The online resource for the historic environment

5.10 Tourism management

To assist your understanding of this Unit refer to BS 7913: 2013:
para 5.9 "Heritage impact assessment."
para 6.1 "Asset management."
para 6.11.2 "Social and economic value."

The UK’s built heritage continues to be a strong driver in attracting visitors, with historic buildings and monuments, castles and stately homes, churches and cathedrals all well regarded. The tourism economy was estimated to be worth some £113bn in 2013, and is projected to have an industry value over £257bn by 2025. Overall, heritage led tourism contributes more to the UK economy than the advertising, car manufacturing or film industries. Consequently, it is critical that the significance and value of the heritage is properly secured and safeguarded.

“There is no part of [the UK] that has not been shaped by human activity over thousands of years. The historic environment is all around us, ubiquitous and inescapable. It consists of a multitude of places, each with its own character, history and significance, that are the common inheritance of everyone…”
English Heritage (2002) State of the Historic Environment Report

The following figures are quoted from the above report:

  • Tourism is one of England’s most important industries. It represents 4.9% of GDP and generates 7.6% of employment
  • In 1996, 37% of overseas visitors referred to visits to heritage sites as of particular importance
  • In 1998 there were 1,253 million day visits to the English countryside…generating spending of £11.5bn. - 24% of visits were to heritage sites.

Although the above figures relate to statistics in respect of England a similar proportion may also be typical in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Also from the above Report the follow figures are quoted:

  • 95% of people think that the historic environment is important because it gives them places to visit
  • In 2001 (in England) there were 57.7 million recorded visits to 983 leading historic sites, an average of 58,700 to each site.
  • The Urban Parks Forum estimates that between 300 and 400 million visits are made annually.

Heritage Counts 2014 Indicated that researched findings in 2011 suggested that there were 134,000 direct jobs in UK's built heritage tourism sector, rising to 253,000 jobs when natural heritage tourism (such as visits to parks and gardens) was included. The research also estimated that built heritage tourism contributed £5.1bn in terms of economic output or GDP.

In support of this activity, in twenty years of operation, the HLF had allocated more than £6bn of funding support for heritage projects across the UK by 2014, with 550 public parks revitalised and 16,000 historic buildings conserved.

“The historic environment lies at the heart of England’s £22 billion tourism industry … Sustainable tourism is tourism that does not degrade the asset on which it depends.”
English Heritage (2000) Power of Place

From these figures it is clear that the historic environment is a major attraction to tourism. It may also be inferred that with such intensity of use the historic environment, although benefiting in potential income, might also suffer from wear and tear through use. Identification of threat through increases in use must be recognised and responded to by thorough management planning and preparation. There will be a need to undertake impact assessments and carry out capacity studies to identify an optimum response to increased income generated by increased use, and to put in place measures to protect an asset.

“What is heritage? How much of it should be protected or exploited. What methods are appropriate to safeguarding heritage while making it accessible to the public?”
Bris bane and Wood A Future for our Past English Heritage.

“…incautious or ill-informed promotion of tourism development … can destroy the very features that tourists have come to see.”
A Future for Our Past loc cit.

“Its [the heritage] potential for enjoyment must be maintained, its educational value… must be enriched and its economic value in attracting tourists… must be developed.”
National Heritage Memorial Fund (1981)


From reference to Heritage Counts 2014 the reported indicators for England listed 18 World Heritage Sites, 19,833 Scheduled Monuments, 375,880 Listed Building entries, 1,628 registered Parks and Gardens, and an estimated 9,848 Conservation Areas. The report also recorded 3.8 million National Trust members, 886,000 English Heritage members in the year 2013/14 (almost double the 445,000 members in 2001/02), and 37,000 Historic House Association Friends Members.

In 2013, the number of visits to historic visitor attractions in England stood at a total of 58.6 million, including 1.96 million school visits (an increase of 17% on the academic year ending in2003).

The analysis of the above figures demonstrates that the historic environment is a major tourist attraction, and provides a great deal of income and employment to the sector as a whole. The worth of visiting heritage in England was estimated at £1,646 per person per year in 2014, with built heritage tourism in the UK providing 134,000 direct jobs and £5.1 billion of economic output.

The sort of numbers of visitors attracted and defined above, may, whilst providing useful income, result in increased wear patterns. Such numbers also require the provision of additional facilities, toilet accommodation, refectories/ cafeteria, etc; an asset’s setting, or context, may be affected by the siting and construction of such new facilities needed to cater for visitors. Careful thought must be given to planning for new facilities taking into account the need to protect significance, have minimum effect on a site of significance but still provide easy access and use. This is particularly relevant in respect of disabled access. See also The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) for guidance and requirements.

By reference to the DDA define whether the building or its occupiers as a service provider is liable for compliance with the Act.

See also accessibility guidance from English Heritage and CADW.

Historic assets may have physical barriers to disabled persons’ access that require you to think laterally about means of access.

The numbers of visitors may need to be controlled in order to protect an asset against the adverse effects of them, and whilst providing additional income, increased visitor numbers may generate costs created by the need for additional protection or repair, which costs may exceed the new income generated. For example; Newhailles above has a climate control system installed that dictates that visitor numbers at any one visit needs to be limited to 15.

Bearing in mind how visitor numbers might affect humidity, how might you want to look at visitor numbers control and how might this be integrated with climate control measures. What materials might be affected by humidity and, what measures might be implemented to maintain/monitor adverse effects of humidity?

It is an essential operation to anticipate such effect and, if necessary, make suitable management plans focused on reducing the effects. The process must be part of an overall and holistic approach to management and will synthesise complex and disparate data.

Choose an historic asset in your locality and analyse how the DDA might be complied with. Alternatively analyse how the DDA has been complied with, how it has affected significance and how the access measures might have been done differently.

You may wish to visit the National Trust website in pursuit of investigation to respond to the previous question.