Heritage Tourism Project could bring £19m boost to Welsh economy per annum

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism at Blaenavon Ironworks

Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism at Blaenavon Ironworks

A Cadw-led partnership project aimed at maximising the contribution of heritage tourism to the Welsh economy looks set to provide economic benefits of up to £19m a year according to a new report.

The findings have been revealed following an evaluation of Cadw’s Heritage Tourism Project (HTP) that has been part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

According to research by Cardiff University’s Business School’s Welsh Economy Research Unit, the economic impacts attributable to tourists visiting sites which have benefitted from the project could equate to up to £19m per year, in turn supporting more than 1,000 full-time jobs.

The Heritage Tourism Project, which launched in 2009, has supported more than 40 historic sites across Wales, working in partnership with various heritage bodies to deliver improvements to interpretation, physical access and even involving the local arts communities in bringing the sites to life for visitors.

The aim of HTP is to increase the number, length and value of visits to heritage sites in Wales, opening up Wales’s heritage to a wider audience by making it more enjoyable both for visitors and residents.

The research states that the economic impacts attributable to the Heritage Tourism Project will take place largely away from the sites, benefitting shops, restaurants and accommodation providers in local towns where visitors extend their stay.

The research also estimated that there was around £15.2m of capital spending, related to construction activity as a result of HTP supported projects, and this supported more than 260 full time jobs in Wales during construction.  

The Heritage Tourism Project runs until December 2014 but the majority of supported work across Welsh heritage sites is now complete with many attractions already seeing an impact in terms of increased visitor figures.

Blaenavon Ironworks has seen a 14.2% increase in visitors since the majority of its HTP work was completed in September 2013** and Conwy Castle has seen an 8.3% increase in visitors since its HTP work was completed in July 2012 ***.  

Llandudno Museum, Great Orme Country Park Visitor Centre and the Great Orme Ancient Mines which have also received funding for improvements through the Our Heritage Scheme within the HTP have also seen one of their busiest summers on record, pulling in more than 86,000 visitors collectively.

Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism said: “These findings yet again show how Wales’s historic environment is an asset to the country’s economy.

“Our heritage generates an estimated £840 million each year. A recent Visit Wales study revealed the top 20 visited sites in Wales, and more than half of these were historic attractions.

“Wales’s diverse historic environment is a huge pull for tourists, and it is as important as ever that we look to maximise the very real opportunities that heritage can offer to strengthen our economy.”

Professor Max Munday of the Welsh Economy Research Unit at Cardiff Business School added: “These findings give us a valuable insight into the return on investment we get from improving our historical assets in Wales.

“Having been involved in the tourism sector for some time it was fascinating to see how different sites can have different impacts on the economy.

“This was a considerable project that involved extensive survey work, but the work should be seen as ongoing when it comes to improving Wales’s historical assets.”

The report from the Cardiff University’s Business School’s Welsh Economy Research Unit can be viewed here.

How Welsh attractions have benefitted from the Heritage Tourism Project

Blaenavon Ironworks

The Heritage Tourism Project has led to the installation of new interpretation at the World Heritage Site of Blaenavon Ironworks including signage, a children’s trail and audio-visual displays.

An immersive sound and light experience has also been developed in the casting house to explain the iron-making process that made Blaenavon famous.  

The project has also seen the introduction of a model of the ironworks which enables visitors to understand the scale of the ironworks when at peak production.

The project also included works to footpaths, landscaping and fencing that has enabled improved visitor access and ‘flow’ around the historic site.

HTP funding has also seen four cottages used for the popular BBC Coal House series re-dressed with authentic furniture and fittings to depict workers’ cottages through the 20th century.  

Built in 1788, the site is the world’s best preserved 18th century ironworks.  The town of Blaenavon was granted World Heritage status in 2000.

Conwy Castle

The Heritage Tourism Project has transformed the visitor experience at Conwy Castle.

The visitor centre has been completely refurbished and new interpretation offers visitors a better explanation of the stories of Edward I, the Welsh princes and Owain Glyndŵr– linking the castle closely to the wider historic environment and the walled town.

It includes the work of five Wales based artists who responded to the history of the castle in their own voices. This innovative approach, combined with information boards and a children’s trail enables all visitors to experience the World Heritage Site through engaging and surprising discoveries.

The castle was originally built for Edward I, by Master James of St George between 1277 and 1307.

Conwy, Beaumaris Caernarfon and Harlech castles, along with the fortifications surrounding the towns of Conwy and Caernarfon have been collectively declared a World Heritage Site.

Princes of Gwynedd

The Heritage Tourism Project funded the Princes of Gwynedd Heritage Tourism Project which interpreted 30 iconic heritage sites linked to the Welsh princes allowing visitors to follow in their footsteps for the first time.

The Princes of Gwynedd project, led by Conwy County Borough Council in partnership with Gwynedd Council, Snowdonia National Park Authority and the National Trust, saw the creation of a new website, exhibitions and a series of walking, cycling and transport trails that aimed to attract additional visitors to Snowdonia.

*Draft Report on the Economic Impact of the Heritage Tourism Environment for Growth (E4G) Project

**Blaenavon Ironworks visitor figures - Sept 2012 – Aug 2013 = 19,290, Sept 2013 – Aug 2014 = 22,040

***Conwy Castle visitor figures – July 2012 – June 2013 = 166,923 July 2013 – June 2014 = 180,349