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The National Trust has reported a substantial increase in its visitor numbers, and retail and catering sales in December 2011 compared to the previous December, despite a backdrop of challenging economic times and lack of consumer confidence.

There were more than half-a-million (521,000) visitors to Trust properties in December 2011, an increase of 74 per cent on the previous year*.

Factors affecting the large jump in visitor numbers include the mild weather (December 2010 saw heavy snowfall hitting the number of getting out and about) and an increasing number of houses running Christmas themed activity, such as lighting schemes and decorating stately homes for Christmas.

Over forty Trust pay-for-entry properties were open during the weekends in December. Attingham in Shropshire saw its busiest ever weekend with its Frost Fair which ran on the first Saturday and Sunday of the month.

The Trust is on target to have its best ever year for visitor numbers to its pay-for-entry properties, exceeding 18 million visitors for the first time in its history**.

The retail business, which includes high street shops, shops at properties and online sales, saw an increase in sales of 24 per cent and the cafes and restaurants had a 71 per cent increase in sales in December 2011 compared to the same month in 2010.

In the year to date retail sales have increased by 8 per cent and catering has so far seen a 14 per cent increase in sales.

Fiona Reynolds, Director-General of the National Trust, said: "In these economically tough times the National Trust seems to have swum against the tide with these fantastic results.

"As the nation tightens its collective belt people have been looking for great value and places where they can get a real feel for Christmas.”

Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust, added: "This shows that arts and heritage charities not dependent on government grants appear to be experiencing a surge in trading income. The public is turning away from more expensive leisure venues, overnight stays and foreign trips. It is a rare good news story in the gloom." 

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Notes to editors:

* Visitors numbers are broken down into members and paying visitors. Visitor figures for the year to date (2011/12) compared to the previous year (2010/11) are up by more than 9 per cent.
** Overall visitor figures are based on the National Trust financial year which runs between the 1 March and the 28 or 29 February.

About The National Trust:

The National Trust is one of the most important nature conservation organisations in Europe with over 1,000 places to visit to visit in the UK covering 250,000 hectares, including coastal sites, woodland and upland areas, including many gardens to visit; many of which are rich in wildlife.  The All 17 species of UK bat have been recorded as roosting or breeding on National Trust land and 96 per cent of all resident UK butterflies can be found on our land. Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire is our most species rich site and 93 per cent of our land has been surveyed for its nature conservation importance. The charity also offers a number of National Trust holidays, including walks throughout locations across the British countryside. Find out more at:

PR Contact:

Mike Collins
Senior Press Officer
The National Trust
Kemble Drive
07900 138419

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