27 March 2019: Prior to English Tourism Week, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) announced its members' visitor figures for 2018 today (Wednesday, March 27, 2019), which saw an average increase of 8.68% on 2017 visits to UK attractions, while attractions in Scotland saw the biggest increase of 19.07%. Overall 138, 823, 297 visits were made to the top 249 ALVA sites in the UK.

67, 640, 804 people – nearly the equivalent of the total population of the UK - visited attractions in London, seeing a 3.37% increase and therefore it is no surprise that the Top 10 most visited attractions were all London based.

The most visited attraction in the UK was Tate Modern with 5,868,562 visits. The increase of 3.7% is thought to be a combination of the draw of the new extension, which is still attracting a lot of attention, but also the two blockbuster exhibitions The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy and Modigliani. The British Museum saw a slight decrease of 1.3% to 5,828,552 visits – however an additional 9 million UK visitors saw British Museum objects outside of London in 2018 through major touring exhibitions. Although seeing a 9.7% increase, the National Gallery remained in 3rd place with 5,735,831 visits, and through an innovative family marketing campaign, the Natural History Museum saw an 18% increase in visits to 5,226,320 and remained in 4th place. Following the re-opening of Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room after over two years of renovations, Southbank Centre welcomed 4,451,934 visits and saw a 31.73% increase – moving it into 5th place. The Royal Academy, which celebrated its 250th Anniversary, opened its expanded campus and also had the most visited Summer Exhibition for over 100 years, saw a 52% increase in visits to 1,594,140 and rose 12 places to 18th.

Royal Albert Hall moved up 5 places in the chart following a record-breaking year in 2018 with 401 events in the auditorium and over 1300 elsewhere. In addition to 1,751,317 visits, the Hall reached 215,215 people through education and outreach programmes.

For the second year, the most visited attractions outside London were in Scotland. In 11th place was the National Museum of Scotland who continued to be the most visited attraction outside London with a 3% increase and 2,227,773 visits. In 12th position was Edinburgh Castle with a 2% increase (2,111,578) – continuing to be the most visited paid for attraction in Scotland. The Scottish National Gallery saw a 9% increase to 1,739,128 and 16th place.

Elsewhere in Scotland, V&A Dundee opened in September and had already received 341,265 visits by the end of 2018. 4 of the top 7 ALVA sites with the most growth in the whole of the UK were National Trust for Scotland sites. The introduction of the Weehailes children’s playpark at Newhailes, near Musselburgh, East Lothian resulted in an phenomenal increase of 1168.7% (68,360 visits) and the Wa-Hey for play facility at the Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway, Ayr saw a 62% increase to 266,369 visits. While Historic Environment Scotland’s Doune Castle in Stirlingshire, which was a location in the very popular TV series Outlander, saw a 14% increase to 142,091 and the Highland Wildlife Park in Inverness-shire saw a 51.5% increase 205,930, which was due to the huge popularity of Hamish the Polar Bear, who was born in 2017. Mackintosh 150 – a year-long programme of events and exhibitions – celebrated the 150th anniversary of the birth and incredible architectural, artistic and design legacy of one of Scotland’s great cultural icons. Scotland Street School Museum was Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s last assignment in Glasgow and is considered by many to be one of his architectural masterpieces, so it was no surprise that it saw an increase of 21% with 61,846 visits.

The most visited attraction in England outside London was Chester Zoo, which saw 1,969, 768 visits (13th place) and the most visited Heritage site outside London was Stonehenge with 1,555,868 visits (20th place).

One of the greatest increases in 2018 was World Museum in Liverpool which received 1,416,632 visits, resulting in a 111% increase and moved up 30 places to 23rd – making it the most visited museum in England, outside London. This was due to the phenomenal success of their exhibition, China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors, which welcomed more than 610,000 visits (including more than 20,000 school children on educational visits), making it one of the best attended exhibitions in the UK in 2018. Since the exhibition finished in October 2018, the museum has done some research on the economic impact of the exhibition and found that the exhibition generated in excess of £83 million for the city of Liverpool and the wider Liverpool City Region. Another reason to visit Liverpool was the hugely popular Double Fantasy: John & Yoko at Museum of Liverpool which saw 962,009 visits, a 31% increase on 2017.

