MNH announce significant research findings on Isle of Man Visitor Economy

– Posted on Monday 30th January 2012

Manx National Heritage has today announced the findings from two important pieces of research to the Isle of Man Visitor Economy.

The first includes the results of an Economic Impact Study conducted by ECORYS, one of the most respected research companies in Europe. The study is the first of its kind conducted on the Isle of Man’s heritage assets and provides hard evidence of the value of heritage to the Island’s economy.

The research was commissioned by Manx National Heritage in January 2011, when ECORYS began an extensive review of strategic documents and reports produced by MNH, Isle of Man Government and other partner organisations in relation to the Island’s heritage assets. Data was collected relating to the activities and operations of MNH, the heritage sector and the wider Isle of Man economy – including financial, economic and tourism information. Comparable studies and other relevant research in the UK was reviewed and consultations completed with partner organisations and IOM Government to better understand the specific role and importance of MNH activities, and to establish views on the potential economic impacts of heritage.

ECORYS found Manx National Heritage is a highly significant contributor to the Isle of Man’s economy, directly supporting in the order of 800 people in full time employment on the Island. When supply chain expenditure and induced or consumption expenditure are taken into account, this figure rises to in excess of 1,000 people in full time employment, equivalent to some 2.5% of total employment on the Island.

In the forthcoming financial year Manx National Heritage will receive in the region of £3.8 million of funding from Government.

In summarising its findings, ECORYS concluded that Manx National Heritage directly contributes to some £23m of the Isle of Man’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), increasing to £30m of GDP when including indirect and induced effects to the Island’s economy, equivalent to almost 1.5% of the Island’s GDP.

ECORYS also acknowledged MNH-related activities make a highly significant contribution towards a breadth of social and cultural activities around the Island, especially in terms of delivering educational benefits, enhancing community development through the work of volunteers which in 2010 had an estimated value of some £58,400, and providing a valued resource for leisure and recreation.

The second piece of research unveiled by Manx National Heritage is an Audience Development Plan, which included a review of branding, completed by Headland Design using a UK research model first developed for use in Heritage Lottery Fund applications and now a commonly used tool in heritage agencies in the UK.

An Audience Development Plan is a means of researching and understanding all of the potential users of a museum, referred to as ‘audiences’ rather than ‘visitors’ because the way in which they access heritage can vary from merely visiting the attraction. Audiences can include people who make remote visits through digital technology, attend lectures or craft sessions (based on the museum’s heritage), make enquiries or use research facilities, work as volunteers or even people who choose to have a cup of tea and at the same time enjoy an historic environment.

The ADP identifies target audiences and determines how the heritage which is managed by the museum can best be interpreted for these groups. This can vary from an exhibition-type experience to an event or a set of planned and advertised activities. The overall objective is to retain existing audiences whilst attracting new ones and to build enduring relationships and promote repeat use with all audiences. This not only illustrates the huge value of museums by increasing the ways that people can enjoy and learn from them, but also makes museums more sustainable by increasing ticket sales to paid attractions and increasing commercial activity across the board.

In the Isle of Man, as in many other similar locations, the appeal of heritage sites and their ability to attract wide audiences is inextricably linked to the economic development of the area. This can be attributed to the appeal that both the location and heritage have to attract inward tourism but also because of the contribution that widely accessible museums and heritage attractions can make to family life, the quality of life in general and most specifically learning.

The ADP recognised that whilst the Isle of Man has a wonderfully rich heritage, a wide range of varied attractions and spectacular outdoor sites, many of which are amongst the best of their type in the UK, there are many challenges in terms of audience development.

Key issues and opportunities for development were identified as follows:

  • Very low awareness of the Isle of Man offer amongst potential visitors in the UK including in the North West.
  • Lack of publicity and the cost of getting here are key barriers for visitors.
  • Most people find out about the Island online.
  • MNH Heritage sites are targeted at the one off tourist visit rather than the repeat visit experience.
  • The MNH heritage sites serve and highly satisfy the older visitor market but fail in the main to serve or satisfy the family market.
  • There has been more focus on built heritage than the countryside sites and natural environment.
  • Interpretation at the heritage sites tends to be over-wordy.
  • MNH branding is confusing due to old signage carrying the Manx Museum & National Trust and / or Story of Mann branding as well as more recent signage using Manx National Heritage.
  • People have a limited idea of what MNH does, seeing the organisation primarily as a museum service, rather than understanding the full extent of its work i.e. National Trust, National Art Gallery, National Archive, Planning Advice etc.
  • Signage is generally poor.
  • The MNH website is dated.
  • The Island has a very loyal visitor base with a third coming more than 10 times.
  • Local people are not visiting MNH heritage sites, representing just 16% of MNH’s total visitor base.
  • Perceptions of the Isle of Man from those in the UK who have not visited or not visited for a long time are: small, quiet, picturesque and appealing to older people.
  • Associations with the Isle of Man are: Three legs of Mann, Manx Cats, TT races, motorbikes, castles, museums, fish & chips, fairies and hills, although the most frequent association is TT and motorbikes.

A clear set of goals and priorities have come out of this process:

  • Attracting more tourist visitors to the Isle of Man who are motivated by heritage, landscape and culture and by outdoor sites with active pursuits.
  • Attracting special interest visitors by developing targeted package trips.
  • Clarifying the name of MNH and using a strong consistent visual identity.
  • Developing active partnerships with the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture and Department of Community Culture and Leisure, other government departments and the private sector.
  • Creating a stronger more visitor focused website.
  • Renewing all visitor information / signage.
  • Developing a consistent style for a new set of outdoor panels, downloadable trails and apps.
  • Creating interactive, activity-led family-friendly areas in appropriate locations and providing school holiday and family activities throughout the year.
  • Developing a planned cohesive capital programme of modernisation and refurbishment across the attractions.
  • Lobbying for a much stronger tourism development function.
  • Developing a portfolio of high quality visitor accommodation similar to the Landmark Trust.
  • Looking at the feasibility of a TT Heritage facility.
  • Taking a lead role on developing improvements at all Island heritage attractions.
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