TOURISM South East has calculated that Jane Austen 200 gave the county of Hampshire a multi-million pound boost.

The claim is based on a recent report by the tourism body designed to assess the impact of the ‘Jane effect’ on Hampshire, which found that the commemorations contributed £21m to the county’s economy with more than a million extra visitors being attracted to follow in the author’s footsteps.

Last year marked the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death and the Hampshire Cultural Trust took the lead in celebrating the author’s life and work. In collaboration with Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton, and many other partners across the county including Winchester Cathedral, Chawton House and Visit Hampshire, a number of exhibitions, events, performances and talks took place throughout the year.

A major highlight of the commemoration was The Mysterious Miss Austen, an exhibition at the gallery in Winchester’s Discovery Centre which gave visitors a unique opportunity to view six portraits of the author under one roof for the first – and probably only – 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 installed outside the town’s Willis Museum, which hosted the Jane Austen-themed exhibition ‘Retail and Romance’ that broke visitor records.

The independent report, which was commissioned by Visit Hampshire and the Hampshire Cultural Trust, stated that the Austen-inspired events and activities “had a clear positive effect on visitor numbers at various visitor attractions across Hampshire...”.

Not only that, the commemorations also boosted the local tourism and hospitality sectors, with significant numbers of visitors choosing to stay in local hotels, the report also highlighted.

The report cites Chawton House as attracting 9,724 visitors over the period March 20 October 27 last year, a significant increase on the 3,973 visitors in the same period in 2016, while it noted that City Space in Winchester Discovery Centre enjoyed a 74 per cent increase in visitors during June 2017 and a 61 per cent increase during July.

Jane Austen’s House Museum attracted 25,526 visitors between June 1 and August 31, 2017, again marking a significant upturn compared with 2016’s figures. This was similarly ascribed to the events and activities related to the Jane Austen bicentenary and the accompanying global media coverage.

Overall, the report estimated that an additional 1,062,000 visitors were attracted to Hampshire, many of whom were inspired in part by Jane Austen 200. Looking at the direct economic impact of the celebrations, the report stated: “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 £13.7m”

It 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 £7.1m to Hampshire firms’ coffers.

In short, the report declares: “We therefore estimate that the total economic impact of the Jane Austen 200 celebrations was £20.8m”

Janet Owen, chief executive of Hampshire Cultural Trust, said: “The Tourism South East report is testimony to Jane’s incredible legacy and how our county’s partners, museums and attractions embraced Jane Austen 200 to create a wealth of events and exhibitions that attracted huge numbers of visitors.”

She added: “Rather than rest on our laurels, we have introduced a new celebratory theme for 2018 – ‘Creative Genius’ - highlighting creativity and ingenuity that has come out of Hampshire, with a particular emphasis on technology, engineering and design. August marks the 80th anniversary of the Spitfire being introduced as a fighter plane and it was developed right here in Hampshire.”

Throughout this year, some of Hampshire’s greatest inventions or technological innovations - and the people who made them - will be showcased by Creative Genius, from the Deane brothers and the diving helmet to Blanche Thornycroft’s contributions to naval history and the remarkable Tilly Shilling and her ‘orifice’.

this summer, the Trust will be staging Mission Mega Machine at its flagship venue Milestones Museum in Basingstoke, which will take visitors on a time-travelling journey through the world of machines, from steam engines to flight and robotics.