ALVA figures show Scotland growing fastest

The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) announced its latest visitor figures for 2016, which show that 66.9m people – more than the total population of the UK – visited attractions in London while Scottish attractions had the greatest increase of 15.6% and overall 130,248,728 visits were made to the top 241 ALVA sites in the UK.

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 second place was the National Gallery with 6,262,839 visitors – seeing a six per cent increase. Third place was achieved by the Tate Modern, which saw 5,839,197 visitors; the Natural History Museum moved to fourth place, and Southbank Centre was fifth – 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 per cent 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.

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 per cent and 21 places up on last year’s figures (903,270 and 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 per cent (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.

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 six per cent. Battle Abbey’s increase of 29 per cent 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 nine 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.”

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.”

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