After more than eight months in operation, GulfQuest National Maritime Museum officials are not making attendance numbers public. Museum spokeswoman Diana Brewer said the numbers would be released in September when GulfQuest has been operational a full year.
“We have not gone through the tourist season … ,” Brewer said, explaining a year’s worth of data will allow GulfQuest’s “new type of attractions” and “new concept” to take hold. “We’re excited to see how that works out.”
But attendance has been “good, not great,” she admitted, and the museum has done well with out-of-towners but struggled to lure locals to the $62 million building on the banks of the Mobile River.
“We’re hearing a lot of ‘we’re going to [come] when we have out-of-town company,’” Brewer said.
Attracting locals has been an “uphill battle from day one,” she said. On the other hand, attendance by school groups has been “amazing.”
GulfQuest Education Director Ilka Porter said the museum has had a “fantastic” year with school groups.
“We didn’t stop,” she said. “We got great feedback from teachers and many said they were coming back.”
Porter said the school groups came from everywhere, including the Florida Panhandle, Mississippi, Louisiana and even as far away as Missouri.
“It’s a good mix,” Porter said. “It’s both private and public.”
Field trip packages at GulfQuest include a tour of the museum and a 45-minute classroom session with a certified instructor.
“Almost every school gets in the classroom,” Porter said.
This summer, GulfQuest is offering summer camps to students from next week through July, Porter said.
The camps include: underwater archeology for third- and fourth-graders; gone fishing, which includes lessons about the Alabama Gulf Coast Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo and jubilees; and nautical knots.
To register, Porter said, parents can call the museum.
GulfQuest has also moved up in the TripAdvisor travel website’s top attractions in the Mobile area. Brewer said it was No. 28, but now is No. 4 behind the Battleship, the Cathedral and the Mobile Carnival Museum. GulfQuest received a five-star rating and a certificate of excellence from the site as well, Brewer said.
“We’re really proud we moved to No. 4,” she said.
GulfQuest is also promoting a NOAA’s Ark exhibit on Deck 4 this summer.
The museum will also be offering tours of the General T.S. Rudder, a training vessel from the Texas A&M Maritime Academy, starting Monday, Aug. 1.
“That’s another way to introduce ourselves to those interested in the maritime industry,” Brewer said.
In November, the museum will host the tall ship America, a replica of the ship that won the first America’s Cup.