A successful Christmas season at Alnwick Garden helped the attraction to bounce back from what it described as “one of the most challenging periods in living memory”.
Latest accounts for the Northumberland visitor attraction have been published, showing a predictable drop in revenues for the year ended March 31, having been closed for seven months of its financial year.
Revenue from admissions dropped from £2.56m to £1.44m, while total revenue dropped from £3.88m to £2.98m. Ebitda, before taking impact activity into account, fell from £122,885 to a loss of £192,605.
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The trust says that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic transformed the way it views its reserves, learning much during lockdown about the true cost of the garden when it is closed.
It said that the average monthly running cost of the garden in 2020 amounted to £236,000, with six months of costs amounting to £1.416m, and its goal now is to reach that level of reserves over the next four years.
The Trust also said that despite the strain the pandemic has placed on the tourism industry, trustees are comfortable with the financial position of the garden, which has rebounded well and is in a good position to capitalise on current staycation trends.
It has also started repayment of its CBILS loan and work on the new Lilidorei Play Village, set to open in 2023, has started.
During lockdown it said the team went into cost saving mode, developing financial models to see how long the garden could survive on the resources it had available, and that all but three staff were furloughed.
Having reopened in July, the garden closed once more when the second, shorter national lockdown started in November, but it forged ahead with plans for Christmas, aided by business continuity grants from Northumberland County Council and a £90,000 from the Government‘s Cultural Recovery Fund.
In the accounts, chairman Jonathan Blackie said that the garden had its most success Christmas ever, selling 32,000 Christmas Light Trail tickets. He also hailed the management team, led by director Mark Brassell.
He said: “The trail provided an affordable, positive experience, much needed after such a difficult year.
“The financial success of Christmas also helped to secure the trust‘s financial position through the next period of lockdown in early 2021. Despite the garden being closed for seven months of this financial year we still managed to welcome over 170,871 visitors and over to 9,042 people to the adventure golf course.
“Throughout this challenging period, we have strived to reflect our charitable objectives. The garden’s community programmes had to be curtailed during much of the year. We have sought ways to contribute positively in the circumstances, including the use of the main car park as a Covid test centre.
“The trust ended the year with a modest reduction in funds. We can take great heart from our efforts during one of the most challenging periods in living memory. Mark and the team have shown great resilience, spirit and problem-solving capabilities and we can anticipate the year ahead with great confidence.
“This year really belongs to Mark and the team. I have been impressed by their commitment to the garden and willingness to go the extra mile during this period. Performance since reopening in April 2021 has been really encouraging and I am confident we will continue to recover strongly in the months ahead.”
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