Churches encouraged to stay open to make the most of the tourist season

(Photo: Explore Churches)

With many people planning their summer vacations at this time of year, churches are being encouraged to stay open in the hopes of attracting more tourists through their doors.

This was the advice from Kay Short, of the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG), who last week ran training for church leaders in the Diocese of Leeds in partnership with the National Churches Trust (NCT). 

With the Easter break just weeks away and the busy summer tourist season on the horizon, representatives of parishes from across Yorkshire and Lincolnshire heard more about how they can be places of welcome for pilgrims and visitors. 

According to church figures, over half of all day trips in the UK include a visit to a church and there are an estimated 40 million visits to places of worship across the nation each year. 

Ms Short said that some churches fear keeping their doors open because of concerns around insurance and security. 

With proper risk management, though, she said churches could safely keep their doors open to members of the public. 

"It is a great opportunity to talk to churches about remaining open," she said.

"Many fear from an insurance perspective that this can't be the case, but it is something we really encourage.

"Staying open can actually have a positive impact on church security and it means people have the opportunity of experiencing something of God."

Church leaders also heard more about the resources available to support them in making their buildings attractive tourist destinations, including the Explore Churches online platform run by NCT to promote historic churches, church events, tours and walking trails. 

Sarah Crossland, of NCT Heritage Services, said that with a little clever use of social media, photography and video, churches could attract maximum attention to their buildings.

"Today we have talked about brand new church experiences, which is really exciting," she said. 

"We've got some funding from Visit England to work with churches to develop hands on activities or behind the scenes tours, which can be promoted to group travellers, tourists from abroad or even local groups."