This report will be divided into 5 sections. In the first section I will be describing the function of the company and the product it provides for its customers. The second section will provide an overview of the economics of the business and competition. The third section will describe the management structure at the company. The fourth section will provide both the PEST and SWOT analysis. Finally I will reflect on my time as a tourist guide, describe the job role and give my impressions of the company. Describing the company and what it offers Tower Bridge is a municipal enterprise owned, funded and managed by the City of London Corporation who are the local Government body responsible for the “financial square mile”. The City of London is therefore responsible for all commercial and operational matters relating to Tower Bridge. Funding of the enterprise comes from a long standing trust.
London Tower Bridge is located in the heart of London and is very close to London’s transport infrastructure and world famous historical sites such as; the Tower of London and HMS Belfast. It is a well known bridge that has become an iconic figure of London, spanning the River Thames, and is within walking distance of London’s other famous attractions such as the Globe Theatre and Tate Modern. Originally built in 1894 to ease traffic congestion on London Bridge and designed to allow access to large ships to the pool of London, it was subjected to a major conversion to become a tourist centre in the 1980s. Tower Bride is therefore both a monument to London’s past and a successful tourist attraction. The main offering is the Tower Bridge Exhibition which allows visitors to enter inside the Bridge allowing access to the High Level walkways with uninterrupted views across the city. This provides a unique selling point with which to market itself and provides a memorable and emotional experience for visitors. The tour also allows visitors to see the Victorian engine rooms from which the bridge used to be powered by. The company also offers corporate entertainment packages and a popular gift shop for visitors. Entry prices are at an affordable rate and for viewing pleasure, the Exhibition comes equipped with interactive screens, sliding window panels for better picture quality and excellent graphics on their giant screens. One of the most important features of Tower Bridge is its “bascule” mechanism system, which rises around 1000 times a year and is still in function to this present day. Bridge openings are very popular with the public and are part of its attraction and allure to tourists. This particular bridge is the only bridge in the world of its type that opens and closes.
Market and competitors
Another historical attraction within the same vicinity as Tower Bridge is the ‘Tower of London,’ which often competes with Tower Bridge as people tend to mix up the two because the structures are quite similar and this may sometimes lead to confusion. Moreover, the Tower of London was famous in Britain and around the world during World War 2 as an iconic landmark. Inevitably overshadowing Tower Bridge. Nonetheless the Tower Bridge is central to London’s historical heritage as a major commercial port. London has many other attractions including: the London eye, which can have up to 10,000 visitors every day and even the London Bridge Experience which opened in 2008. The Tower Bridge Exhibition has grown steadily since opening in 1984, with last year being its most successful in terms of financial surplus and numbers of visitors. With a small marketing team and budgets, Tower Bridge Exhibition relies heavily on organisations such as Visit Britain/London to document trends in visitors. Tower Bridge Exhibition targets throughout the year a very broad area including both the European and domestic markets. Within the domestic markets educational groups are also targeted but equal importance is placed on family groups. Advertising normally occurs through specialised magazines, in particular publications like the Times Educational Supplement or via websites such as www.vistislondon.co.uk where costs are generally lower then other mass media options. Trade shows are attended such as “World Travel Market” where the exhibition is promoted to a range of tour and group organisers and databases are created for direct mail campaigns. Tower Bridge Exhibition has a unique relationship with its competitors, although in direct competition with one another, attractions within London work together along with Visit London to bring people to the area. Tower Bridge Exhibition has a list of distributors which in return for a discounted ticket rate sell tickets globally, however they also promote competitors. Other key stakeholders of Tower Bridge Exhibition are Local and National Government and the EU who and impose rules and regulations. The local community and response services, the Tower Bridge charitable trust, all visitors, the media, internal trade unions and employees are also key stakeholders.
The cost of visiting the exhibition is £7.00 per adult and £3.00 per child (5-15) under fives go free, with a concession ticket costing £5.00 and disabled guests getting in for free. Group discounts are available for 10 people or more and a promotion with Network rail allows 2 for 1 entry. Ad hoc promotions are run throughout the year targeting specific groups, for example the exhibition’s 25th anniversary was celebrated by letting local residents in for 25p.
As a Customer Care Guide at the Tower Bridge Exhibition I had a fair amount of duties, roles and responsibilities which was based on the nucleus of customers and their safety along with their well being which meant constantly putting there needs and requirements first at all times. Furthermore, that meant me providing exceptional customer service and care at all times and making sure that the customers visit was as enjoyable and pleasant as humanly possible. With that in mind I would have to posses a certain degree of knowledge regarding the bridge and the local vicinity. I would also be required to have a competent level of expertise relating to the bridges history, construction and design most notably for when I am positioned inside the bridge and doing a position that entails doing speeches regularly. For positions like these I must convey clear and precise information to the customers so that they are made aware of the process inside the bridge. In addition, I would also need to be fully aware of all the processes of the bridge if say there was a fire or an evacuation I would have to be mindful of the correct drills and steps that needed to be taken in order for a safe and secure evacuation to be achieved for all customers especially the disabled, elderly and those in a wheelchair. My duties included maintaining a high level of security for both the visitors and the exhibition items as well as always being on hand and available to interact and engage with visitors should they need or require any assistance or help from me at any stage during there visit. Moreover, if they had a query or wanted further information about the or the area.
