British tourist attractions to abolish discounts for older visitors

Older visitors to some of Britain’s top tourist attractions are being told that they must pay full price, since people over 65 now comprise the nation’s wealthiest demographic.

Richard Doughty, director of National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth, told The Independent: “We have done away with the concessionary ticket for our museum. It’s made a huge difference.

“We don’t get any support for our institution and we have to make the most of the income we get through admissions and Gift Aid.

“Getting rid of that concessionary ticket has helped us to increase our yield by 40 per cent in three years.”

Mr Doughty, 62, said that the change was helping the demographic who are described as “just about managing”.

“We’re a holiday destination. Most of the [older] people who come to our institution really can afford to pay the admission price, while families that are struggling can’t.

“We’ve reduced the price for children and made a much fairer deal for everybody.”

Everyone aged 18 or over pays £13.50 admission to the National Maritime Museum Cornwall. Children aged 5-17 pay £6. Ticket holders are entitled to return as often as they like during the course of the year.

The trend was revealed at the annual Visitor Attractions Conference in London.

Other attractions in Cornwall are following suit, as are West Country locations such as Longleat and the Cheddar Gorge.

Museums and attractions which have ditched the discount say the move has largely been received without complaint.

A few older visitors who are unhappy to lose their concession “take revenge” by refusing to sign up for Gift Aid, the scheme under which charities can reclaim the basic rate tax on entrance fees.

According to the most recent government figures, people aged 65 or over are far richer than younger age brackets. In the South West, the wealth owned by 65-plus individuals far exceeds that of everyone in the 16-54 age bracket. 

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “There is a bit of an urban myth going around that our older population is universally well off, but this is far from the reality for millions of older people today who are managing on a tight budget.

“For them, a cut-price ticket to an attraction may make all the difference between being able to go or not, so we hope operators will bear this in mind when deciding their pricing structures.” 

Some commercially run attractions have never offered a discount for older visitors. At the London Eye, everyone over 16 pays £28 (or 10 per cent less if they book online).

But many properties that are publicly owned or part of the Church of England still offer discounts for older visitors. Edinburgh Castle gives everyone over 60 almost one-fifth off its £18.50 walk-up admission.

York Minster offers “seniors” as well as students £2 off its £11 fee. And Londoners aged 60 or over not only qualify for free Underground and bus travel in the capital – they also get £2.50 off the normal £17 admission to the London Transport Museum.

Last November, the chancellor promised a new railcard scheme for “millennials,” giving one-third off train fares for passengers aged 26-30. But only 20,000 cards were issued for a cohort of 4.5 million people.

There is no limit on the number of railcards issued to people aged 60 and above.

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