Cultural Destinations Fund

Arts Council report highlights benefits of close ties between culture and tourism

Image: © Hulki Okan Tabak/Unsplash

An evaluation of the Cultural Destinations Fund’s second phase has today been published, looking back at a £4.2 million initiative delivered by Arts Council England and VisitEngland between April 2017 and January 2021.

The Cultural Destinations Fund initially launched in 2014 and throughout its two phases has invested £7.2 million in local projects working to promote the systematic alignment of arts and cultural organisations.

Projects supported through the programme have been situated throughout England, in cities like Lincoln, rural communities on the Isles of Scilly and boroughs of London including Woolwich.

The evaluation analyses the case studies of eighteen projects in the Cultural Destinations Fund’s second phase, concluding that they all made progress in pursuit of the programme’s key outcomes – reach, sustainability, boosting local visitor economies.

Citing mutually beneficial factors when the tourism and cultural sectors pool their resources and expertise, the report points to the virtues of long-term partnerships as a key takeaway for both.

“Artists and cultural organisations have the power to transform places, creating happier lives for people in villages, towns and cities all over England,” says Darren Henley, chief executive of Arts Council England.

“This report shows that partnerships across the tourism and cultural sectors are rocket fuel for growing local economies. The benefits of working together are clear to see as we rebuild and recover from the effects of the pandemic on communities across the country.”

Evaluating advancement

Significant findings in the evaluation include:

  • Culture has become a more prominent and recognised part of the local visitor offer
  • Project areas have become better known for being culturally rich as a result of the programme
  • The majority of projects involved highlighted an increase in coordination, networking and partnership working
  • A greater number of people and range of audiences have experienced their local arts and culture activities, events and organisations
  • Over 500 organisations benefitted from training sessions across 10 projects, with over 1,200 people attending – this focused on digital skills and knowledge of tourism/the tourism sector

Andrew Stokes, VisitEngland’s director, labels it “heartening to see that this funding has yielded such promising results and it’s no surprise that culture is central to our local tourism offer”.

The findings, he adds, confirm that “collaborative working between local destinations and arts and cultural activities inspire visitors to explore the breadth of England driving bookings and boosting local economies”.

Despite a year of lockdown hitting the sector hard, given that it accounts for a small period of the programme’s overall run the evaluation suggests the pandemic did not have a significant impact on the projects’ delivery. Achieving longer-term and sustained outcomes may, however, prove tougher in the wake of Covid’s legacy.

The full report is available here.