ALVA Press releases

Britain’s visitor attractions report a booming summer

20 October 2009: New figures from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) show that the country’s foremost museums, galleries, heritage sites, cathedrals, gardens, zoos and leisure parks have had a booming summer. Visitor figures across ALVA members’ attractions have increased by 3.4% compared to the same period in 2008 (1 May – 31 August). Furthermore, the majority of attractions reported a rise in both retail and catering spend overall.

Some UK attractions have even reported record-breaking visitor numbers: the Royal Horticultural Society reported an increase of 15% compared to 2008, and between June and August the National Portrait Gallery in London saw an increase of 23% visitor numbers on the same time period in 2008. This year’s BP Portrait Award has been the most popular in the Gallery’s history, with a 69% year on year increase, equal to an additional 122,042 visits.

Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, said: "The Gallery is full of people enjoying the wide range of exhibitions and displays and - following the successful launch of our marketing campaign 'Take another look' - the many works from the Collection. We have seen a record-breaking summer with the highest figure ever for the BP Portrait Award. With ‘Beatles to Bowie: the 60s exposed’ and the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize about to open, I am confident that visitors will continue to come and enjoy the Gallery."

The combined effects of the credit crunch and the promise of a BBQ summer meant a record number of Britons opted for a ‘staycation’ this year rather than holidaying abroad. When asked in February 2009, 60% of ALVA attractions predicted that visitor numbers would either stay the same or rise during the summer months with many preparing for this increase by offering new family-friendly activities, good quality, added-value packages and unique experiences.

Luke Whitcomb, Member and Visitor Marketing Director at the National Trust, endorsed this saying: “We’re really pleased with this summer’s visitor numbers. At property level there’s been a real drive this year to focus on the visitor experience. We want to give people the chance to get more involved in our work and provide them with an inspiring and very enjoyable visit.” In July visitor figures at National Trust properties were up by 8.3% and in August by 12.1% (excluding the bank holiday weekend) on the previous year.

Rachael Ashton, PR & Media Manager at Chester Zoo, said: “We have already passed the one million mark in terms of visitor numbers and are on course for a bumper year. The fact that more people have chosen to vacation at home this year means they have treated themselves to days out and enjoyed some of the best activities that the UK has to offer – for us, that has been a bonus.”

Despite overseas visitor figures falling by 9% during the early months of 2009, many attractions actually reported a rise in foreign visitor figures during the summer months. Generally, the numbers of international travellers making visits for leisure are strong while corporate and business travel is adversely affected.

“It is most reassuring to see that the ‘staycation’ trend predicted by ALVA’s members has translated into profitable business as it is vital for Britain that our tourism industry thrives, allowing it to maintain employment opportunities across all skill levels and to provide economic growth,” comments Robin Broke, Director of ALVA.

For further information, please contact Truda Spruyt, Kate Wright-Morris or Sarah Watson at Colman Getty on 020 7631 2666, Truda@colmangetty.co.uk

Notes to editors

Some of ALVA’s members have not participated for legal, confidential or organisational reasons. Some of the stronger figures may be due to particularly successful temporary exhibitions, whilst weaker results may be partially explained by temporary closures for renovation or development (for example, half of the National Museum of Scotland is currently closed to the public due to a major renovation project)

For further details and interpretation of figures at individual visitor attractions, please contact ALVA members direct. Press office contacts are available from Colman Getty

The 42 members of the ALVA comprise the majority of Britain’s biggest and best known attractions, and are responsible for managing some 1,598 tourist sites. ALVA seeks to represent to Government, the tourism industry, the media and the public, the views and achievements of its members, whilst promoting co-operation and high standards of visitor management

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