London attractions hit by costs and rail disruption

Visits to members of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions rose by 7.3% in 2017, although several of London’s top sites recorded falls.

Attractions in Scotland saw an increase of 13.9%, while in Northern Ireland, there was 6.5% growth.

Overall, almost 130 million visits were made to the top 238 Alva sites in the UK.

London dominates, with all the attractions in the top 10 located in the capital.

However, numbers fell at London’s busiest tourist attractions last year because of the high cost of travel, food and drink costs.

The UK’s top 10 attractions, including the British Museum (pictured) and Tate Modern, saw almost 1.7 million fewer visitors.

Bernard Donoghue, Alva director, said: “A number of our London members have seen exceptional growth, reflecting a record year for London tourism and the popularity of their temporary exhibitions, whilst some saw a decline in visitor numbers following five years of unprecedented growth in numbers.

“Economic factors have also had an impact on UK visitors to central London, with associated evidence that the costs linked with a visit such as travel and food and drink have played an important part in deciding where to visit.

“Undoubtedly there have been some concerns about global security issues, but economic concerns are playing a more crucial part.

“Other travel issues such as the semi-closure of Waterloo station in August as well as the inconsistent train service from south and south east England also deterred people from travelling to London and encouraged people to visit attractions nearer to home.”

The V&A moved up three places to fifth thanks to a 26% increase in visitors, attributed to the launch of the new entrance and courtyard on Exhibition Road, and the success of three exhibitions – about Pink Floyd, plywood and Balenciaga.

Tate Britain saw a 61% increase in visitors – resulting in a rise to 15th place from 29th – thanks to a David Hockney exhibition, while the Museum of London Docklands saw a 21% increase, due to exhibitions about the archaeology of Crossrail, and Kensington Palace saw a 62.4% rise following Diana: Her Fashion Story.

For the first time in four years, the most visited attractions outside London were in Scotland, where two attractions celebrated welcoming more than two million visitors.

The National Museum of Scotland is the most visited attraction outside London – following the opening of 10 galleries in 2016 and moved to 11th place (2.2 million visitors, up 20%).

The combined total for all four National Museums Scotland sites was 3.1 million.

The most visited attraction in England outside London was Chester Zoo, which saw 1.9 million (13th place).

Northern Ireland’s most popular attraction was the National Trust’s Giants Causeway, in 32nd place with one million visitors, followed by Titanic Belfast, with just over 771,000.

Donoghue said that a large proportion of visitors in Northern Ireland were day-trippers from the Republic, so that “any sense of a hard border” or visas after Brexit would have a serious impact on those numbers.

Top 10 UK visitor attractions in 2017

British Museum – 5.9m (-8%)
Tate Modern – 5.7m (-3%)
National Gallery – 5.2m (-16.5%)
Natural History Museum – 4.4m (-4%)
V&A Museum – 3.7m (+26%)
Science Museum – 3.3m (+0.2%)
Southbank Centre – 3.2m (-17.3%)
Somerset House – 3.2m (-6.8%)
Tower of London – 2.8m (+3.7%)
Royal Museums Greenwich – 2.6m (+6%)

Pictured: Visitors inside the British Museum, London © VisitBritain.