300,000 visit Guildhall in 2015

The Guildhall's Main Hall where crowds gathered recently for the 'Sippy of Culture'.  The Council now want to diversify into retail following the spike in visitor numbers since the lavish building's refurbishment.  Photo: Sean Campbell Photography.
The Guildhall's Main Hall where crowds gathered recently for the 'Sippy of Culture'. The Council now want to diversify into retail following the spike in visitor numbers since the lavish building's refurbishment. Photo: Sean Campbell Photography.

Over 300,000 people have visited Derry’s Guildhall over the past year, with numbers also increasing at the Tower Museum.

In a report presented before Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Business & Culture Committee on Tuesday, it emerged that a total of 312,704 tourists and local people had visited the Guildhall during 2015, up 5% on last year.

At the other end of Guildhall Square, the Tower Museum saw visitor numbers increase by around the same margin to 22,749 last year.

Among the top nationalities presenting at both the Guildhall and the Tower Museum were people from America, Northern Ireland and the Republic, England, Germany, France and China.

In terms of income, the Tower Museum tallied £52,873 for 2015, a rise of 14% on 2014.

The Guildhall, which was hired out for many events and festivals last year, reaped almost £94,000, up by nearly 10% on the figure for 2014.

SDLP Councillor John Boyle said that the visitor numbers were “a phenomenal figure for any attraction anywhere in the north.”

“It is positive; it is good news; it is what people come to places for,” he said.

Colr. Boyle said that time and time again, visitors were bowled over by the unsurpassed and friendly “Irish welcome” that greets visitors at both the Guildhall and the Tower Museum.

Chair of the Committee, SDLP Councillor, Shauna Cusack, also praised staff at the Guildhall and Tower Museum.

A separate report brought before the committee earlier outlined plans to introduce shopping areas at the Guildhall and Tower Museum.

The committee cautiously agreed to proceed with the development of a business case and architect drawings with a budget of £10,000.

Sinn Fein Councillor Patricia Logue expressed concerns that there might be a knock-on impact on the business sector in the same area, some of which already offer gifts.

SDLP Councillor John Boyle concurred, saying that a scoping exercise was needed and that it may in the end conclude that the retail plans may not proceed.

“Is the offering in the Guildhall going to be the same as what will be in place the new visitor services centre at the former Ulster Bank?” he asked.

Ms. Williams responded there would be close contact to ensure there was “clear blue water” between what was being offered at the various different facilities, and no overlap with local businesses.