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  • Let’s reopen the doors (Weekly update, 29 May 2020)

    Posted on May 29, 2020
    A blog by Catherine Leonard, Secretary-General

    So, another week has gone by and I’m here with my Friday update.  In many countries, we’re beginning to see a gradual flattening of the curve, the easing of restrictions and even the opening up of some heritage sites.  But we’re also seeing INTO members facing big challenges and big questions about the future.   I hope that wherever you are in the world, this email finds you well.

    Let’s reopen the doors!

    Last weekend, FAI – Fondo Ambiente Italiano (the Italian National Trust) reopened the doors of 30 properties. Check out some highlights below, and this lovely video shared on their social media:

    • More than half the number of visitors compared to the same weekend last year
    • Most popular sites were close to cities and with open air spaces, parks and gardens
    • 60% visitors paid in advance online, 10% were members
    • Reduced visitor numbers mean that staff can have longer conversations with visitors, which has had a positive impact on both new memberships and renewals!

    Opening the gates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

    The National Trust EWNI has opened 200 of its coast and countryside carparks.  They are all very busy and a bit of a challenge but better than being closed and roadsides filling with parked cars!  There are ten bookable carparks, which are working well.

    On 3 June, the NTENWI will open a small number of pay for entry parks and gardens.  (No buildings or indoors spaces at the moment.) Places need to be booked online, in 30 minutes arrival slots with numbers spread throughout the day.  In fact, advance booking is going to be necessary for the foreseeable future.  They plan to open 30 new properties a week, initially at 30% normal visitor capacity.  Food and beverage will be trialled slowly and more ‘grab and go’ facilities developed.

    The NTEWNI is emailing members weekly to keep them informed and engaged off-property, whilst also encouraging to book visits.

    Testing group visits at a Czech castle

    Yesterday, our colleagues at Kroměříž  Castle in the Czech Republic opened their doors for guided tours for the first time.  Previously they had opened on a free-flow basis and welcomed 3,000 visitors over two weekends. But they only had 20 people sign up for a tour yesterday, when normally it would have been between 200-400.  Perhaps joining a group of unknown people is too much at the moment?

    Is it OK to fundraise?

    We hear that many INTO members are working on major new fundraising campaigns. These are complex decisions given the current (and appropriate) focus on health.  Fundraisers are highlighting public benefit and the importance of our work to people’s wellbeing: Providing safe spaces for families to come together – or simply to enjoy beauty and tranquillity.  Grant writers are stressing the importance of heritage surviving the crisis.  At a basic level, not falling into disrepair or being demolished (see below).  But more than that: Special places and creative industries helping fuel a green recovery, with an increased emphasis on the importance of local attractions.

    Let’s not build or demolish our way out of the crisis

    We heard this week about the destruction of the oldest building in Saint Lucia, the Royal Old Gaol, and our colleagues at the Saint Lucia National Trust have asked you to share the story with your networks.  Here is their facebook post.

    Sadly, this sort of thing is happening all over the work, with development and construction continuing unabated.  Many National Trusts are calling on their governments to learn from the lessons of lockdown (cleaner air, changed behaviours, importance of culture and nature) and prioritise solutions like the reuse of old buildings, new green jobs and extra funding support for charities in the cultural heritage sector.

    Reciprocal Visiting Programme

    Progress on our new RVP paused in March, but we are about to pick up the reins on this again.  Everyone wants something hopeful to look forward to next year!  We will be contacting INTO members who have signed up next week.

    We are also preparing a survey on tourism and the impacts of coronavirus – we hope you will be able to help with this research!

    Celebrate Islands Webinar

    And lastly a reminder that we are partnering with INTO members, the Conservatoire du Littoral, on 3 June to ‘Celebrate Islands’. We’ll be joined by the National Trusts of the Cayman Islands, Saint Lucia and England, Wales and Northern Ireland, who will talk about ways to strengthen island resilience.  More information can be found on the Celebrate Islands facebook page.

    That’s all for now.  If you have anything you’d like to share with the INTO membership, do please email it over!

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