Memorandum submitted by Resource
1.1 Thank you for giving us this opportunity
to submit written evidence to your inquiry into tourism information
and promotion in response to the foot and mouth disease outbreak.
Resource: the Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries is a
strategic agency working with museums, libraries and archives
across the UK. It replaced the Museums and Galleries Commission
and the Library and Information Commission in April 2000. Further
information can be found at our web sitehttp://www.resource.gov.uk
1.2 The essence of our response is:
45 per cent of UK museum visitors
state that they visit when on a holiday or short break.
Museums are thus an important part
of rural tourism, and any decrease in UK short breaks will have
a knock-on effect on museums.
Many rural museums are independent
charities and operate without subsidy.
In March, those that remained closed
lost a total of around £0.5 million in revenue.
The 100 major rural and countryside
museums generate 30 per cent of their annual revenue in April
Some may therefore risk permanent
closure as a result of interruption of services caused by the
foot and mouth outbreak, to the detriment of the rural economy
Resource has proposed to the Secretary
of State a £5 million stabilisation fund to help rural and
countryside museums recover from the crisis.
2.1 More people visit museums in the UK
each year than attend sporting events and rock concerts. Over
80 million people a year visit our 2,500 museums, with nearly
28 per cent of the UK public telling a recent MORI poll, commissioned
by Resource, that they had been to a museum or gallery within
the previous 12 months. In 1999, trips of one night or more by
UK residents to England accounted for 123.3 million trips, and
visits to countryside have grown by 69 per cent between 1990 and
1999. Since 45 per cent of visitors stated that they visited museums
when they were on a holiday or short break in the UK, any decrease
in domestic holidays will have a knock-on effect on museum and
2.2 Many independent museums are among the
largest tourism attractions in their region. Significant rural
or countryside museums include: Beamishthe North of England
Open Air Museum; the Weald and Downland Museum; Ironbridge Gorge
Museum; the Tank Museum in Dorset; and the Wordsworth Trust in
Grasmere. They, and others like them, are deeply rooted in their
local communities, providing both employment opportunities and
a community focus, and making a significant contribution to the
rural economy. Beamish, for example, directly employs 200 people
and indirectly supports a further 400 jobs.
2.3 However, such museums often operate
on very narrow financial margins. Unlike public libraries, which
are a statutory service and can cope with, for example, the need
to restrict mobile library visits, many rural museums are independent
and receive little or no public subsidy. Instead they rely on
income from admissions, retail and catering to sustain their operations.
Resource estimates that major rural and countryside museums that
would normally have opened in March lost around £0.5 million
in revenue during that month as a result of remaining closed,
as well as incurring around £300,000 in costs where precautionary
measures had to be taken in respect of animals.
2.4 The 100 major rural and countryside
museums generate about 30 per cent of their total annual revenuearound
£3 millionin April and May. The current crisisand
especially earlier official advice to keep out of the countrysidehas
already seriously damaged their potential for profitable operation
for the current season, and most have very limited financial reserves.
2.5 Now that the policy has been reversed,
and people are being encouraged to appreciate that the countryside
is again open for business, we are concerned that museum's special
plight should not be overlooked. Whilst they are but part of the
bigger rural economy picture, the MORI poll nevertheless shows
that they form an important part of the short UK break business.
If any are forced to close permanently as a result of the foot
and mouth outbreak, then there will be a knock-on effect on rural
2.6 Resource is collaborating with the Area
Museums Councils, the Museums Association and the Association
of Independent Museums in gathering information on the impact
of the outbreak on museums. With their assistance, we will be
preparing monthly reports quantifying the scale of losses arising
from the outbreak. Although we recognise that matters of financial
assistance are outside the inquiry's expected terms of reference,
it may help you to know that Resource's Chairman Lord Evans has
written to the Secretary of State, making clear the important
contribution that museums make to the rural economy, and proposing
a £5 million stabilisation fund to help them recover from
the effects of the crisis. The full text of Lord Evans's letter
2 Not printed. Back