National Trust considers Mediterranean working patterns to cope with extreme heat

The charity warned that challenges presented to the tourism sector by the changing UK climate should not be underestimated

Waddesdon Manor: Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images
Waddesdon Manor: Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

The National Trust has announced it will introduce “Mediterranean” shifts for employees working on some sites during the summer months in response to the UK’s warmer weather.

Staff and volunteers in south-east England will start earlier, finish later, and have longer lunch breaks in the event of “extreme” temperatures under the new measures.

The charity is introducing these working hours at some sites so staff can “avoid the midday heat”. 

The trust expects climate change to change visitor behaviour in coming years, following its own five-year analysis of visitor patterns plotted against weather conditions.

While summer is currently the trust's busiest season, the charity said it expects to see more visits in autumn and spring as temperatures increase. Hotter days, particularly those above 28°C, could lead to a drop in visitor numbers, especially inland.

By the end of this century, the Met Office predicts the UK will see days that reach 40°C.

In response to its findings, the trust also plans to create more shade over outdoor seating areas.

And it has warned that if carbon emissions are not reduced, stately homes and indoor tourist attractions could be forced to temporarily close more often due to excessive heat and storms.

The charity is planting trees away from buildings and popular visitor areas to protect them from falling trees, which it says may be more likely as storms become more severe.

It may also need to invest in making indoor venues resilient to higher temperatures, humidity and greater levels of rainfall.

Lizzy Carlyle, the National Trust’s head of climate and environment, said its findings show that the tourism industry needs to be better prepared for the future.

“Much of the debate around tourism and climate change to date has rightly focused on international travel and the impact flights and foreign holidays is having.

“But what hasn’t been fully addressed is what the domestic tourism industry could be facing unless we take drastic action to reduce emissions.”

Carlyle warned that the challenge the tourism sector is facing to adapt to changes in the UK climate “should not be underestimated”.

She said that reacting to and meeting the climate challenge is not something the sector can do alone, and called on the government to put a greater focus on identifying adaptation needs and finding meaningful solutions.

But she added that, while the data is stark: “It is certainly not all doom and gloom. It helps us as an organisation – and the sector as a whole – prepare for the future to ensure the nation’s heritage is protected for future generations to enjoy.”

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