ALVA's history 1990 - 2023; 33 years of advocacy and support

The Association was established in 1990 to fill a perceived gap in the framework of national tourism representative bodies. Organisations representing hotels, restaurants, pleasure parks, zoos and similar enterprises were already geared to the needs of their particular sectors of the industry.

Until ALVA's formation, there was no forum for addressing specific problems - including the management of large numbers of visitors - which confronted the country's major sightseeing attractions.

Through membership of ALVA, visitor attractions and organisations who would not otherwise have met, or who might have regarded one another as competitors, have been able to benefit from shared information leading to solutions to a wide variety of common issues.

ALVA members seek to provide people with the highest quality of visitor experience, presentation, interpretation, education, service and enjoyment. They are at the leading edge of Britain's tourism industry, making substantial contributions to the UK's economy and employment and together, commanding influence and respect in both government and non-government circles.

The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) held its inaugural meeting on 10 July 1989 and was incorporated as a Company Limited By Guarantee with 8 full members on 2 April 1990.

By 1994 ALVA had 22 members representing over 60 million visits a year operating from offices at Westminster Palace Gardens, London SW1.

During 1996 ALVA launched its pioneering Benchmarking Surveys for financial data and quality assurance.

In 1999 His Royal Highness The Duke of York became President of ALVA and ALVA formally celebrated its 10th Anniversary with a reception attended by its members who by now spoke for some 90 million visits per annum.

In 2000 ALVA launched its Mystery Guest Scheme involving 190 reciprocal inspection visits between participating members and in January 2001 it launched a monthly Market Conditions Survey.

In 2001 ALVA played the lead role in facilitating the formation of the Tourism Alliance and is represented on its Board.

In 2003 ALVA set in motion the planning for the First National Conference of Visitor Attractions which was held in October 2004.

In September 2011 Director Robin Broke retired and was succeeded by Bernard Donoghue. There were 42 members.

In March of 2012 the groups of ALVA HR Directors, Finance Directors, London members and Scottish members were established. They meet every six months.

In March of 2013 two new groups for Education Managers and Fundraising Directors were established. They meet every six months.

By September of 2013 there were 53 members.

In October 2013 ALVA moved to new offices in Somerset House, Strand, London. 

In February 2014 we amended our membership criteria to specifically welcome nationally significant performance venues which are attractions in their own right and which welcome visitors outside of performances and provide visitor experience and learning opportunities. The first venues to join were the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, the SouthBank Centre and Shakespeare's Globe in London.

At the start of  2015 - our 25th anniversary - we had 57 members.

In April of 2015 ALVA celebrated our 25th anniversary with a party on the orginal set of  ITV's 'Coronation Street', in Manchester. Continuum Attractions and ITV hosted the party on the site of the hugley popular visitor attraction 'Coronation Street  - The Tour'.  

In July of 2015 ALVA's Director, Bernard Donoghue, was elected Chairman of the Tourism Alliance, which ALVA had helped to found in 2002. The Tourism Alliance represents over 250,000 tourism businesses and all the sectoral trade associations working in tourism in England, to Government, business and the media. Bernard stepped down after two terms of chairmanship in 2017.

By the end of our 25th year ALVA had 60 members.

In 2016 Bernard was appointed to the Government's UK Tourism Industry Council.

Between 2015 and today ALVA has created a number of fora for our members to meet, share information and insights, learn from each other and guest speakers.  Each meets every six months and they include Directors or Heads of :




Public Engagement




Events and Commercial


Fundraising and Development

Membership and Friends' Schemes

Digital Marketing

and regional groupings in London and Scotland.

By 2020 there were 71 members of ALVA.


At the beginning of 2020, during the COVID19 pandemic, ALVA continued to raise our members' issues and concerns through the UK Government's Tourism Industry Council, VisitBritain's TIER group and the UK Government's Leisure and Wellness industry Forum.  

From mid-March 2020 ALVA  issued daily bulletins to members and partners, and has also initiated a series of weekly webinars on the topics of recovery and reopening.  We commissioned extensive and regular visitor sentiment research from Decision House on the appetite of the public to visit attractions and to better understand their confidence to travel and visit. This research, paid for by ALVA, was published to all of the sector, beyond the ALVA memership, and made available free of charge.

 In 2020 Bernard was named by Blooloop as one of the world’s 50 most influential people in museums, and in July 2021 won the public vote for the COVID Special Recognition Award from the UK Museums and Heritage Awards for his service to, and leadership of the museums and heritage sector in the UK during the pandemic.

Bernard was awarded an OBE in HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Birthday Honours in 2022 for ‘services to tourism and to culture’.

Lord Lee of Trafford, ALVA's founder Chairman, stepped down as Chairman in 2020 and became President of ALVA. He was succeeded as Chairman by Baroness Patience Wheatcroft.

As of Summer 2023 ALVA has 75 members.


Working with others:

ALVA has continued to play a full role in the following organisations and committees:

The Tourism Industry Emergency Response group (TIER)

The Tourism Alliance (which ALVA helped to establish) 

The Scottish Tourism Alliance

The Visitor Attractions Conference (VAC)

The Tourism Society

Historic Houses' Tourism and Commercial Development Committee

Tourism for All

VisitEngland's Strategic Industry Advisory Group 

VisitBritain's British Tourism Industry Group

VisitBritain's Tourism Industry Emergency Response Group (TIER)



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