About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

The Economic Value of Heritage

This research by Nesta and Simetrica uses a technique known as contingent valuation analysis to assess the value that users (residents and visitors) and non-users obtain from historic cities and their cathedrals.

The work was based on responses from an online survey of visitors to Lincoln, Canterbury, York and Winchester (and their associated cathedrals) and the general population.

  • The research found that it is possible to produce credible estimates of the benefits that both users and non-users get from cathedrals and historic cities (the historic city being inclusive of the cathedral). The average valuation estimates for individuals from the sites as estimated by willingness to pay (WTP) were:
  1. Historic cities resident/visitor (use value): Mean WTP = £9.63
  2. Non-visitors (non-use value): Mean WTP = £6.14
  3. Cathedrals visitor: Mean WTP = £7.42
  4. Cathedrals non-visitor: Mean WTP = £3.75
  • The research found that it is possible for comparable sites - in this case, cathedrals and historic cities - to generate sufficiently similar estimates of value that they could be used to estimate the value of other sites (so called Benefits Transfer). This reduces the cost of calculating benefits for similar sites in the future.

Policy recommendations

  • There should be a greater emphasis on using economic valuation techniques to measure the benefits that heritage and culture provides and this should be more closely integrated into policy.
  • A more strategic approach should be taken to valuing cultural assets and experiences to undertake valuation most efficiently.

A report by Nesta and Simetrica: Ricky Lawton, Daniel Fujiwara, Susana Mourato, Hasan Bakhshi (Nesta), Augustin Lagarde, John Davies (Nesta).

This work was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Accompanying research on museums

A companion piece to this project by Nesta and Simetrica on regional museums which was funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is available on the DCMS site. It uses similar techniques to estimate use and non-use value and assesses the feasibility of benefits transfer. It also finds that such techniques generate credible results and that benefits transfer between comparable sites is feasible.