Image by David Mark from Pixabay

LOCKDOWN led to a big shake up in the rankings of tourist attractions last year with many outdoor spaces enjoying greater visitor numbers.

According to industry body Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, two gardens appeared in the top 10 for the first time in its 30 year history. The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, London, moved up seven places to 4th, with 1,226,289 visits and RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey, jumped 21 places into 7th position with 993,516 visits.

Another first was Chester Zoo, Cheshire, taking 6th place, breaking up the top 10 which is usually dominated by London attractions. Other green spaces and outdoor locations that rose up the table include Horniman Museum and Gardens, London, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Bedfordshire, Longleat, Wiltshire, Westonbirt, Gloucestershire, The National Arboretum, Staffordshire, and Attingham Park, Shropshire.

The UK’s top 10 attractions 2020 

1. Tate Modern
2. Natural History Museum
3. British Museum
4. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
5. National Gallery
6. Chester Zoo
7. RHS Garden Wisley
8. V&A South Kensington
9. Science Museum
10. Somerset house 

*List complied by ALVA 

The UK’s top 10 attractions 2019

1. British Museum
2. Tate Modern
3. National Gallery
4. Natural History Museum
5. Southbank Centre
6. V&A South Kensington
7. Science Museum
8. Tower of London
9. Royal Museums
10. Somerset House

The Tate Modern was the most visited attraction, followed by the Natural History Museum and the British Museum. In Scotland, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh was most popular attraction while in Northern Ireland, Titanic Belfast was number one.

The effect of the lockdowns took its toll on indoor venues with the Royal Museums Greenwich seeing a 96% decline, with 111,263 visits, falling from 9th to 130th place on the table. The Tower of London also slipped from 8th spot to 19th. Edinburgh Castle, which is normally the most-visited paid for attraction in Scotland saw an 87% drop to 276,950 visits and went down 31 places to 44th.

Overall the total number of visits in the UK fell to 45.4million, a decline of 70% on the 151.3million for 2019.

As many outdoor spaces begin easing out of lockdown, Bernard Donoghue, director of ALVA, called on the government to introduce a new Bank Holiday at the end of September to help the tourism industry and also questioned the decision to open non-essential retails but not indoor attractions.  

He said: “Our annual figures for 2020 reflect what a devastatingly hard year the attractions sector and the wider visitor economy faced. Tourism is the UK’s 5th biggest industry and, as these figures show, was hit first, hit hardest and will take the longest to recover.

“As we approach Easter, one of the economically important times for our members, we continue to question the government’s decision to open non-essential retail but not indoor attractions, who will also miss the May Bank Holiday as well. In the past 14 months, most of our members have been closed for every Bank Holiday, and therefore we continue to ask the government to introduce a new Bank Holiday for 2021 at the end of September to thank the NHS and key workers and help the tourism industry repair our balance sheets.”

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