Scots' concerns over returning to cultural venues after lockdown revealed

More than half of Scots who regularly visit the nation’s cultural venues and visitor attractions say they may be put off returning to them in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, new research has found.

The V&A and Discovery Point are two of Dundee's flagship visitor attractions.

Three quarters have admitted to concerns about going to museums, galleries, theatres and wildlife parks for the first time in months, amid evidence of significant support for new social distancing and hygiene measures to be in put in place before they reopen.

One in four of previous attendees polled for the new cultural venue survey say it will not be a “priority” to go back to them when they are able to for the first time.

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Limits on crowds numbers, evidence of social distancing measures, encouraging visitors to wash their hands and use sanitiser, and regular cleaning of door handles and interactive exhibits will all be key priorities for the visitors of the near-future, according to research carried out over the last few weeks.

However a quarter of Scots say they will return to a gallery or museum “as soon as possible”, while a fifth of those surveyed pledged that a return to a theatre is one of their main post-lockdown priorities.

More than 80 per cent of regular visitors to museums missed going there during lockdown, compared to 77 per cent among gallery visitors and 73 per cent among theatre-goers.

One in four regular visitors to museums, galleries and theatres admitted they would have concerns about returning, but did not think their habits would change.

More than 5,000 people across Scotland were asked about their post-lockdown intentions for the cultural survey conducted by market research firm Scotinform, which has published the research days after the Scottish Government announced that attractions could be allowed to open their doors on 15 July if the Covid-19 infection rate continues to fall.

It said the findings showed that bringing back audiences after lockdown restrictions ease was a “daunting prospect” which underlined the extent of the financial challenges they are up against.

One in five theatre-goers in Scotland said the pandemic would definitely affect how often they returned once lockdown restrictions eased, while a further third said it may affect their future plans.

However theatre was the only sector to have seen the level of donations remain steady, according to the findings.

Scotinform director Sheena Muncie said the poll was drawn from a “culturally confidence and engaged” sample, included friends, members or patrons of attractions and venues.

She added: “Our findings underline the value of cultural establishments, with high proportions saying they’ve missed visiting or attending cultural organisations during lockdown.

“We know many venues are thinking about reopening and audience attitudes will be key to this, particularly amongst those who are culturally confident.

“Just over half of respondents say they’ll have concerns about being in public spaces, and that these ‘might’ or ‘definitely will’ affect how often they go into cultural spaces.

“The speed at which audiences are willing to return to venues is likely a reflection of both the extent to which they have been missed in lockdown and the characteristics of the spaces themselves.”

Gordon Morrison, chief executive of the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions, said: “It is encouraging to see value placed on visiting cultural venues, but we are well aware that the numbers that will return when lockdown is lifted will only be at a fraction of what we have seen across the attractions sector over the last seven years, where we have seen growth in visitor numbers year on year.”

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