Let’s re-use heritage buildings to grow the visitor economy

We love retro music, retro fashion and retro advertising – but how about retro architecture?

More than 2 million international visitors to Australia visit a historic/heritage building, site or monument each year – that’s 33 per cent of all international visitors. Cultural and heritage tourists spend 24 per cent more and stay 24 per cent longer in Australia than the average international visitor.

Domestic tourists also 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.

TTF’s new report, Built Heritage and the Visitor Economy: The case for adaptive re-use of heritage assets, encourages 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.

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

The State Treasury Buildings in Perth, The Rocks in Sydney, Salamanca Wharf in Hobart and the Old Treasury Building in Melbourne are just a few 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.

Tourism should be actively considered as a significant use of heritage buildings that are identified for adaptive re-use. 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. Beautiful heritage resources abound across Australia and some of these may have potential new opportunities for sustainable re-use.

Last but not least, congratulations to all of the winners and nominees who were recognised in last weekend’s Qantas Australian Tourism Awards. Each winner has made a significant contribution to our visitor economy and should be proud of their achievements.

I am also thrilled that Mr Harvey Lister, Chairman and CEO of AEG Ogden was acknowledged for his immense contribution to the tourism and events sector over many years, receiving the Australian Tourism Legend award. No award has ever been more deserved.