Attractions industry news

14 Jul 2023

VisitEngland attractions numbers show positive impact of international tourism

VisitEngland has published its Annual Survey of Visits to Visitor Attractions for 2022, showing that while visitation numbers across England continued to recover through 2022, they were still down on pre-COVID levels.

Visits to the group of 1,519 attractions surveyed increased by 42 per cent last year compared to 2021 – 35 per cent down on 2019 on average.  

The VisitEngland survey is not comprehensive, due the limited nature of the sample, which is less representative of private sector attractions, however, the numbers contribute to the wider understanding of the sector.

Researchers make it clear that the sample can vary each year, so year-on-year comparisons provide indicative trends, rather than exact like-for-like comparisons.

The survey results highlight the impact of growing international travel, with overseas visits up 280 per cent when compared to 2021. Domestic visits saw an increase of 24 per cent.

London experienced the biggest regional increase, driven by the return of international visitors, with numbers up 141 per cent, while other regions in England saw average growth of between 16 and 42 per cent.

The Tower of London was the most visited paid-for attraction in the VisitEngland sample, with 2m visitors – up 284 per cent on 202, but still down almost a third on 2019. Kew Gardens was second with 1.96m visitors – on par with 2021 but down 15 per cent on 2019 – and RHS Garden Wisley was third with 1.5m, up 6 per cent on 2021 and up 21 per cent on 2019 – one of the only attractions to beat its 2019 performance.

This compares with numbers from the recent TEA/AECOM Theme and Museum Index 2022, which show Legoland Windsor at 2.4m visitors (up 60 per cent), Alton Towers at 2.3m (up 28 per cent), Thorpe Park at 1.6m (down 6 per cent) and Chessington World of Adventures at 1.5m (up 3 per cent).

Wisley's performance may be partly due to the fact that attractions with a strong outdoor element fared better during the worst of the pandemic, with some beating their 2019 numbers in 2020 as a result and with this category continuing to trade strongly since lockdowns ended.

Topping the list of free attractions in the VisitEngland survey was the Natural History Museum with 4.7m visitors, up 196 per cent on 2021 and down 14 per cent on 2019. Second was Brighton Pier with 4.6m visitors, up 9 per cent on 2021, with a gap of 5 per cent on 2019. The third was the British Museum with 4.1m visitors, up 209 per cent on 2021 and down 34 per cent on 2019.

Numbers from ALVA, published for 2022, show Windsor Great Park as the top free attraction with 5,636,844 visitors.

The visitor attraction category with the highest percentage growth in the VisitEngland survey was places of worship, with visits up 117 per cent on 2021. Museums and art galleries also saw strong recovery, with visits up 114 per cent on 2021.

The category of 'workplaces' – representing industrial/craft attractions – saw visits up 55 per cent, while historic properties and visitor/heritage centres also showed strong recovery, up 51 per cent and 49 per cent respectively.

The numbers for the report come from a self-completion survey, with no obligation to supply data and attractions having the option of taking part anonymously, meaning not all those that participate are named or included in ranked lists. The VisitEngland Annual Survey of Visits to Visitor Attractions is carried out by BVA BDRC.

Tourism is one of England’s largest and most valuable industries, employing about 2.6m people and – in 2019 – generating £76bn in domestic visitor spending.

To read the full results of the survey, click here.
In addition, VisitEngland's Domestic Consumer Sentiment research towards travel was published on 19 June and you can find out more by clicking here.

VisitBritain and The National Lottery have teamed up to launch a new promotion to encourage people to visit an attraction this summer.

The National Lottery Days Out scheme is offering consumers £25 (€30 US$32) towards trips to hundreds of attractions across the UK from 3 July to 30 September 2023.

The UK-wide promotion will allow all National Lottery players who enter their National Lottery game reference number on the VisitBritain Shop at to redeem a free £25 voucher against entry tickets to hundreds of participating tourist attractions and experiences.

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