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Economic Impact of Heritage

Heritage makes a significant contribution to the UK economy through activities such as tourism and construction which enable growth in local areas. Find out all the facts and figures from Historic England.

Historic England has undertaken a number of projects that explore the economic value of the historic environment.

  • Heritage and the Economy fact sheet
  • Regeneration in the historic environment
  • Encouraging investment in heritage
  • Willingness to pay research 2014
  • Valuation studies research

Heritage and the Economy Fact Sheet (Heritage Counts product)

This fact sheet is a product of Heritage Counts, produced on behalf of the Historic Environment Forum. It provides a summary of the key figures available from existing research which show the economic benefits of the historic environment. The document describes how heritage drives growth by attracting international tourism, boosting local economies and providing thousands of jobs.

Heritage and the Economy 2017 is an update of the 2011 Heritage and Growth note.

Additional studies: economic value of World Heritage Sites (UNESCO)

In 2013 the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) published a report which explores the wider value of UNESCO to the UK economy.

The report valued the financial benefits of World Heritage Sites to the UK at £61.1 million, and also recognised the impact of investment at World Heritage Sites across the country in terms of supporting jobs and communities.

Regeneration in the historic environment

Heritage Counts 2010 concentrated on the economic impact of heritage and commissioned new research on historic environment regeneration. The research found that:

  • £1 of public sector investment creates an additional £1.60 in local economic activity over 10 years.
  • 1 in 4 businesses said the historic environment is an important factor in deciding where to locate.

The full reports are available here:

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) also has a number of research projects in this area which look at both economic and social outcomes of heritage-led regeneration:

  • ‘New ideas need old buildings’ report – this research shows that the commercial businesses based in historic buildings are more productive and generate more wealth the average for commercial business across the economy.
  • Townscape Heritage Initiative evaluation – the Townscape Heritage Initiative has been evaluated since 1998 and covers 17 schemes from across the UK. The research looks at the changes to the quality of the townscapes, perceptions of local people and the economic impact of reusing buildings.

Encouraging investment in heritage

Research by Colliers International in 2011 explores investment incentives for industrial heritage at risk and the conditions that facilitate successful reuse.

The Investment Performance document is an analysis of the investment performance of listed buildings on the International Property Databank Annual Index. Research found that:

  • Listed buildings used for commercial, office and industrial purposes have generated a higher level of total return than commercial, office and industrial buildings overall.

On the Industrial Heritage at Risk page you can find out about the experiences of developers and occupiers of industrial buildings. Examples include conversion into hotels, residential use, health facilities, offices and creative industry spaces.

Willingness to pay research 2014

Visitors and the local population at two English Heritage sites were asked what they would be willing to pay to maintain the site and keep it open to the public. Using this stated preference approach the research was able to help us better understand the value people place on heritage.

  • Visitors were willing to pay up to £4.00 per visit above the admission cost to maintain the site. Those who do not visit the site would pay up to £1.80.
  • Willingness to pay varies across different socio-economic groups; an individual's reason for visiting and the frequency of visits.

Read the full report on Economic Valuation of Heritage

The willingness to pay research was commissioned as part of Heritage Counts 2014.

The surveys used in the research have been designed so they can be used by any site that wishes to evaluate their value using stated preference.

Valuation studies research

Historic England also recognises the importance of assessing research methodologies.

The Valuation of the Historic Environment (2005) research looks at the use of economic valuation methods in the assessment of heritage-related projects. Methods include projects which have been assessed using stated preference techniques such as contingent valuation, for example.

In 2010 DCMS conducted their own research on measuring the value of culture: Measuring the Value of Culture.

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Adala Leeson


Engagement Group