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Visitor numbers down 30% at Dundee visitor attraction post-Covid, says boss

Discovery Point has seen a 30% drop in visitor numbers post-Covid.
Discovery Point has seen a 30% drop in visitor numbers post-Covid.

Visitors at Discovery Point in Dundee are down almost a third on pre-Covid figures while the charity that runs the venture is on a fundraising mission.

Dundee Heritage Trust is still trying to raise all the £12 million needed to redevelop Discovery Point, which has seen visitors fall by 30% on pre-pandemic levels.

The tourist attraction is home to historic ship RRS Discovery, which took world-famous explorers Shackleton and Scott to Antarctica.

Phase one of the upgrade is expected to open this summer.

Deirdre Robertson, chief executive of Dundee Heritage Trust, said “good progress” was being made on the £12m fundraising target and she remained hopeful.

She said: “Later this summer, visitors will be able to enjoy a visit to the dome – a previously inaccessible space.

“They will also be able to view an animated film of what Dundee looked like when Discovery Point opened in 1901 and get to see the 360-degree view from the dome itself.”

Historic ship central to Discovery Point

Ms Robertson said Discovery is a unique, precious and constantly-deteriorating wooden structure of world-heritage significance.

“She has been temporarily entrusted to our city’s care.

“We must ensure she stays with us for as long as possible.

“We have undertaken an extensive ship survey and are now working with specialist Becket Rankin in refining that work to establish exactly what work needs done.

Chief executive of Dundee Heritage Trust, Deirdre Robertson.

“Only when that work is done will we know what the best long-term conservation solution for her needs to be.

“We may want to look at something quite radical.

“The ship is central to all our plans and its long-term conservation is our number one priority.”

Ms Robertson said the future phase of the work planned at Discovery Point is to improve the energy efficiency of the building.

There are also plans to enhance what is on offer by telling richer and deeper stories of Scott and Shackleton.

Discovery Point is being upgraded with a new dome experience giving 360 degree views of the city and waterfront

“We hope that once the second phase of the work is finished, the building will use far less energy and therefore be more affordable to run.”

She also praised Dundee Heritage Trust’s “small but brilliant” staff and volunteer team.

Covid nightmare as visitor numbers fall

Visitor numbers at Discovery Point have still to recover to levels seen before Covid-19. 

Pre-pandemic visitor numbers were around 80,000 a year, though are currently running at around just 70% of those numbers.

Deirdre said they regularly get great feedback about the customer experience at Discovery Point.

“TripAdvisor reviews are consistently five-star and it’s currently listed in the top 10 of things to do in the whole of Scotland on the travel website.

Ms Robertson said Covid had been a “nightmare”, but the feedback from those who do visit is usually excellent.

“I think this is down to a mix of our offer and our brilliant staff and volunteers.”

The chief executive said Covid had been a nightmare for Dundee Heritage Trust, which also runs the Verdant Works – the city’s social-history museum and Scotland’s jute museum.

“All our income streams went overnight. We lost all our visitors for months.

“The positive thing was it highlighted the shocking disparity in regular core grant funding between our organisation and other cultural organisations – both in the city and across Scotland.

“We are a bit more on the radar now. We remain optimistic that our position will be reviewed.”

Money is still required to complete the £12m upgrades at Discovery Point.

She hopes that in five years’ time, the trust is on a sounder financial footing.

Finishing extension works at Discovery Point will be part of that, while there are plans to create an Antarctic science/climate-change gallery.

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