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  • Writer's pictureAdam Milford

Gardens and outdoor attractions were among the most visited in 2020, according to the latest figures

The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) has released its visitor figures for 2020 showing that two gardens, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and RHS Garden Wisley, have entered the top 10 for the first time.

The increase in visitors to these particular attractions could be down to the fact that many outdoor attractions were able to reopen following the first lockdown much earlier than indoor sites.

What were the other most visited attractions?

The most visited attraction in the UK last year was Tate Modern with 1,431,704 visits, followed by the Natural History Museum in second place with 1,296,763 visits and British Museum with 1,275,466 visits.

Chester Zoo was the most visited attraction outside London, moving eight places into sixth place with 1,185,652 visits. Unlike previous years, not all of the top ten were based in London.

However, the total number of visits to ALVA sites in 2020 was 45.4 million, representing an annual decline of 70% on the 151.3 million for 2019 due to the pandemic.

Bernard Donoghue, director of ALVA, 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 fifth biggest industry and, as these figures show, was hit first, hit hardest and will take the longest to recover.”

“Our museums and galleries, historic houses and gardens, cathedrals and palaces, castles and zoos, safari parks and heritage sites, theme parks and churches need your support more than ever before.” Bernard Donoghue, director, ALVA.

“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.

“When the attractions were open, they were open with much reduced capacity and the public’s feedback was that they were not only -safe but the visitor experience was superb. This will continue when they reopen in April, May and June – so we urge you to visit them – whether they are in the city or in the country, you are likely to never see them so quiet again and be able to get so close to wonderful art, animals and performances.”

What else do the figures show?

Significant increases were seen by some of the top 20 attractions and for the first time, the most visited attraction in Scotland was Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh which moved up 20 places to 17th with 452,479 visits.

Other notable increases in the top 20 reflected the role some attractions have played in providing people with access to safe and well-managed outdoor spaces during the pandemic. Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill, London, leapt 29 places to 12th with 606,329 visits; ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire rose 45 places to 13th with 550,046 visits; Longleat in Wiltshire moved 20 places to 14th with 495,037 visits, while Westonbritt, The National Arboretum (Forestry England) in Gloucestershire moved 51 places to 15th with 484,533 and Attingham Park (National Trust) in Shrewsbury came in 16th place with 483,946 visits.

The benefits of outdoor attractions.

Outdoor attractions are a great way to engage with nature, wildlife, and are great for our mental health.

In terms of the school curriculum and education, which is so important to us here at Creative DMC, these attractions link with science, history and geography. They help us learn about evolution, nature, biology, ecology, landscaping, farming, the environment, global warming, pollution, conservation, forestry and more.

What are the predictions for group visits?

Putting aside the fact that COVID will be with us for years to come, outdoor attractions are likely to be among the most popular tourist attractions, closely followed by those who are able to demonstrate they have taken significant steps to manage crowds and improve air quality and ventilation.

Even if the UK government's roadmap goes according to plan and all restrictions are removed on 21st June 2021, indoor venues such as theatres, museums and galleries are unlikely to see pre-pandemic visitor numbers until 2022 at the earliest.

What should you consider when planning your next trip?

We've all missed going places and doing stuff. Schools in particular know the value to student's ongoing development to experience new things.

School trips to zoos, gardens, woodlands, castles and other outdoor attractions provide students with a unique opportunity, one many rarely get with their families. Creative DMC can co-ordinate this for you to provide a wrap-around service including coach hire, attraction tickets, tour guides and educational activities to maximise the experience.

Leisure and family groups can benefit from bespoke itineraries, pre-booked reservations and door-to-door services to maximise your time and budgets.

Contact Creative DMC today to discuss your group's next outing.

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