ORGANISERS of celebrations to mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn this month have been forced to slash ticket prices – after being faced with the prospect of a half-empty event.
More than half of the 20,000 tickets for Bannockburn Live – launched almost a year ago – have been left on the shelf despite the national tourism agency taking over the running of the troubled event in January.
With fewer than three weeks until the two-day event on the historic site – which has sold just over 8,000 tickets – the organising team has started discounting family tickets to boost sales.
The price of family tickets has been cut by £10 for the event in promotional adverts for the festival, which will feature leading singer-songwriters Dougie MacLean and Julie Fowlis, King Creosote and Rachel Sermanni.
The 18 per cent cut is being promoted months after VisitScotland took charge from the National Trust for Scotland, the charity responsible for the battlefield site, amid poor ticket sales and an unexpected clash with the UK government’s main Armed Forces Day celebrations in Stirling on the opening day of the festival.
A proposed third day of the event, on a Monday, was axed by the tourism body and capacity cut from 45,000 to just 20,000.
MSPs were told in April a new target attendance of 15,000 had been set.
The event, which will feature six re-enactments of the battle and a recreation of medieval encampments, is costing around £650,000 to stage and is expected to generate just £750,000 for the local economy if it sells out.
VisitScotland last night insisted its sales were still “on target”.
Insiders say the discounted offers reflect fears that many people were holding off on buying tickets, which cost £20 per adult for each day of the festival, because they were seen as too expensive.
Family tickets have been on sale since last June with a £60.50 price tag, including a £5.50 booking fee, but the new discount means family tickets will sell for £50.50. However, this means a family of four will still have to fork out £101 to attend both days of the event.
One source close to the event said: “There is always going to be a late rush for tickets, especially if there is a good weather forecast, but there is no denying that everyone wanted to sell a lot more than 8,000 tickets by now.
“Considering that 45,000 were put on sale last summer, it is not ideal that sales are so low when this is such a high-profile event.
“At this stage, it is about trying to ensure the site is as busy as possible over the two days so that performers are not playing to a half-empty arena.”
Bannockburn Live is one of the centrepieces of the Scottish Government’s Homecoming celebrations, instigated to boost the tourism industry on the back of hosting the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup.
VisitScotland refused to say how many promotional adverts offering the discounted tickets were running over the next few weeks, citing “commercial confidentiality”, but said it would be using a mix of online promotions, and regional and national newspaper titles.
The spokeswoman added: “We are on track to deliver an absolutely incredible, memorable event and we urge people to get their tickets now to avoid disappointment.”