Bath’s tourist figures showing strong recovery

Income from Bath & North East Somerset Council’s heritage attractions is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels over the next financial year – showing a strong recovery.

A report to Bath & North East Somerset Council’s cabinet on Thursday 9 March anticipates the council’s Heritage Services returning a £8.2m profit during 2023/24. This money will be used to directly support people across Bath and North East Somerset by contributing to the council’s wider activities.

The report reveals that the number of people visiting the Roman Baths last autumn was higher than anticipated and visitor spending in the Pump Rooms and Heritage Services’ retail shops over the past year has increased. While it does not anticipate visitor numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2025, it suggests the stronger than anticipated performance maybe due to the fall in the value of the pound accelerating the recovery in international tourism and cost-of-living pressures encouraging more people to staycation. 

Councillor Key Guy, Leader of the Council said: “This is extremely encouraging news. The changing economic situation means the outlook for the visitor economy is very unclear, but it is pleasing to see visitor numbers at the Roman Baths returning to around two thirds of pre-pandemic levels, particularly when you bear in mind the absence of Chinese visitors due to their strict Covid restrictions.” 

The report to cabinet also outlines Heritage Services’ updated five-year strategy.  It details its priorities which aim to deliver on its vision to “learn from the past, understand the present and shape the future.”

Key aims are to return the service to pre-covid profitability, move the Fashion Museum and achieve net zero.

Plans for the coming year include:

  • Continuing to develop plans for the new Fashion Museum and the Fashion Collection Archive at Locksbrook.
  • Develop a new audio tour for the Roman Baths to bring the narrative in-line with up-to-date understanding of Roman Britain
  • Create a revised Audience Development Plan for the Roman Baths and Clore Learning Centre to engage with as wide an audience as possible – and local people in particular.
  • Invest in conservation activities at the Roman Baths to protect the monument for future generations.
  • Open a new Community and Education Space at the Victoria Art Gallery.
  • Create an Audience Development Plan for Bath Record Office to attract a wider and more diverse audience for archives and local studies.
  • Develop a strategy to achieve net-zero across Heritage Services.
  • Continue the roll-out of Discovery cards across the district.
  • Develop products with partners to encourage overnight stays.

Councillor Guy added: “It’s crucial our Heritage Services perform well as their income helps to support key council services. Our plans to invest in, protect and conserve our heritage assets are designed to improve visitor experience and secure the recovery from the pandemic.

“A lot of work will be carried out this year developing plans and raising funds for the relocation of the Fashion Museum. It’s one of the world’s greatest museum collections, with more than one hundred thousand items spanning five hundred years of history and, once it moves to the Old Post Office, we expect it to draw a quarter of a million visitors a year. It will take time to raise funds and get the design of the building right, but our aim is to reopen it in 4-5 years and for it to form the centrepiece of a new fashion destination in the Milson Quarter.”

For full details read the report to cabinet

The meeting will also be live streamed on the council’s  YouTube channel