ALVA Press releases


27 March 2017: Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Cornwall had record tourism years in 2016

Blooms & Blockbusters strengthen London’s visitor numbers in 2016

The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) announced its members' visitor figures for 2016 today (Monday, March 27, 2017), which saw an average increase of 7.2% on 2015 visitor numbers to UK attractions. Scottish attractions had the greatest increase of 15.6% growth. Overall 130,248,728 visits were made to the top 241 ALVA sites in the UK.

66,938,947 people – more than the total population of the UK - visited attractions in London and therefore it is no surprise that the Top 10 most visited attractions were all London based. The British Museum continued to be the most popular visitor attraction overall for the 10th year running with 6,420,395 visitors and remaining in 2nd place was the National Gallery with 6,262,839 visitors – seeing a 6% increase. 3rd place was achieved by the Tate Modern, which saw 5,839,197 visitors; the Natural History Museum moved to 4th place, and Southbank Centre was 5th – mainly caused by the current closure for refurbishment of Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery, which re-open in 2018. The Royal Academy credited their 17% increase to several exhibitions including Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse in the spring and their annual Summer Exhibition which attracted over 229,200 visits. This was the second highest total since 1955 and only the 7th time since World War 1, that they have surpassed 200,000 visitors. ‘Abstract Expressionism’ at the end of the year attracted over 20,000 visitors in just 4 days during the Festive Break. The V&A was in 8th place receiving 3,022,086 visitors.

The most visited attraction outside London was Chester Zoo, which saw a 12% increase and remained in 12th place (1,898,059), while in 15th place was the most visited attraction in Scotland - the National Museum of Scotland – which opened 10 new galleries in 2016 (1,810,948), and this was closely followed by Edinburgh Castle in 16th position (1,778,548) as the most visited paid for attraction in Scotland.

Cornwall saw a record number of visitors in 2016, with notable increases at Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, which had a 19% increase as a result of new interpretation and a groundbreaking archaeological research project (125th place & 229,809). The new Mary Rose Museum at the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth opened on July 20th and saw a 39% increase compared to the same period in 2015 and Merseyside Maritime Museum saw a 27% increase.

Northern Ireland saw a 7.4% increase, with Titanic Belfast securing 49th position with a 9.4% increase (679,690).

Three of the largest increases in visitor numbers were at gardens & outdoor attractions; Hampton Court Palace (part of Historic Royal Palaces), which saw an increase of 34% and 21 places up on last year’s figures (903,270 & 39th place) – largely due to the opening of the Magic Garden that attracted many families and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew had an increase of 18.6% (13th place at 1,828,956) following the installation of The Hive from the UK Pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015 and the opening of their Great Broad Walk Borders. Westonbirt, The National Arboretum in Gloucestershire saw a 15.5% increase following it’s hosting of The Gruffalo and the installation of a new treetop walkway, which attracted families.

The National Trust saw very good growth at many of its properties due to creative events and programming; while The Churches Conservation Trust saw 422,714 visitors to their top 10 properties combined, an increase reflecting the first Church Tourism week and huge popularity of ‘Champing’ (Church camping). English Heritage had an average increase among top sites of 6%. Battle Abbey’s increase of 29% was directly linked to the substantial activity marking the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, and included the sell-out re-enactment of the battle in October.

Bernard Donoghue, Director of ALVA, commented: “Many of our members in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Cornwall had record years in 2016, although the first 9 months of 2016 were unquestionably hard for our members, particularly in London, for many reasons. However by the end of the year nearly all attractions were reporting growth from visitors from overseas and the rest of the UK.”
“Like the 2015 figures, Scotland has continued to outperform the rest of the UK with a substantial increase in their visitor numbers. 2016 was a great year for Scottish Tourism – proving that Scotland is reaping the benefits of significant capital investment in attractions and creative programming by its institutions.”
He continued; “We are pleased to announce our figures on the first day of English Tourism Week and 2017 should be another memorable year for ALVA members, Tate Britain is currently hosting an exhibition devoted to David Hockney; while Howard Hodgkin Absent Friends has just opened at the National Portrait Gallery (through to June 18); The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Michelangelo & Sebastiano opened at the National Gallery earlier this month and will run until June 25; The Pink Floyd Exhibition will open at The V&A on May 13 (through to October 1) and Jasper Johns at the Royal Academy from September and Modigliani at the Tate Modern from November. From May 25, the British Museum will host Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave, and the British Library in October, will present an exhibition dedicated to the magic of Harry Potter, marking twenty years since the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Elsewhere, Degas to Picasso: Creating Modernism in France is currently showing at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford until May; the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool will host Alphonse Mucha: In Quest of Beauty from June, while Frank Quitely: the Art of Comics will open on April 1st at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, and Beyond Caravaggio will run at the Scottish National Gallery between June 17 - September 24.”

Scottish Government Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP said: “As these figures illustrate, this has been a record year for Scotland’s leading visitor attractions. Our wide range of attractions and excellent heritage and museum collections continue to provide high-quality and exciting experiences, both to people who live here, and to our visitors.

“The success of our leading visitor attractions will continue to play a vital role in making Scotland a destination of first choice for visitors from the UK and across the world.”

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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