The “Dippy” phenomenon meant that Birmingham Museums also had a very successful year as Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery saw 831,548 visits, an increase of 38%. The iconic replica diplodocus skeleton that used to stand in the Hintze Hall of London's Natural History Museum came to the city between May to September as part of his three-year UK tour – pulling in massive crowds of over a quarter of a million people.

The most visit attraction in Northern Ireland was Giants Causeway, which rose 14 places with 1,011,473 visits, while Titanic Belfast saw 836,997 visits and an 8% increase. The Ulster Museum saw a 10% increase and continued to see the impact of their 77 metre Game of Thrones ® Tapestry, inspired by the globally successful TV series; plus the opening of the ‘Troubles and Beyond Gallery’ and was also visited by “Dippy” between September and early January resulting in the highest number of visitors for an exhibition in a single day, 4,200.

Military centenaries were at the forefront of many people’s minds in 2018. All Imperial War Museums’ sites saw an increase in visitor numbers – with the largest increase being IWM North with a 36% rise to 334,500 visitors due to having the Poppy sculpture Wave, by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper and part of 14-18 NOW’s UK wide tour of the poppies, on display, while the newly refurbished RAF Museum in Colindale, which opened to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the RAF, saw a 45% increase to 501,331 visits and RAF Museum Cosford saw a 19% increase to 432,331. The National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth saw a 14% increase to 1,231,140 and English Heritage’s Carlisle Castle, which had the iconic Weeping Window sculpture, also by artists Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper, saw a 285% increase in their visitors.

The very hot weather in the summer did benefit some outdoor attractions, whilst for others it was just too hot to be outside. The most visited garden was Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which welcomed 1,858,513 visits and a 3.4% increase, following the opening of the Temperate House in May which led to record visitor numbers over the summer months, while in Scotland, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh saw 929,140 visits and a 2.5% increase.

Bernard Donoghue, Director of ALVA, commented: “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 – whether poppies or dinosaurs - to more people, has been hugely successful. It’s also clear that the bad weather at the beginning of 2018 – ‘the Beast from the East’ - the very hot summer and the impact of the World Cup resulted in some of our members experiencing a fall in visitor numbers, especially at outdoor attractions. 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 our leading attractions in every part of the UK. Tourism is our 5th biggest industry and 3rd largest employer and ALVA members are proud to be the principal reason that overseas visitors cite when choosing to visit the UK. ”

Tourism Minister Michael Ellis said: “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.”

Scotland’s Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “These figures are fantastic for our iconic tourist sites and show our high-quality attractions are continuing to appeal to visitors across the UK and the world.

“Our galleries, castles and museums showcase Scotland’s incredible culture, heritage and history and it’s thanks to the hard work of those in the industry that we have seen this impressive increase in visitor numbers.

“With the ongoing uncertainty of the EU Exit, the Scottish Government recognises we cannot take tourism success for granted. We will continue to work to support sustainable growth of the industry as it creates jobs, boosts the local and national economy and builds on our strong international reputation.”

Bernard Donoghue continued; “2019 should be another exciting year for ALVA members with lots of innovative and fascinating events and developments. The Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich reopened last week after a two year £8.5 million conservation project which has brought its magnificent painted interior vividly back to life.”

“Historic Royal Palaces will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria with a new exhibition at Kensington Palace, which opens on May 24, and are opening the doors of Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland daily for the first time, from April 18, after a five year transformation programme and a £20 million investment. “

“Many exhibitions this year celebrate anniversaries: to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing: an art installation, Museum of the Moon will open at the Natural History Museum in May and an exhibition devoted to The Moon opens July 19 at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and they will also be celebrating the Cutty Sark, the world’s only surviving tea-clipper, turning 150 this year. Also timed to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci – there will be exhibitions at the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford (from March 21) and for the first time a selection of notes and drawings from Leonardo’s notebooks will be on show at the British Library (from June 7). Exhibitions in London include a solo exhibition of the internationally acclaimed British sculptor Antony Gormley, the most significant in the UK for over a decade that will open at the Royal Academy on September 21 and at the British Museum, Edvard Munch: love and angst will open on April 11, while The EY Exhibition Van Gogh and Britain opens today at Tate Britain. Beasts of London at the Museum of London will explore the fascinating role animals have played in shaping the capital (opens April 5) and the V&A recently announced an extension of Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams – the most comprehensive exhibition ever staged on the UK on the House of Dior – to September 1 after tickets for the entire run sold out three weeks after opening.”

