More than two million people visited the North West's heritage sites in 2007/08, contributing £11bn to the economy, according to the annual Heritage Counts report published by English Heritage on behalf of the Historic Environment Review Executive Committee.
However, despite increased visitor spend, heritage-related investment from the Government has diminished significantly, the report said, with the level of Heritage Lottery Funding in the region lower than any year since 2004 and 25% down on last year.
In 2007/08, EH gave over £2.8m in funding, a decrease of 14% on 2001/02. EH said this regional decline reflects the national level of funding it receives from the Government and the reduction in lottery funds distributed by the HLF.
Henry Owen-John, current chairman of the North West Historic Environment Forum, said: "These hard facts and figures make a convincing economic case for investing in the historic environment. Heritage is more than just visits to museums and historic sites, it's about sustaining distinctive historic places where people want to live, work and play."
Highlights from this year's North West report include:
- National Museums Liverpool showed a huge increase in visitor numbers. Over 2.1 million visitors visited the eight sites, an increase of 28% over the previous year.
- Over 800,000 people visited the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, representing an increase of approximately 100% on last year.
- The number of local authorities with Heritage Champions representing the interests of the historic environment has gone up from 46% in 2006 to 70% this year, leaving just twelve local authorities in the North West yet to appoint one.