The first month of opening since attractions went into lockdown suggests that York’s tourism sector is reviving more quickly than expected, according to York Archaeological Trust, which reopened JORVIK Viking Centre, Barley Hall and DIG: An Archaeological Adventure on 10 July.
All three attractions have offered slightly different visitor experiences since re-opening, with new features at JORVIK including a live talk from a Viking interpreter in the ‘Discover Coppergate’ gallery, enabling visitors to socially distance whilst learning about the Coppergate dig which unearthed some of the best-preserved Viking remains in the world. A one-way system is in operation at the medieval townhouse, Barley Hall, with the shop moved to the first floor, where visitors exit down an external staircase.
“Limiting admission numbers has probably had the most significant impact on our performance, but we have extended our opening hours at JORVIK Viking Centre throughout the school holidays, opening an hour earlier at 9am and closing at 8pm seven days a week.
Visitors are required to pre-book, and many of our slots are fully booked days in advance, but the extended opening means we still have capacity to take on-the-day bookings, with a booking station outside the door for anyone wanting to make an impulse visit,” comments director of attractions, Sarah Maltby.
The extended hours have enabled JORVIK Viking Centre to operate at above 75% of usual summer levels, with similar figures for both DIG and Barley Hall.
“Whilst early predictions from Visit Britain suggested that it would be a local audience visiting, our data shows that visitors are coming from every corner of the country – whether they are staying in the city itself or in rural areas surrounding York, they are still making a visit into the city centre part of their staycation,” adds Sarah. “It remains to be seen what the impact of the latest quarantine restrictions will be; with travellers to France having to self-isolate, we may see even more people booking holidays in this country in a last-minute summer rush.”
Similarly, anecdotal reports from accommodation providers around the region suggest strong forward bookings to September and October from older couples, providing an optimistic outlook beyond the school holidays.
Whilst two of the JORVIK Group attractions – Richard III Experience at Monk Bar and Henry VII Experience at Micklegate Bar – are unable to re-open due to their limited capacity for social distancing within the city bar walls, the Trust is looking at how they can be used as a new hub for virtual education programmes, to continue to support schools that would normally have visited one of the other three attractions.
“We know it will take a while before teachers feel sufficiently confident to take groups on school trips, so as part of our educational remit, we’re exploring other opportunities to expand our virtual learning experiences,” explains Sarah. “With many museums now wanting something new to entice visitors back, the Richard III and Henry VII resources will join our touring collection of ready-made exhibitions, which are ideal for smaller museums around the country.”
For more information, or to pre-book tickets to any of the attractions, please visit www.jorvikvikingcentre.co.uk