Tourism Northern Ireland’s new brand is to promote Northern Ireland both Internationally and on the Island of Ireland with the aim of increasing visitor numbers and ensuring economic impact across all regions of NI. The city has a wealth of history and a treasure of heritage sites living and displaying the endearing and captivating times of the city.
Museums in Northern Ireland (& Number of Museums)
The report done by (Tourism Northern Ireland, 2019) shows that 46% of visitors had visited a Museum or art gallery and 41% visited a Cathedral or a church, Visitors agreed that Derry/Londonderry had enough to do in all weather conditions giving a score of 7.95/10. Museums in Northern Ireland hold a wealth of local history reflecting the culture and making it an educational experience to attract visitors local and international. Public funding options are made available to encourage tourism businesses (Tourism Northern Ireland, 2020).
The Museums or Heritage venues active in the city are (low resourced Museums):
Aras Cholmcille Heritage Centre St. Augustine’s Church St. Columb’s Cathedral Siege Museum First Derry Presbyterian Church Museum of Free Derry
Google reviews 5 five-star reviews and 1 two-star review 35 reviews averaging 4.7-star rating 191 reviews averaging 4.5-star rating 85 reviews averaging 4.4-star rating 5 five-star reviews and 1 four-star review 511 reviews averaging 4.7-star rating
Trip Advisor 18 reviews averaging 4.5-star rating 124 reviews averaging 4.5-star rating 335 reviews averaging a 4.5-star rating 64 reviews averaging a 4.5-star rating 49 reviews averaging 4.5-star rating 778 reviews averaging a 4.5-star rating
This system suggests that there are touch points that a customer passes through from the beginning of the journey starting with brand/product Consideration, Evaluate, Buy, Experience, Bond, Advocate and Repeat. McKinsey’s report promotes marketing to reach customers at their most influential moments by acknowledging their touch points (McKinsey and Company, 2009).
Desktop research, Leaflets/brochures, Visitor centers, Social media, tourism websites and Venue Website Activities, Festivals, Information, Accessibility, Directions, Opening Times, Connectivity and Price Planning dates, online booking, checking availability, Easy process, Communication. Reachability of venue, Directions and Signposting, Carparking, Appearance, Welcome, Ambience and maintenance, Staff Attitude, Interpretation and information, Diverse customer accessibility Satisfaction, Feedback, Relationship, Word of mouth, recommendations.
To achieve these points in the journey of a visitor, venues need to be playing their parts through marketing on the right platform and identifying their target audience. Museums have received the highest satisfaction ratings among public service attractions (Museums Association, n.d.). Museums are places that showcase the nation’s history and captivate visitors with objects that lived through time to offer a sense of participation. Communities are shaped around heritage venues through education and activities to share knowledge, talents and continue the culture and tradition of a place thus attracting all ages, groups and people of different beliefs to one place.
- Identifying the venue’s uniqueness is important to offer specialized events, and festivals that exhibit the venue to attract visitors. Engage the community by inviting local celebrities to be part of events in turn endorsing and sharing their experience online, thus inviting more visitors into the venue (Hethmon Consulting, 2018). This helps when visitors are planning trips and contributes to their consideration of choosing their destinations.
- Providing information such as Accessibility, Directions and contact details and having responsive online presence is important. CRO, Conversion rate optimization marketing is when a visitor responds to a chat box or clicks on a subscription link to know more about the venue, this is done by research and copywriting with a good call to action and an appealing design (Smart Insights, 2019). This helps the potential visitor evaluate their decision on choosing the destination.
- Purchase: Making available the options to call, email or book online, makes the potential visitor at ease and complete the purchase.
- The visitor experience starts from sign posts directing the tourist to the destination and providing information at visitor centers, hotels and at public transportation etc., providing refreshments and a warm, dry, friendly welcome, a professional guide and having the necessary facilities for needs and accessibility encompasses a good experience (Museums Galleries Scotland, 2019).
- Loyalty: The visitor experience is important as it will increase the rate of visitors through reviews and word of mouth.
Insufficient funds to employ Museum staff
According to the 2018 Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), employment in visitor attractions the percentage of unpaid volunteers was the highest with 32%, with 26% of staff being full time permanent and the rest were dispersed as Part-time and Seasonal staff.
The Museums in this project had a common problem of not being able to employ full time staff because of low funding/low income. The cause for the low resource: Most sites are heritage venues or religious venues that are frowned upon when prompted for an entrance fee.
Low number of visitors
Because of the high number of Heritage venues, visitors are not aware of the sites and the significance of each venue. The venues being scattered around the walls, visitors need signage that encourages them to each site. The sites on the walls in comparison to the ones away from it have a significant difference in visitor numbers.
The Northern Ireland Museums Committee are a lead public body in supporting local museums under the Department for Communities, have agreed to form a new corporate plan for 2018-2021. The council does not operate on behalf of the government but is the only non-departmental public body that helps local museums (Non-National Museums) with Support through funding and adherence to UK Museum Accreditation Scheme to maintain nationally agreed standards, providing protection and enhancement of cultural assets and arranging audience engagement programmes (Northern Ireland Museums Council, 2019).
