Inbound culture, heritage & attractions research

Britain is recognised as a world class destination for culture and heritage and these aspects of the British holiday offer are repeatedly identified as major draws for overseas visitors in our research.

The figures speak for themselves – in 2011, we sponsored specific questions in the International Passenger Survey (IPS) on activities visitors undertook whilst in Britain (XLS, 12.3MB), including going to museums, art galleries, castles, and historic houses.

Activities undertaken by visitors to Britain

Activities asked about Visits which involved activity Nights spent in UK* Amount spent in UK*
  Visits (000) % of all visits % of holiday visits Nights (000) £(m)
Visited museums or art galleries 8,299 27% 43% 86,146 £6,255
Went to theatre / musical / opera / ballet 2,796 9% 14% 33,838 £2,748
Visited castles or historic houses 8,874 29% 48% 91,245 £6,506
Visited religious buildings 6,738 22% 35% 74,920 £4,948
Visited parks or gardens 11,081 36% 54% 114,312 £7,826

* By those whose visit included the activity. Nights and spend are not specifically whilst under-taking activity but throughout visit to UK

Source: International Passenger Survey 2011

Perceptions of the UK’s culture and heritage

Through the Anholt Nations Brand Index (NBI) we also have some insight into the perceptions of the UK’s culture and heritage amongst respondents in 20 countries around the world. The NBI consistently ranks the UK’s strengths in history and culture attributes.

In 2015 the UK was ranked 3rd for contemporary culture, 5th for historic buildings and 6th for cultural heritage (out of 50 nations).

UK rank*

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Tourism 4 5 5 4 4 4 3 4
Historic buildings 4 4 4 4 5 5 5 5
Vibrant city 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
Culture 3 4 6 4 4 4 5 5
Contemporary 4 4 4 4 3 3 3 3
Sport 7 8 8 5 6 5 4 4
Cultural heritage 6 7 7 7 7 7 7 6

Source:GfK Anholt Nation Brands Index 2008-2015

*rank out of 50 nations

To build on these findings, in 2014, we conducted research into understanding the role of culture and heritage in the top three inbound UK markets (PDF, 1.33MB) in terms of visits, spend and nights – France, Germany and the USA.

Holiday-makers across all three markets in the study also sought opportunities to relax and destinations offering lots to see and do. Other elements considered important in the holiday mix were famous places (buildings and attractions) and expectations of a friendly welcome from the locals.

Download our commentary on the key findings (PDF, 2.37MB) from the study to gain a better understanding of the role of culture and heritage in holidays, read the Germany (PDF, 303KB)France (PDF, 224KB) and USA (PDF, 226KB) individual market summaries, as well as a study overview (PDF, 311KB).

During 2015 VisitBritain explored how best to leverage British Culture in Brazil, China and Italy.  Supporting previous research Britain’s built culture ranks highly with opportunities to turn up communications around ‘living the feeling’.  In this report we have suggested 10 top tips for marketing in these markets including the role of people in images and why ‘free’ might not be as appealing to everyone.  You can download the full report here (PDF, 3.14MB)Published January 2016.