ALVA Press releases

ALVA Visitor Figures Press Release (England): Birmingham& Belfast see the “Dippy” effect and the “Terracotta Warriors” take Liverpool by storm!

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.

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.

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.

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.”

Bernard Donoghue continued; “2019 should be another exciting year for ALVA members with lots of innovative and fascinating events and developments such as leading contemporary artist Jeff Koons is at the Ashmolean in Oxford, which is 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.”

“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.”

Tracey McGeagh, Director of Marketing and Communications, National Museums Liverpool said: “National Museums Liverpool opened several outstanding exhibitions in 2018 which made a major contribution to the exceptional visitor figures across some of our venues.

“World Museum had its busiest year ever, thanks to its blockbuster exhibition, China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors (February to October 2018). This once in a lifetime opportunity to see these amazing objects attracted more than 610,000 people (including 20,000 children on school visits).”

“Double Fantasy: John & Yoko at Museum of Liverpool and the diverse programme of contemporary art at the Walker Art Gallery, produced in partnership with the Arts Council Collection, also ensured there was major cultural draw in the city throughout the year.”

“As our 2019 programme launches with the opening of Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Making the Glasgow Style at the Walker Art Gallery, we aim to continue this momentum and be at the heart of Liverpool’s exciting offer to tourists.”

Sir Michael Dixon, Natural History Museum Director says: “Dippy’s success in Dorset, Birmingham, Belfast and Glasgow to date has been beyond [all] our expectations. He has broken records for visitor numbers in every venue so far with far-reaching benefits for the surrounding communities. The social and economic impact of his residencies has been astonishing – from attracting an additional 140,000 visitors to Birmingham’s City Centre – spending £4.2m in the city to a £2.25m[£2,250,000] boost to the local economy in Dorchester and a huge increase in Dorset County Museum’s volunteer recruitment.”

“Dippy’s mission is to spark natural history adventures, inspiring the next generation of scientists and citizens to explore, discover and protect the world around them. So we are thrilled that tens of thousands of children have been inspired to go Dippy-themed adventures as a result of the tour.”

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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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