Is competition from Busch Gardens the reason for Colonial Williamsburg’s failing attendance? Busch Gardens was there when CW’s attendance was more than a million visitors a year. But is today’s customer getting the same dollar value for his ticket as he did before, or has the ticket value declined?
While musket firing and hatchet throwing are new programs, let’s look at some of the things that have been shortened or eliminated. Did this reduce a ticket’s value?
Children can no longer feed ducklings at the Governor’s Palace. The introduction in the Palace courtyard has been shortened, so the role of the governor and his duties are rarely explained. The reason for no carpet under the girl’s bed, for the Chinese-themed furniture or Chinese motif Delft fireplace tiles are not explained. The dining room is ignored, with no mention of Patrick Henry’s chair. The reason the “dessert room” had that name is not mentioned, instead the group is rapidly marched out to the garden steps. On one occasion, I heard a supervisor admonish our CW interpreter as she was finishing the tour, “You took 22 minutes, and you should have been done in 20.” Money’s worth?
Visitors no longer receive a presentation in the courtyard of the Capitol building. Inside, there is no longer a short talk on the importance of “Magna Carta” nor of jury selection, trial by branding or an explanation of “benefit of clergy.”
No more tours of the jail. Visitors miss the chance to heft some shackles or have an explanation of the cells and how prisoners lived, or how justice was applied.
Is it the competition, or has value for money diminished? Just how will a fence help?
My comments are based on my 16 years as a licensed guide in Colonial Williamsburg.