HERITAGE makes a vital contribution to the region’s economy with tourists pumping in millions of pounds in revenue, according to a new report.

Heritage and the Economy 2017, published by Historic England on behalf of the North East Historic Environment Forum, reveals there are 15,700 people directly employed in heritage. Heritage tourism generates £564m in spending by domestic and international visitors a year.

The repair and maintenance of historic buildings within the North-East, many of which serve as homes for residents and business premises, also generates £260m a year through the construction sector.

North East Historic Environment Forum chairman, Ian Ayris, said: “Investing in heritage makes sound economic sense. The report shows the full value of heritage and its importance to the local economy.

“Heritage is a key driver of tourism and attracts people to live, work and invest in the region.”

Adala Leeson, head of social and economic research at Historic England, added: “It’s not just about money.

“We are growing the ways in which we can measure the social benefits that heritage brings through the sense of identity and belonging that it gives communities.

“We have also calculated that volunteers dedicate £520m in the hours they give towards day-to-day protection of our built heritage.”

Visitors of heritage sites are likely to go on to visit other places in the area during their stay, further benefitting the economy.

For every £1 spent as part of a heritage visit, 32p is spent on the site and 68p in local restaurants, hotels and cafes.

Richard Evans, director at Beamish Museum, near Stanley, said the museum was expecting to welcome over 700,000 visitors by the end of 2017.

He said: “Ninety per cent of our visitors go on to visit other places in the North-East while they’re here and 80 per cent of visitors stay in accommodation that is not with friends or relatives.”

Beamish Museum is undertaking the Remaking Beamish project, following a £10.9m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, hoping to attract 100,000 more visitors.