A MUSEUM in Basingstoke has been entertaining tourism chiefs to celebrate a 20 per cent increase in visitors.

In the first year it opened, Milestones museum, at Basingstoke Leisure Park, enjoyed an extremely successful "honeymoon period".

But in subsequent years the visitor numbers declined, leading to periods of financial instability.

However, bosses now say the museum achieved visitor numbers of 88,338 in 2007/8 - an increase of 20 per cent on the position two years earlier.

Income has also risen by nine per cent, representing 54 per cent of gross expenditure in 2007/8, up from 49 per cent in 2003/4.

Tourism officials were shown what their investment has achieved at the attraction. The tour started at Milestones before two of Milestones' vintage Thornycroft vehicles, usually kept on display, were put into action, heading south for Winchester's Great Hall and Discovery Centre.

The officials, with Yinnon Ezra, director of recreation and heritage at Hampshire County Council, as their tour guide, were from the Local Government Association, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Councillor Ken Thornber, county council leader, and Cllr Michael Woodhall, county council chairman, were among those present to express their thanks for the continued support received by each of the organisations.

Cllr Thornber said: "Hampshire County Council is delighted that executives from the LGA, MLA and HLF took time out of their busy schedules to visit Hampshire and three of its top attractions.

"I hope that this will instil their confidence in Hampshire County Council and our vision to make sure everyone has a cultural entitlement, which can be experienced through visiting first-class venues and attractions."