The museums in regard to this project, the low resourced museums/heritage venues are not associated to any particular governing bodies but have been funded by charities and public bodies individually. The Museums thus have individual ownership of rights and artefacts, and seasonally work with bodies through projects to increase visitor numbers, fundamentally the venues are un-committed to one common policy. Occasionally some of these venues have been funded by the European Union and Brexit has made the future events and relationships uncertain.
- Northern Ireland has seen a 12% increase in holiday visitors to Northern Ireland between 2017 and 2018 and with external visitors of an estimated 2.8 million had brought in an economy of £669 million (Department for the Economy, 2019). Overnight trips to Derry City in the year 2018 has seen 21% increase from 2017, with an expenditure of £55 million (DCSDC, 2019).
- The inflation rate for the UK is forecast to be 1.82%, with a standard to maintain rates below 2% (Statista, 2020).
- The currency has been fairly stable, but with Brexit decisions has been fluctuation between 1.9% to 2% increase and decrease (BBC, 2019).
The selected low resourced museums have strong links with local schools for educational curriculums and visits. The venues are made available for the community to participate in through cultural, arts and religious events.
The political stalemate between communities and an absence of government has affected funding to be acquired from central government of £11.2 million (Sharp, 2019).
Tourism NI’s visitor attitude survey for 2018 shows that visitors were satisfied with mobile signal connection, availability of WIFI and Network coverage(3G/4G) for internet, totalling an overall satisfaction score of 7.45 (Tourism NI, 2019).
The Museums also have interactive audio visuals to engage the audience into the experience, bringing history to life.
Effects of Brexit on Local Museums (GOV.UK, 2019)
- In case of a no-deal Brexit, creative and cultural goods that may be shared or transported over the border with Ireland will have to comply to customs procedures on temporary admissions.
- Employees: Checking if employees need work permits to continue or if they would need to apply for settlement schemes if they are from the EU
- Accessing/handling legal and personal data from the EU need to be reviewed with new contracts under UK governance.
- Buying/Selling/Exporting Cultural objects need to be licensed.
Winter season in Northern Ireland brings cold weather with shorter days and longer nights, but according to report done by ‘Cut Tourism Vat’ weather is not the key distinguisher of tourism traffic. The report is data from 11 countries to test the theory of weather affecting tourism performance and was measured per-capita to compare with countries of different sizes. The report concluded that cold and wet climates are not correlated with low tourism performances but countries with pro-tourism policies, strong cultural, historical or natural attractions are able to perform well, regardless of climate conditions (Cut Tourism Vat, 2013).
The Museum Industry
Museums and Heritage sites naturally come under the tourism industry and in a country like the UK, travel and tourism contributed £218 billion to the economy (Statista, 2020). In the beginning Museums were uninspiring a place for the reserved and educated, telling the story of humanity travelling and surviving in its environment over the years but today Museums are required to become representatives of change and development. Today’s Museums have the potential to foster peace, promoting good ideals, calling to action to share their critical resources and possessions to promote the cultural and democratic ideals of the nation by mirroring events in the society (Arinze, 1999). Museums are observed as custodians of culture, an identity of a community, and that is why they are a Heritage of the people. Museums and Heritage venues have an important role of storage, documentation and conservation of heritage that augments education and promotion of unity (Jacobson, 2011). Museums are effectively housing the tools and materials that can educate all ages in the cultural traditions without political partialities, promoting history unfiltered, opening opportunities for discussions, targeting teachers, adults, the youth and other organizations with goals of understanding heritage, empowerment and national growth.
Relationship of Tourism and Heritage
All tourism contains some aspect of culture and heritage, by visiting a cathedral, a fort, to experiencing the nightlife atmosphere of a locality (Steyn, 2007). The more modern times change with electronics, the more people are attracted to adventure sites, such as heritage sites that have been preserved, holding historical expressions. Apart from media art, performing arts have been of high interests in relation to cultural tourism and scholars advice on introducing creative tourism by including culture with performing arts together (Richards & Raymond, 2000).
The Role of Media in Museum
Information on Exhibitions, bookings, opening times, events, ticket availability and prices are broadcasted using digital technologies by Museums worldwide, some Museums use YouTube and Social Media to interact with audiences while promoting and attracting more visitors by making their sites globally available to plan visits. With interactive technology placed in sites, visitors are found spending more time in the experience (Kamani, 2013).
Challenges in the Museum Industry
In a research about Challenges faced by Museums in the 21st century, it was found that there are only a few aspects that are the cause of low visitors. The relevance of Museums in society was purposed to be educational, but the average visitor considered it a leisure activity. Considering visits to Museums as leisure activity, visitors are required to make a choice of day trips or weekend trips, time availability or constriction has led for activities that engage less, more simulated and gratifying to be winners (Burton & Scott, 2003). The advent of internet and the availability of in-depth information has raised the expectation of visitors, a new generation of visitors that want sophisticated information and experiences. With Museums being expected to thrive and adapt to meet the needs of the audience by introducing technology to entertain competitive audiences while not losing their mission and maintaining scholarly standards it is a battle for funding and creative ideas (Gheorghilaș, et al., 2017).
The MuseumsQuartier Wien, spread over 90,000sqm encompasses 60 cultural institutions or in visitor terms, Micro Museums and is one of the largest districts for contemporary art and culture in the world. There is a spectrum of experiences starting with the 18th Century Architecture of the location with the contemporary design fine arts, performing arts, literature, fashion and design, children’s culture, street art and photography.