Economic and Social Impact of Cathedrals

The Economic and Social Impact of England’s Cathedrals

In a report for the Association of English Cathedrals, ECORYS, an 80 year old research firm based in the UK, found that Church of England Cathedrals have a major economic impact on the nation.

The report’s Executive Summary details are as follows.

Attracting visitors – it is estimated that cathedrals attracted over 9.5 million tourist or leisure visitors in 2019, an increase of 15% on the 2014 total of 8.2 million. For the purposes of the economic impact assessment, this figure excludes worshippers and those taking part in formal educational activity. The additional expenditure generated by these visitors is estimated to be in the order of £128 million in the local economies concerned.

Supporting local businesses and economies – in addition, cathedrals are estimated to generate a net contribution of around £107 million in local spending per year (comprising direct, visitor-related and multiplier effects).

Creating local jobs – expressing this impact in terms of employment suggests that cathedrals support 5,535 jobs in their local economies.

This results in a combined total of approximately £235 million in local spending per year, a slight increase on the £220 million estimated in the 2014 study.

What are the social impacts of cathedrals?

Engaging with the community – in addition to a programme of regular and special services, cathedrals provide a wide range of pastoral care and outreach activity as part of their role in supporting the local community. Cathedrals are also used as a venue for numerous events, concerts, ceremonies and other activities.

Opportunities for volunteers – cathedrals benefit from the time and skills of over 15,000 volunteers, who fulfil a range of roles including welcoming visitors and assisting at services. The total number of volunteers has increased slightly since the 2014 report (14,760). Volunteers provide an estimated total of 906,000 hours of input per year, equivalent to approximately 500 full-time employees.

Opportunities for learning – cathedrals also provide numerous opportunities for both formal and informal learning and it is estimated that over 308,000 learners participated in organised educational activities in 2019. Visits are most commonly made by primary school groups and material covers a range of curriculum subjects.

How did COVID-19 affect cathedrals during 2020?

COVID-19 has brought a number of challenges for cathedrals. Almost all their income sources were adversely affected by lockdowns and continuing restrictions. This has had a direct impact on cathedrals’ ability to be self-sustaining in 2020, and cathedrals estimate their finances will be constrained for some time to come. In 2020, emergency grants provided cathedrals with much needed finances.


Reduced non-visitor income

The government mandated closure of cathedrals and restrictions on gatherings resulted in a significant fall in cathedrals average non-visitor income in 2020. This was driven by a reduction of almost 80% in income generated from the use of cathedral facilities. Closure and restrictions on congregation size also meant fewer people attending services in the cathedral, down from a midweek average of 362 adults and 108 children in 2019, to 84 and 25 respectively in 2020. As such, donations from the congregation fell on average.

Reduced visitor numbers and income: Visitor numbers in 2020 (excluding those attending services and educational events) have fallen by approximately 70% compared to 2019. Visitors provide a significant source of income for cathedrals through entry fees, donations, and on-site spending in catering and retail outlets.

The full report can be found at on the Church of England website: