91. The financial implications of fewer than expected visitors are severe. The projected lifetime commercial income has fallen by more than half since 1997, to just ÃÂ£85 million. The danger of insufficient ticket receipts was acknowledged by Mr Ayling in February 1999, when he said: "The risk area is in the receipts that we get through the gate, the numbers of people going, the kinds of people who will be coming, whether or not we are able to get the occupancy that we are planning for, and that of course will be expecting a very high degree of consistency throughout the whole of the year which will take quite some management". The over-optimistic visitor forecast affected not only the Company's revenue but also its costs. For example, original staffing levels and Dome infrastructure were determined by the expected number of visitors.
92. From the middle of 1997, to the opening of the Dome there appear to have been no systematic endeavours to revise the visitor number forecasts.
NMEC and the Millennium Commission put their trust in opinion poll evidence and do not appear to have reconsidered their underlying business assumptions in the light of the transport strategy, the strength of the pound, or the establishment of the Dome's ticket prices.
93. The introduction of one million free tickets for school children has undoubtedly had a negative effect on visitor numbers. It has also introduced a two-tier system of visiting for children since those on free visits have had their access to parts of the Dome limited. Ms Page believed that free tickets had had a negative impact on costs and income because of the additional staff and facilities required, and because those children did not return to the Dome with their families as paying visitors to the extent that had...