Visitor numbers reach seven year high

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the charity that cares for the five Shakespeare Houses & Gardens in Stratford-upon-Avon has recorded its highest visitor numbers for seven years.

Lady Cobham, Chairman, Visit England, with Lincoln Clarke, Chief Operating Officer, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, during her tour of Shakespeare's Birthplace on 17 February 2012.

21 February 2012

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the charity that cares for the five Shakespeare Houses & Gardens in Stratford-upon-Avon has recorded its highest visitor numbers for seven years.  In 2011 the iconic properties attracted more than 805,000 visits, an increase of 45,000 over 2010.  The charity derives 86% of its income from visitor revenues.

Growth was strong across the board.  Visitors travelling with tour operators accounted for nearly half the growth, up 10% over 2010.  The balance came from independent travellers from overseas, domestic day trips, weekend breaks, special interest groups and education visits. 

Lincoln Clarke, Chief Operating Officer at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust said, “There are several factors underlying this strong performance.  The weak pound has encouraged international visitors; the message that a trip to the UK has never been better value for money is really hitting home.  Continuing economic uncertainty in the UK is fuelling the ‘staycation’ and day trip market.  We are also reaping the rewards of our ongoing development of the Shakespeare offer here in Stratford, and our initiatives to tap into the growing global appetite for all things Shakespeare.”

Based on visitor sampling throughout the year, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust welcomed visitors from at least 130 countries (two-thirds of the world’s recognised countries).       The Trust is seeing huge growth and increasing interest from the emerging BRIC counties - Brazil, Russia, India and particularly China, following  the extraordinary change to the Chinese Premier’s visit to the UK in June last year.  Premier Wen insisted upon making his first stop at Shakespeare’s Birthplace, and went on to confound his aides by staying to see Shakespearian performances in the garden of the Birthplace for more than an hour longer than his schedule allowed.  Since then the bench that he sat on for the performance has become a visitor attraction in its own right with many Chinese visitors insisting on having their photograph taken in the same spot.

Lincoln Clarke said, “We have had an incredible year at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and it will be a challenge to better these results in 2012.  Typically, visitors to the Olympic host country have a very different profile and are less likely to travel outside the host city.  In addition, regular cultural tourists tend to stay away as they believe it will be busy and more expensive than normal.  However, having the World Shakespeare Festival at the heart of the Cultural Olympiad means the eyes of the world will be on Shakespeare and Stratford-upon-Avon.   This affords a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build on Shakespeare’s enduring – and growing – global legacy to create a solid tourism legacy for the next five years.”

Lady Cobham, Chairman, VisitEngland, visited the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust on 17 February.  She said, “Shakespeare is one of our true British ‘Greats’, and his enduring legacy is one of the key reasons that Stratford-upon-Avon is such an iconic destination for domestic and international tourists alike.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see for myself how the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust brings our Shakespearean heritage to life in so many different ways.”

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will launch a multi-lingual version of its Life, Love & Legacy audio-visual exhibition at Shakespeare’s Birthplace this Easter.  The introductory presentation will be available for tour groups in seven languages as well as English.  The Trust already produces its guide books in eight languages. 

Lincoln Clarke is Chair of the Destination Steering Group recently formed to kick start the tourism economy for Stratford upon Avon District.  The new, independent body will comprise representatives from the tourism sector, local government and other organisations with an interest in developing a successful visitor economy for the area.