Set in the heart of the New Forest National Park, Beaulieu is one of the South of England’s top visitor attractions and is home to the prestigious National Motor Museum. It has a variety of attractions suitable for families and car enthusiasts alike.
The National Motor Museum traces the history of motoring from the dawn of motoring to modern classics, as well as F1 racers and World Land Speed Record Breakers. This year the museum is hosting BOND IN MOTION, the largest exhibition of original James Bond vehicles staged anywhere in the world.
Beaulieu’s Managing Director, Russell Bowman (left), joined the attraction in 1998 as the company’s Finance Director. He was appointed Managing Director in 2004 and was made Chief Executive of the National Motor Museum Trust in 2007. One of Bowman’s key responsibilities is overseeing the commercial and organisational aspects of exhibitions like BOND IN MOTION.
Russell took time out of his busy schedule to explain to Blooloop how Beaulieu became ‘licensed to thrill’.
Bond Beats the Recession
Despite the recession, Beaulieu has seen an increase in footfall and revenue. Russell attributes this success to ensuring that Beaulieu’s attractions appeal to a wide audience: “We have responded to the recessionary squeeze by adding even more to appeal to a broad cross-section of visitors, such as the BOND IN MOTION exhibition and World of Top Gear, as well as the many other things that the Beaulieu has to offer. We are pleased to be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the National Motor Museum this year with such an exciting exhibition.”
BOND IN MOTION
BOND IN MOTION is the largest official collection of original Bond vehicles ever exhibited together. On display until the end of 2012, the exhibition marks the 50th anniversary of the James Bond films, the 40th anniversary of the National Motor Museum and the 60th anniversary of the Beaulieu attraction first opening to the public.
The exhibition features 50 cars, boats, motorbikes and jets made famous by the 007 films, and includes some of the best loved Bond cars of all time such as the Goldeneye Aston Martin DB5. Russell’s personal favourite and a favourite of visitors, is the iconic Lotus Esprit, featured in the film The Spy Who Loved Me.
BOND IN MOTION has generated an increase of over 41% in visitor numbers since its opening in mid-January. In terms of measuring the success of the exhibition Russell says, “It was easy to measure the increase in footfall that BOND IN MOTION has generated for Beaulieu because we opened the exhibition at our quietest time (January). We saw an immediate boost in visitors which we expect to continue until the exhibition closes at the end of the year.”
The logistics of organising an exhibition of this kind are complex. However, the National Motor Museum has an enviable and well-deserved reputation for looking after priceless vehicles. This reputation helped enormously when gathering together vehicles for the exhibition, as the owners of the cars were assured that their vehicles would be well looked after.
Co-ordinating the various individuals and companies involved in transporting the vehicles was also a potential headache. But again, this was overcome thanks to the National Motor Museum’s experience of looking after and shipping prestigious vehicles overseas.
Organising this exhibition required working closely with EON Productions - an affiliate of Danjaq, the UK based production company who make the James Bond films. Russell found that having worked with EON in the past made for a smoother working relationship this time around.
Russell explained that one of the biggest challenges is illustrating to a film production company how their brand can be strongly marketed in the tourism and leisure sector. “The hardest part is co-ordinating each party to come to agreements over the how and why of branding.”
The main challenge in this regard was agreeing on a strategy which works for both parties. An example of this is poster design, where single strong graphics and minimal text suit a film brief, but are not as appropriate for the marketing of a visitor attraction.
Top Gear and Merchandising
Prior to BOND IN MOTION, the last large branded exhibition to open at Beaulieu was World of Top Gear. The exhibition showcases vehicles from the popular BBC motoring show’s most ambitious challenges, including the amphibious Toyota, the Alfa/Saab stretch limo and the Reliant Robin rocket.
World of Top Gear has proved to be extremely popular with visitors, and has also triggered an increase in revenue through the sale of merchandise. Stig T-Shirts with ‘I am the Stig’, ‘I am not the Stig’ and other Stig-related text were, of course, best sellers.
Conversely, Russell says that there has been less revenue from BOND IN MOTION merchandise. However, the company commissioned BOND IN MOTION Top Trump cards, which have been of huge interest to collectors.
“A special day out that people of all ages and tastes can enjoy”
Whilst both World of Top Gear and BOND IN MOTION have increased footfall, Beaulieu makes a real effort to ensure that the attraction has something to offer every visitor.
“We want our visitors to have a special day out and aim to offer an attraction with a range of features appealing to all ages and interests,” Russell says.
This is made possible by the sheer size of the Beaulieu attraction, which includes the National Motor Museum, BOND IN MOTION, World of Top Gear, 13th century Beaulieu Abbey, the Secret Army Exhibition, Palace House and extensive grounds and gardens, as well as its very own restaurant. At Beaulieu’s sister attraction of Buckler’s Hard on the Beaulieu River, visitors can now see the indigenous boat from Quantum of Solace.
Beaulieu also welcomes a large number of educational visits, attracting approximately 9000 school children per year, mostly from primary and junior schools. Victorian themed educational visits in Palace House are particularly popular with school groups.
Russell concludes: “It is the diversity of the attraction that continues to ensure Beaulieu’s success, as people from all walks of life can enjoy a full day out at the attraction.”
Article for Blooloop by Kerry Butters