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Heritage Services shows strong financial recovery

Date published: 2024-02-29 | Category: Heritage

The steamy Great Bath at the Roman Baths

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Heritage Services will exceed pre-pandemic levels of income and profitability this year.

A report to Bath & North East Somerset Council’s cabinet on Thursday 7 March anticipates the service, which manages the council’s heritage sites including the Roman Baths, Victoria Art Gallery, and the Fashion Museum, will return a £10.4m profit during 2023/24, rising to £12.2m in 2024/25. This money will be used to directly support people across Bath and North East Somerset by contributing to the council’s wider activities.

Bath has benefitted from the strong return of American tourism to the UK, and it is anticipated the return of the Chinese market in 2024/25 will contribute to further growth in tourism throughout the region. Whilst overall visitor numbers remain lower than peak pre-pandemic figures, actual income returned to the council is now the highest on record and is predicted to continue to grow in 24/25.

The focus of visitors to create memories in special places has seen the Roman Baths prosper in a challenging visitor economy. The report shows that across the past year the historic site has consistently exceeded budgeted visitor figures and shown increased spending in the museum shops. Torchlit evening opening throughout the summer and a focus on the 2000 years of history to be experienced have delivered on visitor aspirations for an immersive, unique and memorable experience. A strong programme of popular exhibitions at Victoria Art Gallery has also led to a 30% increase in exhibition visitors in the past year.

Councillor Paul Roper, Cabinet Member for Economic & Cultural Sustainable Development, said: “Bath is well-known worldwide as a city of outstanding heritage and the Roman Baths is the jewel in the city’s crown. It is hugely encouraging to see our Heritage sites continuing to offer a world-class visitor experience and excelling in a difficult visitor economy. The strong return of the US market has contributed to growth over the past year, and we expect that trend to continue into this year with the return of Chinese visitors.

The success of our Heritage Services is crucial to our success as a council, as their income helps to support key services. The report puts forward our commitment to invest in, protect and conserve our heritage assets for the people of Bath.”

The report updates on Heritage Services’ five year business plan. It details its priorities which aim to deliver on its vision to “learn from the past, understand the present and shape the future.”

Plans for the coming year include:

  • Moving forward with ambitious plans for the development of a new world-class Fashion Museum. The Service will commence design work for the new Fashion Museum within the Milsom Quarter and continue to develop plans for the creation of a Fashion Collection Archive in Locksbrook, in partnership with Bath Spa University.
  • A new audio tour for the Roman Baths to bring the narrative in-line with up-to-date understanding of Roman Britain. This is the first part of a wider re-interpretation of the historic site to reveal previously untold stories.
  • A new commitment to offer free admission to the Roman Baths for school groups where 30% of pupils receive free school meals, building on the council’s commitment to make heritage accessible for all.
  • Following repairs to the Victoria Art Gallery roof it will reopen the Upper Gallery, providing free access to the Council’s art collection along with the creation of a new, community engagement space which will enable a hugely improved programme of workshops and events.
  • A vibrant programme of temporary exhibitions at Victoria Art Gallery, starting with the only chance in the UK to see the world-class Toulouse Lautrec & the Masters of Montmartre exhibition.
  • A new audience development plan for Bath Record Office so that the archives and local studies can reach wider and more diverse audiences.
  • The continued roll-out of Discovery cards across the district, making it easier for residents to receive new cards and enjoy the benefits of the scheme.
  • A renewed commitment to reduce Heritage Service’s carbon footprint, with carbon baseline work undertaken during 2023 informing an ongoing response to the climate and ecological emergency.

Download the report here

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