What do visitors to the UK want? Interestingly, research released by VisitBritain reveals that in 2011, 6.7 million international tourists visited a religious building and those whose visit included this activity spent nearly $8 billion during their stay.
Figures show that 22 percent of the total visits to the UK last year (31 million) visited a religious building with 35 percent of that collective on vacation. Visiting churches and cathedrals consistently rates highly as one of the top priorities for international tourists, from examining the architecture at Glasgow Cathedral and St Paul’s or retracing the steps of Will and Kate’s wedding at Westminster Abbey.
When looking at a market by market breakdown, there are some interesting trends. Of all the countries on vacation, visiting a religious building is most prevalent with the Brazilians (55 percent), followed by Australia and USA (49 percent) then Russia (45 percent) and China (45 percent).
Churches remain an important part of the British tourism product with many visiting a church while on holiday. Research suggests that although churches and cathedrals are not seen as a deciding factor when choosing a break, they have an important impact on the visitor’s experience - offering a ‘hidden opportunity to explore’. Evensong is a great way to listen to music for free: With Christmas coming up, the Carol service from King’s College Chapel Cambridge, broadcast since 1928, is popular around the world (A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols). Or, if you want some real history, admire St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire (it dates back to the sixth century) or explore Mappa Mundi in Hereford.
“Overseas visitors rate Britain 4th out of 50 nations for built heritage," said Sandie Dawe, Chief Executive at VisitBritain. "It is one of the major drivers for international visitors.”