A business structure is very important and every organization has its own structure. A company such Tower Bridge organizational structure is a hierarchical with a concept of subordination of entities that collaborate and contribute to serve one common aim. Most of the staff in Tower Bridge are all in the front office dealing the member of public and tourist, some have more interaction such as the Ticket Office and Customer Care Guides.
Tower Bridge uses a functional structure which has the advantage of being easy to understand. The chain of command requires that an employee can report to one or more managers, but one manger such as Andy Nicholson, typically has more authority over the employee than their other manager(s). In Tower Bridge there are three mangers: one exhibition manager and two assistant managers. Having this structure means having layers of management that control the company by maintaining a high level of authority, with the power to make decisions concerning business activities. Employees such as customer care guide have limited authority to carry something out without prior approval. This organizational structure tends to focus on top-down management, whereby executives at the top communicate by telling middle managers, who then tell first level mangers, who then tell the staff what to do and how to do it. A limited number of employees report to a manager, who then reports to the next management level, and so on up to the Bridge Master or Tower Bridge Director.
The managers needs to be responsible for motivating the staffs and ensuring that any formal systems and practices that are in place are not undermined in anyway. In theory the managers at Tower Bridge are responsible for the business performance, as well as maintaining high standards of service and health and safety.
A functional structure of Tower Bridge can be illustrated by the following diagram:
The Managers are responsible for arranging shifts for their staff, creating promotional events and discount offers, deal with customer complaints, motivating staff, ensuring that staffs have the right uniforms, greeting customers and organising table reservations.
Political factors that may affect the ability of Tower Bridge to operate include government and City of London polices. In fact it seems unlikely that these will impact adversely on the attraction in the immediate future given its high profile and historic status. Cuts in public expenditure may lead to higher admission prices and less staff running the exhibition. As the government recent decision to cut funding to Visit Britain by 18% has big consequences for all London Attractions most specifically the smaller attractions such as Tower Bridge Exhibition who relay heavily on its services. Flight and bed taxes could deter visitors away from the city. Terrorism threats threaten the entire London tourism industry.
With more people using the internet, Tower Bridge Exhibitions will have to review its current website, as currently ticket purchases are too complicated. Advancements in ICT have meant that statistical data on tourist trends is now simpler to collect and more easily accessible through websites such as Visit Britain. Tower Bridge still has old and new technology some of the original hydraulic machinery is still remain as exhibition in the engine room nowadays they use electro-hydraulic drive that open the bridge up.
The main external forces (macro environment factors) that affect Tower Bridge Exhibition are economic and social factors. London is perceived to be an expensive place to visit, so the exhibition will need to provide better value for money. This is possible as at currently utilises only one third of available space. It will need to consider joint promotions with other attractions. Changes in interest rates at home cause fluctuations in disposable income meaning leisure activities are often put on hold, exchange rates and the strong pound against the dollar has seen a smaller spend per person from the important American market.
Tower Bridge Exhibition relies heavily on family groups, so a decline in traditional family set ups will require Tower Bridge to re-think its family tickets prices. Over the recent years are has been a changes in holiday patterns with people now preferring city breaks and long weekends. Terrorist attacks also cause fluctuations in the market with people looking for safer destinations.
The business philosophy is not just about making money but emphasizes on educating and informing the public (particularly young people). On the tower’s walkways, there is a great view of London similar to the Millennium Wheel but not as detailed or exciting. Furthermore, on a positive note, this particular zone is free of congestion charge, which allows people to freely enjoy their journey over the bridge. Although the bridge is funded by the City of London council, it also makes a reasonable income by hiring the venue in the evenings for special occasions.
