Last week, a new report by the University of Sheffield demonstrated the vast economic impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the UK’s arts, culture, and heritage sector. This report shows that the sector declined 60% in gross value added over the course of the coronavirus pandemic due to the lack of attendance of museums, galleries, historic landmarks, stately homes, and theatres, as lockdowns and social distancing rules have kept Britons from going on ‘days out.’
Research conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies examines the attitudes of the public towards ‘days out’ and the factors that influence Britons’ decisions to visit cultural sites.
48% of Britons say they have been on a ‘day out’ to a cultural site in the last 12 months, with popular destinations including national parks (45%), museums (45%), theatres (29%), and historical landmarks (26%). Conversely, just over half of Britons polled (52%) say they have not been on a ‘day out’ to a cultural site in the last 12 months.
Among those who have visited a cultural site in the past 12 months, a plurality (41%) says their main motivation was ‘to spend time with family, friends, and children,’ and a further 27% cite wanting ‘to learn about history and culture’ as their main motivation. 18% visited a cultural site ‘to spend time outdoors,’ and 9% did so ‘to see something beautiful.’
Overall, higher proportions of younger respondents than older respondents indicate they have been on a ‘day out’ in the past year: 66% of those aged 18 to 24 give this response, compared to 42% of those aged 65 and over.
It appears that coronavirus has been the main driver of this disparity between age groups. Among those who say they have not been on a ‘day out’ in the last year, over half (51%) of respondents in the oldest age category cite the coronavirus pandemic as the main reason as to why, compared to just 27% of those aged 18 to 24. Overall, among those who have not been on a ‘day out’ in the past year, 43% point to the coronavirus pandemic as the main reason.
Meanwhile, we find that other potential barriers have not played a major role in keeping Britons from going on ‘days out.’ For instance, only marginal proportions of 4% and 3% respectively cite cultural sites being too inaccessible or them not being aware of cultural sites near them as the main reason.
While a notable 18% of Britons have not gone on a ‘day out’ because they are not interested, 15% of those polled cite trips to cultural sites being too expensive as the main reason for not having gone on one in the past 12 months.
Indeed, whilst the cultural and heritage sector has taken a substantial financial hit over the past year, so have the finances of many Britons. When asked how much they would be willing to pay to visit an array of attractions, pluralities indicate they would only visit national parks (39%), art galleries/exhibitions (38%), historical landmarks (34%), and stately homes (27%) if entry were free. To visit a museum, a narrow plurality (29%) would be willing to pay between £1 and £5, though a further 28% would only go if entry were free. The theatre is a notable exception, as a plurality (21%) would be willing to pay over £20 to visit.
As our results show, organisations big and small must contend with a public that is unwilling to spend large amounts to pursue ‘days out.’ This finding suggests a substantial difficulty for the arts, culture, and heritage sector: Going forward, pricing entry to cultural sites at levels that are low enough to increase footfall through matching the public’s expectations while at the same time being high enough to secure sufficient profits is a challenging task.