Westminster Abbey now example of how to handle tourists

March 6, 2002

Westminster Abbey in London has been lauded by a leading tourism official as a “shining example” of how to handle large numbers of tourists effectively.

Adrian Clark, director of the Tourism Society, said that by imposing an admission charge of six pounds ($8.50) the medieval abbey had acted to avoid the “downside of tourism,” the erosion of the building through wear and tear that plagues many of Britain’s historic religious buildings.

The abbey started charging admission in 1997 in response to growing congestion created by 1.75 million visitors a year. Canon David Hutt, responsible for maintenance of the abbey, said that the main purpose of charging an admission fee was to recover the spirituality of the building. “We now have a proper degree of management, and visitors are sharing with us concern for the fabric and spirituality,” he said. The abbey has a full-time conservator working in full view of visitors, who can now see that “proper stewardship” is being exercised.

Canterbury Cathedral, the mother church of the Anglican Communion, also charges for entry but the number of visitors is more manageable. Litter on the grounds surrounding the cathedral is more of a problem than wear and tear.