Churches, chapels and cathedrals are important spiritual, historical and community spaces – it is important to appreciate not only the different needs of people who worship and those who visit churches (for example as part of a learning experience or as a ‘tourist’). Expectations of what the church can provide on a personal, spiritual, communal and cultural basis creates a multifaceted organisation that is hard to define in simple terms. It is recognised that churches play a multi-functional role in the community and:
- Provide assistance for vulnerable people
- Are places for learning for all ages from school visits to adult lectures, as demonstrated by York Minster hosting the Ebor Lectures in partnership with the University of York St John with a programme of internationally renowned speakers
- Act as a venue for hosting a diverse range of events and exhibitions
- Can act as a ‘key attractor’ to help tourist destinations differentiate themselves in the marketplace
- Are places where people meet up for a meal within ancillary facilities (where available), which can become an important revenue generator and help to attract people who may not otherwise have visited a church
- Provide a space for quiet contemplation (helping to improve health and wellbeing)
- Provide opportunities for volunteering and employment and they also support the local economy
- And, most importantly, are places of Worship and celebration of the Christian faith
This can lead to challenges and tensions in terms of managing the expectations and needs of different market segments. Investment into revenue generating opportunities in churches can lead to growth in tourists and other visitors and raise new challenges and opportunities, which require careful management.
The conservation and restoration of the historic fabric of the buildings and unique collections is endless, the cost of seemingly small repair jobs can quickly escalate. The ongoing long-term maintenance of the fabric of the buildings can also present significant financial challenges.
To ensure their long-term survival, churches are becoming more commercially focussed and innovative in their approaches to increasing the opportunity to generate revenue. There are a number of opportunities linked to the tourism and day visitor markets.
Some of the church tourism projects we have worked on:
- St Albans Cathedral – advice to support a successful Round 1 Heritage Lottery Fund application, which included reviewing all research completed by the project team along with the business plan prepared by an external consultant
- Hylton Castle and St Catherine’s Chapel – for Sunderland City Council we carried out an options appraisal and supporting business case to bring Hylton Castle back to life for the local community and visitors. Hylton Castle is compromised of two buildings, a former four storey gatehouse and St Catherine’s Chapel, built in the 15th Century. The gatehouse and chapel are both Grade 1 listed structures and the gatehouse, chapel and grounds are designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument
- West Norwood Cemetery – working with the Friends Organisation and the London Borough of Lambeth to advise on the preparation of a Lottery application (from an operational, visitor experience and design perspective). This led to a successful application which secured £4.6 million in Lottery funding
- Destination development North Soar – we were commissioned to advise on the development of North Soar as a destination with a focus on outdoor activities along with the cultural offer including the churches within the wider area
How can we help?
We can work with you to help generate additional revenue. This can include:
- Carrying out market assessments to ensure that the ‘opportunities’ for revenue generation meet the needs of the market place. This includes a demographic analysis of the residential population, tourism marketplace and competitive landscape.
- Carrying out option appraisals to identify and evaluate different development scenarios. We often work with conservation architects who can form an important part of our team when assessing opportunities in historic buildings.
- Preparing the supporting business case which can be used to assess the financial viability of projects and support funding applications.
- Underpinning this, we normally undertake an extensive programme of consultation with key stakeholders and local communities.
Do you need help to identify and evaluate future opportunities? Please don’t hesitate to phone or email Richard Linington on 023 9248 1999