“Elsewhere in England, leading contemporary artist Jeff Koons is at the Ashmolean in Oxford, and attracting both the old and the young (until June 9); Leeds Castle in Kent will host an incredible Carnival of History on July 27/28 in partnership with Arts Council funding, to celebrate its 900th anniversary. It will also become one of the only heritage attractions in the country to open its very own adventure golf course! While also for families, The National Museum of the Royal Navy’s Horrible Histories® Pirates exhibition opens on April 6 at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. After a £4 million project, National Trust’s Sutton Hoo has transformed the way they tell the incredible story of the Anglo-Saxon ship burial and its Royal treasures, and at IWM North, Yemen: Inside a Crisis (opens May 17) will be the UK’s first exhibition to address Yemen’s on-going conflict and humanitarian crisis, while at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Home of Metal, which looks at the 50 year history and legacy of Black Sabbath will open in June. The first major UK show of Keith Haring will open at Tate Liverpool on June 14 and will show more than 85 works as well as archival materials. “Dippy” will be on display at the Great North Museum, Newcastle Upon Tyne from May 18. Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon celebrates the 250th anniversary of David Garrick’s Shakespeare Jubilee, which was held in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1769 with an exhibition Be Inspired, Shakespeare and Me, which opened on March 16 and the Mary Rose presents The Many Faces of Tudor England exhibition which explores the latest scientific and genealogical findings into the crew of the Mary Rose, which opened on March 18. Also opening in March is Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Making the Glasgow Style, a Glasgow Museums touring exhibition, which runs from March 15 at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool and presents many objects which have never before been displayed outside of Scotland. The Walker will be the only English gallery to host the exhibition.”

He continued; “In Scotland, the new permanent galleries at the National Museum of Scotland opened in February: Ancient Egypt Rediscovered, Exploring East Asia and the Art of Ceramics – this marked the completion of the 15-year, £80 million transformation of the Museum. At the National Galleries of Scotland, Bridget Riley is the first major survey of the artist’s work to be held in the UK for 16 years, and the first of its scale to be staged in Scotland (opens June 15). This exhibition is organised by the National Galleries of Scotland in partnership with the Hayward Gallery and in close collaboration with the artist and will then travel to the Hayward Gallery at the Southbank Centre (London), where it will open in October. Alongside her best-known canvases, the exhibition will also include the only three-dimensional work that the artist ever realised, Continuum (1963), as well as new wall paintings made especially for Hayward Gallery.

“The major summer exhibition of the National Museum of Scotland will be Wild and Majestic: Romantic Visions of Scotland (opens June 26) – it will explore how, in the era of the European Romantic movement of the 18th and 19th century, Scotland became the subject of international fascination. Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt will open at V&A Dundee on April 20 and “Dippy” is currently at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum until May 6 and is creating quite a stir. In his first six weeks the museum smashed the record for the highest number of visitors to date. Over 300,000 people have marvelled at this massive creature, getting Glasgow Museums off to an amazing start in 2019. Later in the year, they will be the first UK venue to exhibit the Linda McCartney Retrospective, which is curated by Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney, opening on July 5. It features images of iconic names and moments in music from the 1960s along with more intimate and emotional later work by this acclaimed and prolific photographer.”

“In Wales, the National Trust’s Powis in Powys will examine the role that it played in WW2 with Worlds Apart in War (opening March 26).”

“Several of the Zoos are opening new elements including ZSL London Zoo, which is launching Animal Adventure in July - taking young animal lovers on a journey of discovery designed to connect them to the natural world; while ZSL Whipsnade Zoo - the UK's largest Zoo - will be opening one of the world's only dedicated freshwater aquariums this Summer; at Easter, Chester Zoo will open a new, multi-million pound Madagascan forest - inhabited by rare lemurs and the mysterious fossa and also in July, Bristol Zoological Society will open a seven and a half acre, exhibit called ‘Bear Wood’, which will house European Brown bears, wolverine, lynx and wolves, at their Wild Place Project.”

For further information on ALVA and to download images,
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For further Press Information and to arrange interviews, please contact
Rachel Aked
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Tel: 07790 732448

ALVA’s Members are the UK's most popular, iconic and important museums, galleries, palaces, castles, cathedrals, zoos, historic houses, heritage sites, gardens and leisure attractions. The 70 ALVA members manage some nearly 2,200 tourist sites and welcome over 119 million domestic and overseas visitors each year; some 28% of the visits made annually in the United Kingdom.

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