Go beyond the velvet ropes – it's one way to boost the UK economy

About Britain

It's official. Coaxing ourselves out of the house in pursuit of a bit of culture isn't just good for us – it's excellent for the economy, too.

According to the Heritage Lottery Fund, "heritage tourism" contributes £20bn to our national coffers and could play an important role in economic recovery. So, next weekend, my family will be joining all the other DIY dodgers on a cultural day out at one of the many attractions whose gates will creak open for the first time this year.

The Easter weekend is key to UK tourism. The long public holiday, the school spring break, and an influx of international visitors all combine to kick-off the season. Of the £12.4bn spent on heritage tourism each year, £7.5bn is generated by UK residents on day trips and staycations. It's not just about historic buildings – monuments, galleries, museums, parks and wildlife sites all play a part.

But preserving our heritage is an expensive – and competitive – business. Charitable organisations such as the National Trust (nationaltrust.org. uk) and English Heritage (english-heritage.org.uk) run activity programmes for all ages, as they dream up innovative ways to keep the punters coming. Now, the National Trust is dropping the ropes and encouraging us to pull up a chaise longue in its "Going Local" strategy – pioneered at properties including Berrington Hall, Croft Castle, Upton House and Wightwick Manor. Last weekend's Bonus Time free-admission weekend enticed more than 200,000 visitors to experience this more touchy-feely Trust.

And, if you fancy gambolling in the grounds of a grand old house as if it were your own, National Trust Holiday Cottages is renting out more than 370 cottages in the grounds of historic buildings. Landmark Trust (landmarktrust.org.uk) also ploughs income from rentals back into preservation, and English Heritage has been doing just that since 2006. "Once the crowd leaves," says Carrie Penderson, of English Heritage Holiday Cottages, "the grounds are there for visitors to enjoy in privacy."

So, what are you up to at Easter? We're off to boost the economy.

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