Although it is an indoor attraction with a large view of London, a visit to Tower Bridge depends on the weather because the best sights are not always available due to the fact of the unpredictable British climate, for instance, on a rainy or overcast day, the views from the bridge can be very poor and distorted which could result in unhappy customers. What is more, London is an all-year-round destination so major attractions are not seasonal. Due to the fact Britain has such unpredictable weather, people usually carry sunglasses and umbrella because they never know what the weather can be like. This could have a bad effect and lead to a bad experience when coming to visit Tower Bridge on an unpleasant day. Firstly, the entrance to Tower Bridge Walkways is confusing for tourists who are unfamiliar with the area as there are no clear signs pointing in the right direction. Also, the journey to Tower Bridge is quite complicated if you have no knowledge of its whereabouts and may get lost. In addition, it is not pedestrian friendly as there tends to be lots of traffic and congestion upon entering the bridge. Secondly, in my opinion their main website is unappealing which doesn’t help to attract or interest people into visiting Tower Bridge. This apparent weakness and flaw could have a bad impact on tourists who have never been to London, as the websites layout and structure does not represent or give Tower Bridge an acceptable status (more life and colour in the graphics required to attract online interest). On the other hand, their website has easy access to different links that also caters to children’s needs such as fun packs for children’s discovery which is fun as well as being educational at the same time. Furthermore, to add to criticism the historical building needs substantial refurbishment to help increase the volume of visitors. Although people are aware that it is a bridge, some people are afraid of heights and may feel unsafe or in danger. Moreover, although the lengths of the walkways are reasonably lengthy, it is quite narrow and may have an affect on those who are claustrophobic. Security measures are paramount for one of the worlds most famous tourist attraction. When entering the Tower there is a single stage of security that visitors must pass through. Once their body has been examined and their belongings are check they are allowed to enter the walkway but it doesn’t mean the security level is up to standards. Reportedly, there have been cases where people have entered the building then proceeding through the security check in order to commit suicide. Fortunately, this has not changed people’s views to visit the attraction because any potential suicide incidents have been prevented. In reality, when the bridge does have a scheduled lift this results in a hold up of traffic. It is found that “An estimated 38,000 vehicles use the bridge each day, pushing it to capacity during peak hours”. This results in many delays for many people, who may decide to take an alternative route to avoid the traffic queues. Likewise, “Extra traffic is expected to increase impact damage to the extremities which flex under traffic loads.” This could mean that traffic queues are causing damage to the structure of the bridge, which may have a long term affect on the bridge. What is more, it is said that “these measures are expected to increase congestion either side if the bridge, adding to delays caused when it opens for shipping. Last year Tower Bridge lifted 925 times”. In my opinion, was this necessary?
Global advertisement could possibly result in an increase in the volume of visitors as many foreigners are unaware of a bridge that opens and this may be an attractive feature to witness in person. Perhaps due to the recession peoples lifestyles are changing, rather than individuals coming to the Tower Bridge they could engage in some promotion and coupons like the “two for the price of one”, “children of the age of under 12 go in for free” etc. Other attractions could work together with Tower Bridge rather than competing with them. They could cater for more languages by enhanced displays for overseas visitors such as Europeans and Asians. Provision of tour guides could be encouraged. Even though it is a self-guided exhibition they could offer a guided tour within the ticket price would encourage more visitors and may enhance the quality of the experience. Additionally, they should provide reasonable adjustment to facilitate for people who have disabilities. Due to the fact of the economic crisis the value of the pound has decreased. This is good news for the overseas visitors because of the currency exchange rates. In years to come the growth of tourism will increase despite the recession; London will generate tourist revenue from the 2012 Olympic games to be held in this city. This will boost and soar the volume of visitors in the capital.
The biggest threat to Tower Bridge is any potential terrorist attack perhaps of more concern is that there is no security check when going through the bridge and anyone is allowed to walk along the bridge. On the other hand, Tower Bridge is surrounded by a high level of competition with other tourist attractions equally famous like the Tower of London. In spite of the fact that other attractions complement each other it is possible that Tower Bridge will lose out due to the fact that it is less appealing. The economic downturn could have an impact on people’s lifestyles and their finances. Another way of viewing this is that the recession has changed our way of life. Culturally and socially people may prefer doing simple things like taking a walk in the park, instead of expensive vacations. After all a large proportion of overseas visitors come to visit the Tower Bridge. As a result this recession could have an significant effect resulting in a decrease of the number of visitors. In conclusion, it could be said that the current service could continue unchanged. The inherent advantages of location, history and unique appearance will service the attraction well in the future. However, improvements could also be considered namely a more attractive website, cater for different languages, refurbishment of the walkways. The main threats for the future are: economic downturn and limited attractiveness to a young audience.
Working in Tower Bridge has taught me a number of things about how tourist attractions operate in the market and what factors lead to an attractions success. Even though my time at the Tower Bridge consisted of 400 hours work experience I still had to go through the same procedures as I would if I were applying for a permanent job. I was interviewed by Andy Nicholson who gave me a fair amount of information regarding the history of bridge and what they offer to the public. Even through the interview lasted over 3 hours it was very insightful and useful to me. I gained a lot of knowledge about Tower Bridge and its surroundings. When I started work it was the beginning of the Easter holidays. I didn’t get any training at first except on how to use a radio. I was thrown in at the deep end for the first three days as I didn’t know much but I guess that is the best way to learn. After a few days I was formally introduced to other members of staff and my official training started. The assistant manager gave me the correct uniform as there are different ones to wear for different positions. I was given a full guided tour and met all the security staff, the maintenance department and human resources. I was shown all the emergency exits as well as all the other exits and where to meet if we had to be evacuated.
