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Community / Museum visitor numbers take sharp decline as capacity reduces but chief pleased with take-up of bookings

Shetland Museum and Archives.

THE CHIEF executive of Shetland Amenity Trust says he is “delighted” by the popularity of the Shetland Museum since it reopened – despite visitor numbers in July and August being down 93 per cent compared to last year.

Mat Roberts stressed that Covid-19 restrictions have greatly reduced capacity at the museum, leading to the natural drop in numbers.

But 84 per cent of available slots were booked, with 77 per cent of visitors being tourists.

A total of 906 people visited the museum in Lerwick since it reopened on 15 July through to the end of August.

The figures were presented at a meeting of Shetland Amenity Trust trustees on Monday.

A new online booking system is in place, which can also enable track and trace where required.

A one-way system and social distancing measures are also in force, while the café area has been adapted to provide a socially distanced picnic area.

The amenity trust’s Sumburgh Head visitor centre, meanwhile, welcomed 463 paying visitors in the four weeks it was open from 26 July, which was 61 per cent less than the previous year.

“We didn’t know what to expect when we opened the museum,” Roberts said.

“We are delighted by the fact that pretty much every available place that we’ve got in every booking has been taken – one or two haven’t. But even when we fill all of those available slots in the booking system, you still don’t get to more than 10 per cent of last year’s figures.

“We’ve had a really strong response from the public about wanting to use the museum and use Sumburgh Head, but the Covid restrictions mean that the best that we can do is 10 per cent. With the rule of six coming in, that will have another impact.”

Entry to the museum remains free although people are encouraged to make a donation.