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250,000 flocked to see Southampton's Go! Rhinos trail
TWICE as many people followed Southampton’s Go! Rhinos trail as expected, the Daily Echo can reveal.
More than 250,000 visitors flocked to the city to see the 96 brightly-coloured sculptures dotted around the city’s streets and parks.
That was double the amount expected by Hampshire’s Marwell Wildlife which launched the ten-week trail on July 13.
Of those who visited the Go! Rhinos headquarters in The Marlands shopping centre, 74 per cent said that the main purpose of their journey into Southampton was to do the trail.
Eighty-one per cent said they would stay in the city longer because of it and 52 per cent admitted that 100 per cent of their spending in the city was as a direct result of the trail.
Southampton City Art Gallery saw a massive boost in the number of people venturing inside to see Planet Rhino and a crash of mini rhinos – recording a 35 per cent increase in visitors compared to August last year.
Kirstie Mathieson, Go! Rhinos project manager, said: “The impact and response from the public has been better than we could have ever imagined or dreamed of.
“We’ve had extremely positive feedback from people telling us how much they enjoyed seeing the rhinos, how they have brightened up the city and how by doing the trail they have discovered areas of Southampton they had forgotten or didn’t even know about.
“Go! Rhinos created a distinct buzz in the city and a great sense of community. It was wonderful to see the smiles on everyone’s faces and hear the shrieks of ‘Rhino’ as children ran to their latest sculpture discovery.”
Thirty-six businesses joined the stampede and sponsored a life-sized rhino, all eager to be part of the charge that has seen millions of pounds of investment brought into other cities with similar events.
Sally Lynskey, chief executive of Business South, said: “It has been so positive to see so many businesses rallying to get behind the project and help make it the success it is.
“This proves that businesses in the region are really keen to support initiatives to promote the city, its creative talents and also raise awareness for the conservation of rhinos and the work being undertaken by Marwell Wildlife.”
It may only be less than a week since the creatures bade farewell to the city, but the benefits have already been felt.
WestQuay, which was home to Ringo the rhino, have reported a 25 per cent increase in sales during the first week of the trail, compared to the previous week, and week on week footfall was up, with a six per cent boost during the third week and five per cent increases during the fifth and final weeks of the exhibition.
Tim Keeping, general manager at The Marlands shopping centre, which sponsored a rhino and became a hub of rhino sightseeing, believes the event has had a “fantastic” impact on their shops.
He said: “Footfall has increased this summer and retailers have all commented on seeing new customers and increased footfall in their shops.”
Other stats from the trail reveal that more than 55,000 maps were picked up during the ten weeks and 1.5m people connected with the project via social media website Facebook.
The Go! Rhinos iPhone app recorded more than 4,500 downloads, seeing it reach 126 in the entertainment charts.
Next month the life-sized sculptures will be auctioned off with the money split between Marwell Wildlife's conservation project, The Rose Road Association and Wessex Heartbeat's High 5 Appeal.
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