London, UK — The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) reports an increase of 0.38% in its members’ visitor figures in 2010. Overall, visitor figures at the country’s foremost museums, galleries, heritage sites, cathedrals, gardens, zoos and leisure parks increased marginally, holding steady in a year of exceptional circumstances, and after a record-breaking 2009. In total 50% of attractions experienced an increase in figures, and 49.3% a decrease. While bad weather conditions and the impact of Eyjafjallajokull made 2010 a difficult year for organisations, TV, film and radio successes helped some have record years, as Neil MacGregor and Johnny Depp drew in visitors.
Neil MacGregor’s BBC Radio 4 series A History of the World in 100 Objects and the corresponding display of the objects across the permanent galleries helped the British Museum maintain its position at the top of the list of visitor figures for ALVA members for the fourth consecutive year. National Trust property Antony, in Cornwall, used as the location for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland blockbuster, saw visitor figures increase from 25,000 to almost 100,000, following the film’s success in 2010.
Natural History Museum experienced a boost in visitor figures of 13.2% helped by the broadcast of the popular BBC 2 behind-the-scenes series Museum of Life. The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich gained national coverage when Johnny Depp filmed there at the end of the year for the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film, and expects to gain more profile in May 2011 when the film is released.
The Prime Minister has identified tourism as one of the five industries that are key to providing growth and employment for the UK, due to the quick and large economic returns brought by comparatively small investment. However, ALVA fears that the vital investment required may not materialise and remains concerned about the optimum marketing of Britain.
Robin Broke, Director of ALVA, comments: “The tourism industry is of huge value to the UK economy, and financially it represents an excellent return on investment. It is a great creator of employment, particularly for young people.”
ALVA has surveyed its members about their expectations of the year ahead. 90% of respondents expect the Royal Wedding to bring an increased number of visitors to the UK, whilst only 30% expect it to bring more visitors to their individual site. However, some venues are seizing the occasion to maximise their visitor figures: at Leeds Castle, people will be able to watch the Royal Wedding live in the open air on big screens.
In general, members are positive about 2011, with 90% of respondents expecting their visitor numbers to increase or remain the same. Organisations continue to make big investments: in 2011 Stirling Castle will re-open its palace after a £12 million refurbishment, the National Museum of Scotland will relaunch after a £46m transformation, and Pleasure Beach, Blackpool, will unveil new attraction Nickelodeon Land; 2012 will see major openings at Kensington Palace, the Tower of London and at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
The 42 members of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) comprise the majority of Britain’s biggest and best known attractions, and are responsible for managing some 1,598 tourist sites. Between them they welcome over 100 million domestic and overseas visitors each year – some 25% of the visits made annually in the United Kingdom.