ALVA Press releases

ALVA Visitor Figures Press Release (Scotland): Scotland out performs the rest of the UK for the 7th year running

27 March 2019: 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.

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 very hot weather in the summer did benefit some outdoor attractions. The most visited garden in Scotland was the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh which 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. ”

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. 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). 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.”

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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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