The Local Economic Benefit of a Protected Wreck

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The visitor diver trail on the protected wreck of the Coronation (Offshore) in Plymouth Sound in Devon has proved to be very successful in attracting a large number of visiting divers every year since its inception. Over 1000 visits were undertaken on the Coronation (Offshore) wreck in 2011and around 700 visits were carried out in 2012. This study asked those people that had visited the protected wreck in 2012 about their experience and focused specifically on the economic spend of their visit(s) and thereby illustrates the value of the visitor trail to the local economy of Plymouth in 2012. The results of the survey demonstrate that the visitor trail was worth £42,557 to the local economy in 2012, an average of just over £60.00 per visit.

Over the last 10 years English Heritage has supported the establishment of a number of visitor trails on several wreck sites designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, including on HMS Hazardous, HMS Colossus, the Needles wreck, the Norman’s Bay Wreck as well as the Coronation in Plymouth Sound in Devon.  These visitor trails have all aimed to facilitate and thereby increase public access to heritage assets on the seabed. Naturally many lessons have been learnt by each trail and some have been more successful than others in terms of annual visitor numbers.Diver on the Coronation

The research aims of this project were put a value to the local economy of the diver trail on the designated wreck site of the Coronation (Offshore) in Plymouth.

Images on this page courtesy of the Coronation Wreck Project.

The objectives of the project were:
•To determine how many people annually visit the wreck of the Coronation (Offshore) and other diver trails established on wrecks protected by the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973
•To determine the items that people spend money on during their visit(s) to Plymouth
•To determine the individual economic spend during their visit(s) to Plymouth
•To determine the total annual spend by divers visiting Plymouth to dive the Coronation
•To determine the economic value of the Coronation to the local economy
•To determine the lessons learnt by the Coronation trail project as well as on other trails that have been established in England including HMS Colossus and the Norman’s Bay Wreck.

From the 74 respondents to the survey, 69 people undertook 105 visits to the Coronation as part of the wreck diver trail in 2012.  These 69 individuals spent a total of £8,085, an average spend of £117.17 per person and an average spend of £77.00 per visit.  In addition to the visits to the diver trail undertaken in 2012, the 69 respondents undertook a total of 49 visits to the site as part of the Coronation Wreck Project which is actively researching the site and maintaining the diver trail. These respondents spent a total of £1,388, undertaking these visits to the site, spending an average of £28.32 per visit.

Using the survey results it was possible to interpolate what the total annual spend total by divers visiting Plymouth to dive the Coronation. The only difficulty lay in judging the number of visits actually undertaken in 2012. As already discussed, there is a substantial difference between the number of named divers on the English Heritage approved licences for the year (264 names) compared to the number of visits/dives undertaken that have been provided by the licensees of the site - around 700 visits. Using this figure and with information provided by the site licencee, Mr Mark Pearce it was estimated that the local economic benefit of the Coronation Wreck Diver Trail in 2012 was £42,557.

Lessons learnt:

•Don’t underestimate the maintenance work required for the visitor trail.Coronation Diver Trail
•Visitors are willing to donate to the visitor trail as a “thank-you” for the experience. But it needs to be clear that this donation will be used to maintain the visitor trail.
•Underwater waterproof guide books are essential with simple words in large fonts and illustrations and map to help visitors.
•Don’t underestimate the time it takes to follow up with the visiting divers to obtain their dive statistics, feedback, copies of photographs, etc
•No matter how well signposted and labelled, visiting divers will still get lost – just accept it.
•Trails on sites with good in-water visibility are likely to attract most visitors.
•Trails in areas with strong diving infrastructure (such as charter boats, slipways and dive shops) are likely to attract most visitors.
•Marketing is essential – if people do not know about it, how can they wish to visit it.
•It is important too to have a specific shot mark location, away from the site to protect the artefacts from damage from shot weights being dropped over board.
•Permanent buoyage would be preferable to aid people finding the site in the first place – after all visitors to a castle, prehistoric hillfort or historic house
don’t have to do it with only a rough estimate of there the heritage attraction is.
•Land based displays for each trail would be beneficial to raising awareness to the non-diving public.
•Small amount of funding should be allocated to each trail to help support the maintenance costs of the trails. This low level grant aid should not have to be “bidded”
for as the process is too time consuming for the volunteer licensees who in the most part are administering the visitor trails.

The full report including the results to the online survey and the recommendations can be found downloaded here.

The NAS is very grateful for the support of the team on the Coronation Wreck Project ( especially Mark Pearce and Ginge Crook and is bery happy to have made a donation to the project, which we hope will help them not only continue to open up access to the site, but also to research the site and make new exciting discoveries.