeit that includes a £5 gift voucher. http://www.nnrailway.co.uk/page.php?pid=22 However, one has to assume that of all things, such railways know what works for them, and elasticity of demand comes into it e.g. would a lower price produce a significantly greater total income (and could such volume be handled anyway)? Equally, at what price do you start to drive away material demand? Pitching senior citizen discounts is also tricky as I imagine they make up a significant percentage of all visitors.

    I suspect concessions available to members are very much related to the nature of the relationship of the bodies, and history. It is very difficult to claw back privileges once given. Equally it seems that those bodies without such a long history are fairly parsimonious in what they offer to members (I know this glosses over the reality that the membership body is not usually the body that operates trains, so is not in a position to offer anything without another party's cooperation). What should underpin all decision making on concessions is whether offering a concession actually drives an increase in net revenue (ignoring perks for staff and working volunteers).
     
  5. D1039

    D1039 Well-Known Member

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    An unofficial 'outside in' view from an SVR volunteer.

    In about 2011 the SVR stopped many of its reduced fare offers (kids for a quid) and concentrated more on full-price tickets. Its passenger numbers dropped 10,000 but traffic income was up £180k.

    It tried midweek 'advance fares' but they were discontinued.

    It reduced the child discount from 50% to 35% a couple of years ago. It also introduced an annual family pass but has substatially increased the price since - currently £175. The Black Country Museum version is said to be a very competitive £41.

    It considered at length for 2016 providing a voucher for a single return visit, but it was not proceeded with.

    The SVR offers reciprocal travel to volunteers of many other railways, is part of the HRA Inter-rail scheme, offers local residents' railcard, has through ticketing from NR and accepts 'big railway' PRIV (terms and conditions apply).

    There is vigorous debate on many of these and AIUI more ideas are being considered.

    I think most railways will have comparison tables but I don't know of public ones I'm afraid.

    Patrick
     
  6. Forestpines

    Forestpines Part of the furniture

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    At the Black Country Museum every ticket, though, is effectively an annual pass, hence why it seems competitive - it's their normal family admission price.
     
  7. mikechant

    mikechant Member

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    Speaking as someone who gets NR priv travel, I do think the 75% priv discounts on the NYMR/SVR etc. are maybe a bit on the generous side, 50% should raise more revenue with no significant loss of traffic. Personally I generally pay full price on heritage railways with priv discounts anyhow as I am lucky enough to be able to afford it.
     
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  8. TorbayTrains

    TorbayTrains New Member

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    The Dartmouth Steam Railway along with the river boat divison have different discounts available:

    There are a variety of season and resident passes which all offer slightly different discounts. The most popular is the season pass which is just under £50 for the year giving unlimited travel on the railway only. Others such as the ambassador pass give half price travel on the railway, boats and buses for the year.

    Recently the company worked with local schools offering a kids for £1 deal on any trip. The £1 would then be given back to the school as a donation. The DSR also works with local holidays parks offering kids go free vouchers which are valid per full paying adult for any trip including the boats as well, these have proved very popular.

    BR Privilege Passes - £7.50 (50% discount) on train and ferry. Also offers discount to SDR members as well. The DSR don't accept HRA passes.

    There are many other discounts on offer which can be seen on the website.
     
  9. Greenway

    Greenway Part of the furniture

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    It was interesting to note the comment by D1039, in his earlier post, showing reduced passenger numbers but realizing a good revenue increase.

    There often seems to be a great pleasure in quoting increases - or decreases - in passengers carried per annum but the accounts bottom line is, in my view, the most important figure to bear in mind - just ask the guy that pays the bills!
     
  10. Herald

    Herald Member

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    Agreed but what about some of the wider issues?

    Are local authorities, business groups (particularly those in the hospitality sector) and Heritage Lottery Fund more likely to look favourably at giving grants to attractions with proven popularity shown by high visitor numbers? Also how does the ticket price influence additional sales? Post 4 above mentions the NNR £5 voucher as part of the family ticket but this may influence gross takings more than a lower fare particularly as the NNR's cafe competes with arguably better and cheaper facilities nearby. Do cheap or free children's tickets offer a chance to spark the interest of a younger generation without which the movement will inevitably die?

    A big thank you to those who have contributed to the debate so far. Successfully marketing and sustaining a heritage attraction is clearly a complex subject where by sharing experience hopefully all can gain.
     
  11. Robin

    Robin Well-Known Member

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    How about the current "Six Thames Valley Railways" scheme (the six being Pendon Museum, Didcot Railway Centre, Swindon & Cricklade, Cholsey & Wallingford, Steam, and Chinnor & Princes Risborough). Visit any one and you get a voucher (or handfull of them!) for £2 discount off admission to any of the others, valid until this November. An interesting way of generating new business?
     

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