Tourist attraction visits grew by 4% in 2014 – but are they relying too much on volunteers?

The English Arts and Heritage sector strengthened last year along with the rest of the economy, a Visit England survey tells us.

Tourist attraction visits grew by 4%, with farms and visitor/heritage centres showing the biggest increase.

The East of England showed the largest increase (10%) while London’s growth was below the national average (2%).

Marketing expenditure is holding steady for now, but the number of attractions using digital communications has increased to 83%. Facebook is the most popular digital platform, with 69% of attractions having a Facebook page. Twitter and e-Newsletters follow, but You Tube shows the biggest increase year-on-year.

As for employment, while attractions are more likely to hire people than to fire them, only 9% of attractions reported that they hired new full-time employees.

However, 22% of attractions admitted to using more unpaid volunteers than in 2013, and that number is expected to rise again in 2015.

Our Arts and Heritage Consultant Ana Giles-Myers had this to say on the rise of the use of volunteers in the industry:

“The majority of visitor attractions are unable to function without teams of committed and hard working of volunteers. However, there is a fine line between ‘helping out for free’ and being taken advantage of. I always worry about the candidates who have been, as I call them, serial volunteers/ interns; they have worked very hard to complete their studies, are academic superstars, they have bags of enthusiasm, are highly employable, and yet for some reason they can’t get a paid job. Quite often, the employer they are working for does not have the funds to offer them a paid position. Other times, the employer, rightly or wrongly, is given the impression that the candidate can afford to work for free and therefore is happy to continue the arrangement for as long as they can.”

How would you like to see the Arts and Heritage industry develop over the next year? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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