Attractions industry news

27 Mar 2019

UK attractions’ visitor numbers rise by almost 9 per cent in 2018

Visitor numbers to UK attractions grew by 8.7 per cent in 2018, according to the latest figures from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA).

The body, which represents the UK’s most iconic attractions, surveyed its 57 members – who manage more than 2,200 sites – finding that London’s Tate Modern gallery was the most visited attraction, Scotland was the best performing region outside London and Chester Zoo was the most visited attraction outside of the capital.

The Tate Modern welcomed 5.9 million visitors in 2018, an increase of 3.7 per cent on 2017, which ALVA put down to its new extension and two exhibits in particular – The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 - Love, Fame, Tragedy and Modigliani.

67.6 million people – almost the same number as the UK population – visited some form of attraction in London alone – a 3.4 per cent increase on 2017 – and all of the top 10 most visited were in the capital.

Other big performers in the capital’s top 10 clean sweep were the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum, the Southbank Centre and the Royal Academy.

Meanwhile, the next best performers were in Scotland – the National Museum of Scotland was 11th with 2.2 million visitors, an increase of 3 per cent, while Edinburgh Castle had a 2 per cent increase with 2.1 million visitors.

Liverpool’s World Museum saw a huge increase in 2018, moving up 30 places to 23rd overall with a 111 per cent increase to 1.4 million visitors. ALVA pointed to the China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors exhibition, which accounted for more than 610,000 of those visits.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery also made huge gains with 831,548 visits, a 38 per cent improvement on 2017. The iconic replica diplodocus skeleton that used to stand in London's Natural History Museum came to the city between May to September, which ALVA pointed to as a driving factor behind the increase.

"Attractions across the UK have shown that by investing in their buildings, gardens and staff, presenting globally significant exhibitions, and working together to bring iconic artefacts to more people has been hugely successful," said Bernard Donoghue, director of ALVA.

"I’m so delighted that every year, more and more people from here in the UK and from overseas are experiencing the astonishing array of leading attractions in every part of the UK.

"Tourism is our fifth biggest industry and third largest employer and ALVA members are proud to be the principal reason that overseas visitors cite when choosing to visit the UK."

UK tourism minister Michael Ellis added: "Britain’s tourism industry is booming. I am delighted to see such strong visitor figures for destinations across the nation. We are home to some of the best art galleries, museums and heritage sites in the world and these figures prove it.

"Tourism creates jobs, boosts our economy and is a force for good. The huge increase in visitors in Birmingham is particularly pleasing following Dippy the Dinosaur's visit and I am sure the wider benefits will continue to be felt as he continues his tour throughout the UK."

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