The tourist contribution of Scotland’s castles and stately homes was highlighted by the Historic Houses Association Scotland (HHAS) at a reception at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday (9 March) evening.
Jamie McGrigor MSP and Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop MSP,have endorsed HHAS’s new ‘Support Scotland’s Heritage’ campaign which aims to build on the success of the ‘Downton’ effect that has seen visitor numbers to properties owned by the HHAS, the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland rise to more than 12 million per year. Recent research shows that HHAS properties – which are independently owned – account for more than half the total number of visitors, attracting 6,694,735 people.
HHAS’s 218 member properties spend in excess of £20 million with more than 3,500 local businesses around the country and employ 2,500 people. Support Scotland’s Heritage has been launched prior to the opening of many of HHAS’s members around Scotland at Easter.
Jamie McGrigor MSP, sponsor of the parliamentary reception, said: “I commend the HHAS for launching the Support Scotland’s Heritage campaign and wish this very positive campaign every success. As we prepare to enter the Scottish Parliamentary election campaign I hope it will be supported by candidates from right across the political spectrum.
“As an MSP for the past 17 years I am hugely aware of the importance of the historic houses sector, not only in terms of our history and culture but also crucially the role it plays in Scotland’s economy as a key part of our tourism offering. Our historic houses help attract hundreds of thousands of international visitors and support valuable local employment and income. They should have the very strong backing of all MSPs and the Scottish Government.”
Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP, who addressed the reception said: “Historic properties such as those owned by the members of Historic Houses Association Scotland are often iconic symbols of the nation and a key and much loved part of the community. They are a major driver for tourism and offer a huge benefit to our economy, providing employment and attracting visitors to many communities across Scotland.
“The Historic Houses Association Scotland is also supporting Scotland’s first Strategy for the whole of our historic environment, Our Place in Time, actively promoting its delivery across the 218 privately owned properties the Association represents. I particularly welcome the HHAS’s campaign to Support Scotland’s Heritage and would highly recommend a visit to one of Scotland’s historic houses over the forthcoming Easter break.”
Day visitors to these properties spend an average of £39.76 and overnight visitors, between £70 and £85. While the overwhelming majority of visitors (over five million) are from the UK and go to historic houses for the day, there are around 400,000 international visitors.
The average annual repair bill for Scotland’s historic houses is £12.6 million, although that needs to grow as the heritage tourism industry grows to help cover the estimated £53m backlog of urgent repairs to these properties.
Lord Hopetoun, chairman of HHAS, said: “There’s no doubt that over the last couple of years we’ve enjoyed some benefit of the Downton Abbey effect. People love visiting historic and stately homes and they are doing so in increasing numbers. It’s a tourism, leisure and economic success story that Scotland needs to build on. That’s why we’ve launched Support Scotland’s Heritage with a view to taking the major tourism contribution from Scotland’s independently owned historic homes to a new level.
“Our properties do need considerable investment to keep them to a standard that visitors enjoy but the growing numbers of visitors and the great variety of homes and castles mean that Scotland has an important heritage element to its overall tourism industry.
“The more visitors we have, the more that can be invested in facilities for them. That’s one of the key reasons for embarking on Support Scotland’s Heritage so that we can keep our past alive with outstanding facilities that appeal to everyone.”