Written evidence submitted by the Heritage
Tourism Executive for the North West (arts 37)
Submission by the Heritage Tourism Executive
for the North West to Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee
As the only Heritage Tourism Executive in the
country whose job is to improve the way heritage attractions work
to attract visitors across a region (the North West), this is
my submission based on my experience in this role. I am currently
funded by the North West Development Agency and English Heritage
and based with Lancashire and Blackpool Tourist Board, and prior
to this managed a large National Trust Property.
Impact of present and future spending cuts
Grants from agencies such as the North
West Development Agency have up to now brought in major other
external investment to improve the heritage offer and attractiveness
in the North West.
Heritage attractions and others are more
effective when they work in clusters to maximise visits/improve
the quality of the visitor experience and need support to do so.
Employing regionally based people who can work with many heritage
attractions has made attractions better for visitors by providing
a wider perspective and cuts could remove this opportunity.
Large area-wide strategic bodies have
research, marketing and product development knowledge that have
major benefits, and currently meet the Treasury tests that are
Broader agencies than Local Enterprise
Partnerships would be more useful to have the bigger picture,
with the breadth of research knowledge and strategic view to make
decisions that really make a difference to heritage (and arts)
Effect of working collaboratively
Research has shown that strategic bodies
like the Regional Development Agency, National Trust, English
Heritage, Museums Libraries and Archives, Heritage Lottery Fund
and Historic Houses Association work most effectively to boost
visitor attractions if they meet on a semi regular basis to compare
good practice and utilise research eg on usage of volunteers or
on joint marketing initiatives, and this will be true for all
arts organisations too.
1. NWDA investment of £350,000 from
2005-09 in relatively small heritage attractions (historic houses,
mills, and buildings) resulted in more than £1.38 million
from other sources being invested (primarily private money), creating
more than eight full time jobs and attracting more than 100,000
extra visitors in that period to attractions including increasing
the spending of existing visitors. Obviously, subsequently there
have been further visitor increases as a result of those investments.
This money has been targeted on places that want to embrace quality
assurance like the VAQAS and Welcome schemes, which does not necessarily
occur in HLF criteria.
2. Evaluation of my role has demonstrated
the importance of having someone who works across the region's
heritage attractions It is important to advise on good practice
from elsewhere, getting attractions to work together, and steering
regional initiatives that market or develop heritage. Being seen
as a "Fount of all knowledge"a signpost for heritage
tourism attractions, and acting as an advocate to councils and
others has been very useful to attractions. See 2.1.
2.1 Helping Heritage perform better (from
research by Rayska Heritage and Katie Foster 2008 Evaluation of
NW Heritage Tourism Programme).
The post and the outputs from it have been seen
Driving quality, effective networking,
maximisation of funds and strategies, partnership development
with Tourist Boards.
Attracting higher spending visitors to
heritage through quality and extending the diversity of offer.
Helping heritage businesses learn how
to attract and retain more of them.
Opportunities for heritage to "get
things right" for visitor growth.
3. Research just undertaken by the NWDA,
the National Trust and English Heritage shows that many sites
in the NW are not effective at drawing in more people. Marketing
a single heritage asset alone is unlikely to be generally very
effective, as people prefer a range of things to do on a day visit,
joint ticketing arrangements and offers. Destinations benefit
that include heritage attractions, stories and nice places as
part of the visitor experience, particularly for families. This
needs close working at a strategic level to promote and utilise.
See 3.1 and 3.2.
3.1 Heritage Tourism in the North West Research
2010 (from research by Blue Sail).
If heritage attractions are to be successful
tourist attractions they must ensure they meet the expectations
of the most promising target groups. We found that... those most
interested are the empty nestersespecially those who are
well educated and relatively well-offand families with
children. Family groups are driven by the interests of the childrenif
the kids are happy the trip will be a success. Post-family visitors
are interested in a variety of cultural and heritage things but
like to take things at a relaxed pace; good food and surroundings
are important. So first-rate catering and retail is not only a
way to generate extra income, it is an essential part of the experience.
But all visitors want their visits to be fun, entertaining and
3.2 There is evidence that many heritage
attractions fail to make the gradethey come over as dull,
stuffy, perhaps too conservation-minded and academic. It is imperative
that heritage attractions are presented in close alliance with
places. It can help to create a "full day out" in that
destination, together with ideas for shopping, eating and socialising.
The use of vouchers and discounts (especially popular with family
groups) working with other attractions and accommodation will
help to drive visits and extend the experience on offer.
4. My own observation is that individual
funders do a good job in assessing the risks and attractiveness
of funding from their own perspective. However, unless they are
able to talk with other bodies who have different strategic aims
and understanding, they do not see the bigger picture and gain
the most benefit for the public investmentor for the heritage
attraction itself. For example, until relatively recent changes
in the Heritage Lottery Fund methodology, some projects have been
funded that have not taken on board visitor needs or benefits.
5. Presently, research is being undertaken
across the NW on behalf of all the bodies with a heritage interestthe
Regional Development Agency, Heritage Lottery Fund, National Trust,
English Heritage, Historic Houses Association, MLA, that will
identify numbers, benefits and needs of volunteers working in
heritage attractionsand this, for example, is indicating
the needs to offer volunteer management training for those who
run attractions. This overview would not be achieved without working
6. I would therefore encourage the committee
to think that, to gain the greatest benefits for tourism, attractions
need to have people with a wider-region perspective who will bring
them together, to learn from each other and from wider research.
It also needs some bodies that can take into account a bigger
picture and undertake research to support the heritage tourism
sector. A body that can give grants to lever in further funding
and only invest in those areas which will benefit the visitor
and income is also very valuableand beyond the present
scope of the HLF. It needs to include marketing as well as product
development. This would suggest a small staff at a regional level
at the least, with a grant giving capacity and with the potential
of levering other funding.