ALVA Press releases

ALVA Visitor Figures Press Release (London): Tate Modern is the most visited attraction in the UK

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% 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 charts 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.

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.

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 200thanniversary 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.”

“The Hayward Gallery at the Southbank Centre, will welcome Bridget Riley in October - the first major survey of the artist’s work to be held in the UK for 16 years. 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 the gallery. “

“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.”

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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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