Visitor attractions record impressive attendance growth in 2013

ALVA, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, have released figures for attendances in 2013 at their 197 member attractions. 67 (34%) of those sites saw attendances up by over 10% in 2013 - whilst only 18 (9%) saw a decrease of 10% or more. The figures, which can be seen on the ALVA website show some very impressive growth over 2012, suggesting that 2013 was a very good year overall.

The British Museum, which invariably heads the list as the most visited UK attraction, recorded 6,701,036 visits, up a staggering 20% on 2012. Some obvious star performers were those that had refurbished or undergone major redevelopment - for example the Mary Rose Museum, within the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which re-opened in May 2013, saw attendances shoot up by 55%, whilst the much discussed new Stonehenge visitor centre encourged attendances to increase by 18.9% to 1,241,296, and Hatfield House achieved a 35% increase following a major 3-year refurbishment programme.

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and ZSL London Zoo recorded attendance growth of 29.4% and 26.4% respectively. Conversely Tate Modern and Tate Britain saw attendances decline by 8% and 10% respectively.

Neither growth nor decline were confined to London. Edinburgh Castle and Tintagel Castle recorded growth of 15.0% and 10.3% respectively and Anglesey Abbey saw growth of 12.6%. The Eden Project, however, saw their attendances drop 9.9% to 858,897 and the Riverside Museum in Glasgow saw attendances fall by 26.6%.

ALVA were clearly pleased by the overall outcome in 2013 and, like me, are optimistic about further good things in 2014. That optimism is encouraged in no small part by the celebrations surrounding the 450th anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare and the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, which many attractions will use as hooks for special exhibitions and events. But as the ALVA figures highlight, attractions cannot take growth for granted and have to invest in refurbishment and enhancement as well as adopting creative and sustained marketing programmes to sustain attendances, let alone achieve attendance growth.

How did your attraction(s) perform in 2013, and how do you gauge the prospects for 2014?

  • Interesting to note how varied the year on year movements are.  Clearly it is only one part of the equation but your comment towards the end:

    "attractions cannot take growth for granted and have to invest in refurbishment and enhancement as well as adopting creative and sustained marketing programmes"

    seems to me to be very pertinent in this context!
  • Like Hugh I am amazed and scared by the volatility of this sector. 
  • Ian, I can understand your amazement but would caution you not to be scared by the volatility described. If you look at each attraction in isolation it is possible to explain the rise, or fall, in attendances and to identify the root causes. Well run, appropriately marketed attractions with compelling content will prosper. Trust me, I'm a consultant!