The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) announced its members' visitor figures for 2014 today (Monday, March 16, 2015), which saw an average increase of 6.5% on 2013 visitor numbers. Scottish attractions had the greatest increase of almost 10% increase, followed by London with an increase of 7.11%.
The Commonwealth Games and its Cultural Programme saw Glasgow's Attractions achieve some of the largest increases with Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum having a 7.5% increase, while the Riverside Museum saw a 41.8% increase, Gallery of Modern Art (8.8%) and the People's Palace 22.5%. The Commonwealth Games didn't just fly the flag for Glasgow but drew visitors to Scotland's attractions; the National Museum of Scotland was not only the most visited free attraction in Scotland with 1,639,509 visitors but was the most visited museum outside of London. Edinburgh Castle was the most visited paid-for attraction outside London with 1,480,676 visitors resulting in a 4% increase. 2014 was an exceptional year for the National Galleries of Scotland - seeing a 39% increase (1,295,015) at the Scottish National Gallery, this was due in part to a strong programme of exhibitions led by GENERATION: 25 Years of Contemporary Art in Scotland which was extremely popular with both international and local visitors.
Libraries attracted substantial numbers with the Library of Birmingham - which opened in 2013 - being the most visited free attraction outside London, in 10th place with 2,414,860 - proving to be an attraction in its own right - and the British Library saw visits to its public exhibitions and programme rise by 52%.
Val Birchall, Assistant Director, Culture & Visitor Economy, Birmingham City Council said: "Our visitor figures demonstrate how much the public values and enjoys the Library of Birmingham, both as a resource for learning, literacy and skills development and as a destination for leisure and culture. Like so many other libraries and publically funded cultural organisations across the whole country, we are facing challenging times ahead, however the Library's popularity gives us a good base of support for the future."
The British Museum remained the most popular visitor attraction overall for the 8th year running with 6,695,213 visitors and remaining in 2nd place was the National Gallery, which saw a 6.4% increase to 6,416,724. Included in the numbers for the first time was the Southbank Centre - who saw 6,255,799 visitors - securing them the position of 3rd place*.
Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, said: "It's very exciting to have been welcomed as an ALVA member and we're thrilled to feature so highly in their annual list of top visitor attractions. Drawing on our rich heritage as London's festival site, we have been ambitiously growing our year-round festival programme over the last few years, reinforcing Southbank Centre's position as a thriving, vibrant destination that delights in placing excellence and egalitarianism side by side. Through our festivals, we bring together a diverse mix of artists, partners, communities and audiences in our venues and across our 21-acre site at the heart of London's South Bank."
Museums & Galleries throughout the UK saw a 6.09% increase. Blockbuster exhibitions continued to boost visitor numbers - with Tate Modern welcoming a record 5,785,427 visitors (4th place) - which was undoubtedly helped by the Matisse exhibition, while the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford saw a 16% increase aided by the successful exhibitions of Francis Bacon / Henry Moore, followed by Cezanne. Other museums in Oxford saw increases too - this included the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, which had been closed in 2013 but saw 640,596 visitors in 2014 and Pitt Rivers Museum which had a 25% increase.
The 100th Anniversary of World War 1 also had an impact throughout the UK - with many country houses' telling the story of their part in the Great War. The National Trust's Dunham Massey in Cheshire recreated its WW1 role in 2014 as a military hospital and saw a rise of 50.9%. The new First World War Galleries at Imperial War Museum London saw almost 1 million visitors in just 6 months (153% increase on the same period in 2013), while the evolving installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London attracted an estimated 5 million visitors to view the attraction from outside the Tower walls and assisted in a 6% increase in their annual visitor figures.
Investment and refurbishment continued to reap rewards - with Stonehenge and its new Visitor Centre, which opened in December 2013, seeing an 8.4% increase to 1,346,177. Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, which opened a new Visitor Centre in 2012 was the 2nd most popular attraction in Northern Ireland (542,514 visitors, increase of 7.9%) after Titanic Belfast with 644, 792 visitors. The Churches Conservation Trust saw a 6.63% increase in visitors to Shrewsbury St Mary since introducing new facilities in July 2014 such as creative and engaging interpretation, children's activities, graphic information ‘paddles', a refurbished café and a retail space.
Bernard Donoghue, Director of ALVA, commented: "ALVA is celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2015 and I am delighted that our members figures are going from strength to strength - reflecting the significant role they play in the economy.
"As we approach the General Election we want to remind all political parties that no party mentioned Tourism in their last General Election manifesto, however these figures clearly demonstrate the popularity of our best loved attractions and the importance of Tourism to the UK - it's the 5th biggest industry and the 3rd largest employer, generating £127 billion per year. I look forward to seeing all political parties spell out their strong support and ambitions for Tourism, Heritage, and Arts & Culture in their forthcoming manifestos."
He continued; "Looking forward to our 2015 figures, we are confident that they will rise again with the anticipated increase in overseas visitors this year, but we can also tell from membership and Friends schemes that the Brits are voting for tourism with their feet and wallets. Our members continue to develop and push the boundaries with more ground-breaking and innovative exhibitions, which will attract record numbers such as Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the V&A from March 14, to Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon at the National Portrait Gallery, which opens on July 2. Outside London, Chester Zoo will be opening ‘Islands' in June which will be the biggest new Zoo development in Europe by recreating the amazing tropical environments of six South East Asian islands.
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