Hampshire assesses economic impact of 2017 Jane Austen bicentenary campaign

A recently published report, produced by Tourism South East, has concluded that last year’s Jane Austen 200 commemorations attracted over one million visitors into the county during 2017, and contributed almost £21m to Hampshire’s economy.


Hampshire is Jane Austen’s birthplace, as well as the county where she was laid to rest.  It was also filled with the people, landscape and the society which provided so much of the inspiration for her classic novels.


2017 marked the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death and, together with Jane Austen’s House Museum and many other partners across the county – including Winchester Cathedral and Chawton House – Hampshire Cultural Trust (HCT) and VisitHampshire took the lead in celebrating the author’s life and work, with a full programme of exhibitions, events, performances and talks.


A major highlight of the commemoration was HCT’s The Mysterious Miss Austen, an exhibition at the Gallery in Winchester’s Discovery Centre, which gave visitors the opportunity to view six portraits of the author under one roof for the very first time.


A lasting legacy of the year’s events came in the form of the world’s first life-size, bronze statue of the author which has become a major visitor attraction in Basingstoke, the borough of Austen’s birth.  The statue was made by Hampshire sculptor, Adam Roud, and is now permanently installed outside the town’s Willis Museum which was host to a Jane Austen themed exhibition, Retail and Romance,that broke visitor records.


In the independent report, commissioned by VisitHampshire and Hampshire Cultural Trust, Tourism South East concluded that the Austen-inspired events and activities had a clear positive effect on visitor numbers at various visitor attractions across Hampshire.


Furthermore, the commemorations also provided a timely boost to the local tourism and hospitality sectors, with significant numbers of visitors choosing to stay in local hotels.


The report notes that Chawton House attracted 9,724 visitors over the period March 20 to October 27 in 2017 – a significant increase on the 3,973 attracted in the same period in 2016; while it also noted that City Space in Winchester Discovery Centre also enjoyed a 74.6% increase in visitors during June 2017 and a 61.6% increase during July.


Jane Austen’s House Museum attracted 25,526 visitors between June 1 and August 31 in 2017, again marking a significant upturn compared with its 2016 figures.  This was similarly ascribed to the events and activities related to the Jane Austen bicentenary and the accompanying media coverage generated by a hugely successful PR campaign which achieved a global reach.


VisitHampshire and Hampshire Cultural Trust created a major PR campaign around JaneAusten200, with VisitHampshire deliberately linking it to VisitEngland and Visit Britain’s “Year of Literary Heroes”.


A large number of press visits by both domestic and international travel media were hosted, and the report estimates a news reach of 370m people globally (from the United States of America to China, Brazil and Japan), as a result, helping to raise a broader awareness of Hampshire as a tourist destination, as well as reinforcing its specific heritage links with Jane Austen.


Overall, the TSE report estimated that an additional 1,062,000 visitors were attracted to Hampshire during 2017, many of whom were inspired in part by the Jane Austen 200 events and activities.


The Mysterious Miss Austenexhibition at Winchester Discovery Centre received 15,292 visitors from May 13 to July 24 – substantially more visitors to the Centre than the same period in 2016, with the main reason cited as “the appeal of the Jane Austen 200 theme, its universality and the huge press coverage achieved”.


Looking at the direct economic impact of the celebrations, the TSE report says: “An additional net of 265,500 visitors were attracted to Hampshire specifically because of the Jane Austen 200 events and activities in the summer of 2017.  This resulted in an additional 69,600 bed nights in Hampshire, and an additional direct spend of £13.7 million.”


The report also concluded that new jobs and income were generated by Jane Austen 200, which in turn had a positive effect on the local goods and services industries, adding an extra £7.1 million to Hampshire firms’ coffers.


The report concludes: “We therefore estimate that the total economic impact of the Jane Austen 200 celebrations was £20.8 million.”


For further tourist information from Hampshire, visit https://www.visit-hampshire.co.uk