Adaptive re-use of heritage buildings a smart way to grow the visitor economy says new study

A new Tourism & Transport Forum Australia (TTF) study of the value to the visitor economy of adaptive re-use of heritage assets is encouraging government to work with private operators to preserve and give new life to the portfolio of historic government buildings no longer providing meaningful benefit to the public.

The study, Built Heritage and the Visitor Economy: The case for adaptive re-use of heritage assets”, researched by TTF in partnership with Mawland Group, highlights a range of successful case studies from across Australia and internationally of heritage buildings that have been given renewed purpose as visitor infrastructure.

The study encourages the adoption of a whole-of-government approach to heritage that involves active identification and management of heritage buildings as well as consistent and streamlined government processes across the country. Tourism should be actively considered as a significant use of heritage buildings that are identified for adaptive re-use.

More than two million international visitors a year visit a historic/heritage building, site or monument – 33 per cent of all visitors to Australia. Cultural and heritage tourists spend 24 per cent more and stay 24 per cent longer in Australia than the average international visitor. Domestic tourists made 4.9 million overnights trips and 4.1 million day trips to such attractions. These tourists spend 56 per cent more and stay 37 per cent longer than the average.

“Visiting sites of historical importance – or better yet, getting to spend the night in them in some cases – can play a key role in the choice of travel destination. Heritage tourism attracts visitors, creates reasons to stay longer, spend more and add depth to the visitor experience,” said Margy Osmond, TTF CEO.

“The Rocks in Sydney, Salamanca Wharf in Hobart and the Old Treasury Building in Melbourne are popular examples of what adaptive re-use of heritage buildings can do to boost the visitor economy and attract more visitors to a precinct. We have so many more opportunities throughout our cities and regional communities to better utilise our built history to benefit the public.

“The adaptive re-use of heritage buildings can be a win for the economy as well as environmental and social objectives for the public and government. Giving heritage structures a new lease of life as visitor infrastructure supports the conservation, greater return on public and private investment, environmental sustainability, reduced expenditure, place revitalisation and community engagement to name a few of the potential benefits.

“Heritage buildings that are inaccessible to the public are a missed opportunity to celebrate their cultural significance and further enhance the visitor economy.”