I was given a radio with my own personal identification which was “uniform 13” which enabled me to communicate with other members of staff via the radio. After that I undertook three days of shadowing a full time tour guide and I was also given a big pack of information about Tower Bridge. I learnt 4 different speeches plus aborts and general information of the history of London. A big plus point for me was that I was given the chance to get to know the surroundings and I spent a couple of days visiting other tourist attractions such as the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern gallery. I thought this was very helpful to me. After 1 week of shadowing and intensive reading I was finally ready to work on my own. My first position was to operate the north lift which takes the customers to the high level walkways and to give them instructions on what to do when they got up there. I did this a few times before trying out the other roles and positions. In total there are 8 positions, 1-3 are working in the lifts and the towers and the customer service areas. The only negative point about this aspect of the job is that it can become very repetitious.
Position 4 and 5 involve working in the gift shop next to the Victorian Engine Room. I was lucky to have this experience and to be till trained. Working in the shop has a lot of responsibilities, not only dealing with money and providing customer service, throughout the day you’re on your own and this can be quite stressful. There are many duties working at the shop in the morning before opening up, you are required to do a number of duties: making sure that there are enough products on the shelf and that these are neatly presented, knowing what’s not available and what’s low on stock so it can be ordered in, cash up the money for the till etc. Working in the gift shop can be pleasant but the only difficult issue that I faced was dealing with several customers at the same time. The gift shop is quite a small and confined area and it is where customers exit from the Exhibition. In some cases an unsatisfied customer will use his time in the gift shop to vent his frustrations and whoever is currently occupying the shop position is usually the one that is on the other end of the brunt of the customer’s fury. In addition to this, in most if not all the cases of a customer who was not completely happy with there visit and experience and demand a refund or if a technical malfunction occurs to any of the penny press machines then it is at the gift shop where all of the would be resolved.
Positions 6, 7 and 8 are what the company refers to as “footfall enticement”. These duties are intensive and consist of you dealing with customers at the front of the ticket office who are visiting the Tower Bridge Exhibition or are just walking pass as well as giving out general information about the bridge. I think the footfall position is a crucial role as it represents the Tower Bridge image and they are the first staff and port of contact to interact with the customers before they enter the exhibition. Throughout my work placement I have undertaken a fair amount of footfall and my view upon it is that it can be quite enjoyable. The only downside is that the footfall is an all year position which I think is unfortunate because Tower Bridge is on the river it can very windy and during autumn and winter it can be very cold. I did a few footfalls in April and even so it was extremely cold for me to endure and for someone to do this position you have to be mentally and physically strong. I don’t think people should have to work 8 hours outside in such cold conditions most notably during winter times and I think they should use the footfall personnel to go onto the walkways to give talks about the bridge and have one at the gift shop for assistance as the shop can get very busy and hectic at times.
After 200 hours I was given the opportunity to work at the Monument. My job role was to give out leaflets to those who completed the 311 steps and give brief talks about this famous landmark. I had a lot fun working there because it was a more intimate setting than the bridge so you got to talk and engage more with your work colleagues. It also meant that you could immerse yourself more in depth with the visitors and ask them more about their visit to the capital and how long they were intending on staying and where they were originally from. There is so much history written into the Monument which is intertwined with the Great Fire of London so for me to work there and to be a part of it was a good experience which contributed to my enjoyment there.
In terms of organization and structure there is much to change and develop. What surprised me is that staffs do not really work together and in some ways work in isolation from each other which seems inefficient and ineffective. There tends to be a gap and divide between the permanent staff who have been employed there for many years and the temporary staff such as myself.
Overall working at Tower Bridge has been a good learning experience for me. Like any other job there will always be positives and negatives but in some ways the work has provided some unique insights. I think Tower Bridge and the Monument are very successful tourist attractions for the reasons stated previously and there is no reason why it should not continue to prosper in the future with the right investment and a culture of continuous improvement. Many people who work at Tower Bridge have provided years of dedicated service for a prolonged period of time. Tour guides, ticket office, managers, security and maintenance people have worked their for a long time. A large proportion of them are 40 plus in age which is a change for me because it is the first time I have come across a situation like that. I think I have picked up some of their characteristics and learnt a lot from their experiences of being at Tower Bridge. On the whole I had a great experience and I would highly recommend it to other students who are interested in the tourist industry or those people who like history. Out of all the places I have worked in previously I can honestly say that this was the most interesting job and role that I have ever experienced. The majority of the staff I built and formed a relationship with not only as work colleagues but as friends outside working hours.
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