INVESTING in heritage makes sound economic sense, with regional and local communities and businesses, in particular, benefiting, according to the 2010 Heritage Counts report prepared by English Heritage on behalf of the heritage sector.

The report shows that:

Over the past decade, investments in 72 historic visitor attractions across the country have created 3,600 jobs and safeguarded a further 6,900.

On average, each site has generated almost £3 million of additional expenditure in regional economies.

Half of all jobs created by heritage tourism are in local businesses.

More than £327 million of vital funding has been invested in heritage sites in the West Midlands by the Heritage Lottery Fund since 1995.

English Heritage properties and National Trust sites in the West Midlands attracted almost 1.75 million visitors in 2009/10.

Nationally, over a 10-year period, every £1 invested in historic attractions generates £1.70 in additional economic activity and every £1 invested in historic areas generates £1.60

Heritage tourism is a key factor in generating that additional expenditure, it is claimed.

According to VisitBritain research contained in the report, over half of all international visitors visit a built heritage site on their visit.

Domestic visitors also play an important role, including those from the region itself. In the West Midlands, interest in the historic environment is increasing, with English Heritage membership up 27%, to almost 66,000 members in the past three years.

The report shows that the economic impact from investment in historic sites goes beyond the direct revenue from tourism. It also supports cities, towns and villages by attracting new businesses and residents, encouraging people to spend more locally and enhancing perceptions of areas.

Ninety-one per cent of people surveyed for the report regarded the historic environment as an important factor in deciding where to visit, live or work, while 25% of businesses rated it as important as road access when deciding where to locate.

Loraine Knowles, English Heritage visitor operations director for the West of England, said: “Heritage sites help draw people to the area, particularly for day visits. That includes international tourists but also increasing numbers of people on staycations and even those from the region itself.

“Investing in sites such as Kenilworth Castle has a knock-on effect in supporting local businesses and creating local jobs, which can only be good for the region.”

Warwickshire’s Kenilworth Castle is said to illustrate how investment in the historical environment can provide a blueprint for sustainable development and encourage economic growth.

Between 2004 and 2009, English Heritage invested £4.8 million in Kenilworth Castle, resulting in the re-creation of the Elizabethan Gardens, new visitor facilities and a venue for education, community use and events.

During construction, £2.5million Gross Value Added (GVA) was generated for the regional economy, with 80% of suppliers coming from within a 50-mile radius of the town.

Since the project was completed, visitors to the site have increased by over a third and income has grown by 177%.

In addition to the jobs that have been created at the castle, local businesses have grown to cater for the additional visitors, who also go on to patronise the village’s shops, restaurants and pubs. In total, the investment in Kenilworth has generated £350,000 (GVA) locally per year.

Commenting on the report, Baroness Andrews, chairman of English Heritage, said: “These results show heritage is one of the biggest drivers of tourism in the UK. It helps to attract new businesses and residents to an area and contributes to economic growth locally and nationally.

“Investing in heritage is not a luxury. It makes sound economic sense. The heritage sector provides a life-line for the nation’s past.

“Heritage is the very thing that makes England special in the eyes of the world and can help to underpin the economic recovery.”