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Jersey Heritage thanks Islanders for support during pandemic

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SUPPORT for Jersey Heritage’s visitor sites and rental properties has increased significantly following the relaxation of the Island’s lockdown, the organisation’s latest figures show.

Official opening of the longhouse at Hougue Bie by Deputy Montfort Tadier with volunteers and children from Springfield school in attendance. Jon Carter. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (28935192)

During one week, local visitor numbers were up by 50% on the same week last year and Jersey Heritage predicts that, by the end of the year, use of its residential properties will reach the anticipated occupancy level in spite of the lack of holidaymakers.

Although director Jon Carter described the impact of Covid-19 on paying visitors overall as ‘devastating’, he said that it was interesting that local visitor numbers had shown an increase in the weeks following the sites’ reopening.

And he welcomed the support shown by Islanders which, he said, was making itself felt not only at the sites themselves but also in increased applications for membership.

‘There has been a really significant upturn in support from Islanders. It does say something about how good the Island is at stepping up to the plate,’ Mr Carter said. ‘It has been really fantastic and there have also been hundreds of new members in the context of a membership standing at around 14,000.’

However, he added that it was necessary to separate this data from the organisation’s economic calculations, since three-quarters of its normal income comes from visitors from outside Jersey.

These visitor numbers are at around 3,500 for the year, compared with 59,000 to the same point last year.

Those overseas visitors also make up more than 97% of admissions income, partly because the bulk of local visitors are members who, having paid their subscriptions, then gain free entry into sites.

But in spite of the closure of all six of the organisation’s public sites during lockdown, around 10,000 visits by Island residents have been recorded since their gradual reopening. ‘It has more than made it worthwhile for us to be open,’ Mr Carter said.

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Part of the reason that the organisation is seeing an upsurge in local visitors is the impact of coronavirus on Islanders’ travel plans with significant numbers opting for a staycation. But Mr Carter sees further encouraging signs.

‘Heritage is fundamental to what the Island has to offer, so if more people are spending time here that is something that we might expect to be reflected in the numbers but use of heritage sites has been increasing year on year over the past ten years, so we are seeing an accelerated trend among local people and a reflection also of recent investment in sites,’ he said, adding that staff had devoted much effort to ensuring that visitors felt safe in the current climate.

However, in the face of a dramatic fall in visitors to the Island, Jersey Heritage remains dependent on additional support from the government. Mr Carter said that they were grateful for the positive signals of support given to the sector from Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham.

Rod McLoughlin

By Rod McLoughlin
Reporter

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