Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: A clear solution to Giant dilemma

The National Trust is a scrupulous guardian of much of our heritage and does a magnificent job in preserving some fantastic facilities across the province. But it is finding life fraught with its new visitor centre at the Giant's Causeway.

Now the controversy is over its charging policy. Having spent £18.5m on the centre the trust is obviously keen to get as many people through its doors as possible, but some visitors are questioning if the £8.50 charge is value for money.

The trust's claims that it has benchmarked its charges against other international standard attractions and it does provide an impressive exhibition on the Causeway and its history and an audio guide to the area as well as standard facilities such as a cafe and gift shop.

The real gripe is that the trust's clever use of signage means that most visitors feel they are compelled to enter the car park and pay the £8.50 fee. However there is alternative parking nearby and access to the Causeway itself is free.

No one can blame the trust for trying, like Disney, the masters of managing tourist attractions, to get as many paying visitors as possible. And it should not be subjected to a chorus of disapproval for a legitimate business exercise.

There is a danger that focusing on the issue of charges could detract from what is a valuable, and much sought after, facility and spoil the enjoyment of a visit to one of the natural wonders of the world.

The trust should review its signage policy and clearly mark the alternatives for those who don't want to enjoy the exhibition, gift shop or cafe.

This newspaper regards the issue as one of tweaking what already exists rather than any attack on the principle of the trust's business practice.

It has not exactly been over-zealous in promoting the free alternatives to its facilities, but it is probably idealistic to expect that.

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