Dunedin cultural sites struggle for visitors

Olveston Historic Home. Photo: ODT files
Olveston Historic Home. Photo: ODT files
Olveston Historic Home visitor numbers have plummeted since international borders closed, and other cultural sites are also feeling the pinch.

The extent of Olveston’s woes were revealed in a report that will be presented to a meeting of the Dunedin City Council’s community and culture committee tomorrow.

There was a 74% drop in visitors to the historic home in the period January to March this year, compared with the same three months in 2020.

In 2021, Olveston had about 1000 visitors for each of these months.

By comparison, last year there were about 4000 visitors in January, 4500 in February, and 2500 in March.

Numbers had been flat since the international border closed in March of last year, as local and domestic visitors have not made up the shortfall.

Olveston was not the only attraction struggling to get people through the gates in the first quarter of the year.

Toitu Otago Settlers Museum’s visitors were down 46%, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery down 31%, and the Dunedin Chinese Garden fell by 27%.

The report said reduced admissions were caused by the lack of international travellers and cruise ship passengers.

February was particularly lean because the end of school holidays meant domestic tourism had also dried up.

There were some bright spots to the report. The Art Gallery recorded increased numbers for March compared with the previous year.

The report said this was because of the popularity of a Ralph Hotere exhibition that ran during the month.

The Chinese Gardens had a spike of visits in February, with 8000 visitors, compared with 3000 the previous year, as Chinese New Year celebrations proved to be a drawcard.

Dunedin Public Libraries have bucked the trend, recording their best March visitor numbers for three years in 2021.

Local book lovers made 250,000 visits to public libraries across the first quarter.

 - By Andrew Marshall

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