When it comes to enjoying strong returns on their money, investors have long realised the potential of holiday homes close to areas of outstanding natural beauty.

Indeed, despite the tough economic climate, investors with properties in or around locations such as the Lake District, Cornwall and the South Downs continue to enjoy a steady stream of business from both domestic and foreign tourists.

Now, new figures suggest that investors with holiday homes close to historic churches could also be enjoying an upturn in fortunes as places of worship rank highly on the ‘to-do lists’ of many overseas visitors.

According to the latest statistics from VisitBritain, around one in five of all tourists to the UK are now visiting at least one church or other religious building, with many of these actually planning their trip – accommodation included – around such an activity.

Brazilian tourists are most likely to pay a visit to a site of religious significance, with around half doing so, while Australia, America and China could also be good markets for owners of second homes situated in close proximity to an historic church as their tourists flock to them in their thousands.

Commenting, Sandie Dawe, chief executive of VisitBritain said: “Whether it’s for the glorious architecture, stained glass windows, connections with famous people or just some peace and quiet, religious buildings have become a fundamental part of our tourism offering.”

Far and away the biggest draws for both UK and international tourists are the country’s largest cathedrals, among them Westminster Abbey, St Pauls, York Minister and Durham Cathedral, though small village parish churches have also seen an upturn in visitor numbers over the past couple of years, these latest statistics show.

At the same time, one other set of figures also suggest the investors with holiday homes in the county of Essex are enjoying fine fortunes at the moment.

According to official tourism agency Visit Essex, the county attracted some 41 million people over the course of 2011, with music festivals, sporting events and shopping centres all proving popular.

Notably, while around half of all visitors to Essex come from within a two-hour radius, the rest live further afield, with many opting to stay overnight, spelling good news for holiday homeowners.