Churches Visitor and Tourism AssociationPosted: 2011-01-11
There are many organisations involved in preserving, protecting, and promoting historic buildings in Britain. Historic churches are served by a wide range of organisations, many of them local charities and historical societies with an interest in preserving historic buildings (see, for example, the Churches Conservation Trust). One group serves to bring together representatives of churches who want to promote tourism to their properties - the Churches Visitor and Tourism Association.
In the Trust's own words, it exists to promote best practices in welcoming visitors to places of worship, and to develop the tourism potential and visitor experience of sacred heritage. In layman's terms, it tries to help churches become more welcoming and understanding of visitors, and to provide a better visitor experience. To that end it works with churches to develop a safe 'open door policy', allowing them to be open to visitors more often.
I know from personal experience how utterly frustrating it can be to make a special trip to see a church that I have read about, only to discover that the door is locked, there is no signage, no evident keyholder, and no indication of when, or if, the church is ever open to visitors. So from that viewpoint, I can only applaud initiatives like the Churches Visitor and Tourism Association's attempts to encourage more churches to open to visitors more often!
Though the Churches Visitor and Tourism Association is largely a professional body, it does provide very useful resources for members of the public interested in visiting historic churches. Among the most interesting resources are a number of very useful church walks and trails, linking churches of particular historic interest in a given area. These routes are a combination of pilgrimage routes and sacred theme trails, using long-distance paths, cycleways, and car routes.
The Trust website has information on church trusts in every region of Britain, a selection of churches and cathedrals garnered from the VisitBritain website, a list of useful resources for further information on Sacred Travel, and links to the Church of England information on major historic churches and cathedrals. And, although many people do not approach church tourism from a standpoint of sacred pilgrimage, for those who do there are links to further resources and suggested further reading.