Trust reveals scale of drop in museum visitor numbers

Visitor numbers to Shetland Museum and Archive have plunged by over 90 per cent as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief executive of Shetland Amenity Trust Mat Roberts highlighted the figures at the end of the annual general meeting, which was held behind closed doors.

A total of 906 visitors were welcomed during July and August – 93 per cent lower than in 2019.

It follows new safety measures aimed at restricting visitor numbers to enable social distancing and increase cleaning and hygiene.

But despite the massive drop, most – 84 per cent – of the available slots were booked, and 77 per cent of visitors to the museum were tourists.

It comes after the museum re-opened to visitors on 15th July.

That made it one of the first public buildings in the isles to re-open after the Covid-19 crisis forced a country-wide lockdown.

A new online booking system is now in place restricting visitor numbers and enabling track and trace where required.

A one-way system and social distancing measures enable visitors to stay safe. The cafe area was adapted to provide a socially distanced picnic area.

Meanwhile, the Sumburgh Head reopened to visitors on 26th July. A total of 463 paying visitors came to the attraction over the four week period in which it was open – 61 per cent down on 2019.

There were also a large number of non-paying visitors to the outside areas of the site. The trust says a marked effort was made to encourage non-ticket holders to make a donation to support its upkeep.

Mr Roberts admitted it had been a “challenging” year, but he insisted there was good news too, with announcements expected soon on new trustees coming onto the board and major efforts having taken place to plug a gender pay gap.

“The take-away stat is that even when we fill every slot we’ve got available, we’re still 90 per cent down on last year’s numbers,” he said.

“Even success today, under Covid, is a 90 per cent reduction on people going to the museum.”

The figures have come ahead of stricter rules from the Scottish government, which limit the number of people allowed in a social gathering to six from two households.

Mr Roberts said “the rule of six” was also going to have an impact on the trust.

“It’s a simple rule, but it’s quite hard to implement,” he said.

News is expected later this week on four new trustees joining the organisation. Former SIC member Frank Robertson is stepping down after 20 years.

“We had the strongest ever field of applications for trustees,” Mr Roberts added.

“They were selected from a stronger and more competitive field than I’ve seen in the last few years,” he added.

Staff training and consultation has also been undertaken, with both sector and government guidelines being kept under “constant review” to ensure the trust is compliant and achieving best practice.


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