The road to reopening for England’s cathedrals has been very similar to that trodden by museums, galleries and heritage attractions. Places of worship have had to embrace pre-booked timed ticketing, one-way systems, hand sanitiser stations and, most recently, the mandatory wearing of face coverings.
Like all venues reliant on visitor and commercial incomes to support day-to-day operations, cathedrals were hit hard by lockdown. Westminster Abbey, for instance, is set to lose £12 million in revenue this year, meaning some staff may face redundancy.
More Britons remaining in the UK this summer does, however, represent a unique opportunity for these ailing sites.
Scott Craddock, head of visitor experience at Westminster Abbey, notes: “We are a nation which loves to travel and enjoys sightseeing in Europe’s great cities, but many of us have never seen the historic attractions on our doorstep.”
Visitors who until now may have “only ever seen the Abbey on television” can benefit from fewer crowds and queues by visiting at present, he adds.
One way all cathedrals now open to the public have sought to garner visitor confidence is through Visit Britain’s We’re Good to Go accreditation, the hallmark of Covid-19 safety for UK visitor attractions.
This drive to demonstrate a safe, relaxed destination would appear to be working if York Minster is anything to go by. Just as the National Gallery did before it, the ecclesiastical attraction has been forced to extend opening hours due to high demand for tickets.
We are delighted to be extending our Friday and Saturday opening hours so more people can visit us this summer! ?
— York Minster (@York_Minster) August 6, 2020
“Visitors have come from all over the UK, indicating a strong staycation market and some international tourists have also visited contributing to a strong demand for the pre-booked timeslots, most of which have sold out in advance,” explains Patricia Dunlop, director of visitor experience at York Minster. “Opening one hour earlier on Fridays and Saturdays will allow 100 people more to visit safely on each day.”