Scottish attractions see 15% rise in visitor numbers

The National Museum of Scotland tops list of most popular venues
Jonathan Knott
Visitor numbers at Scottish attractions continued to grow faster last year than they did for UK venues as a whole, according to figures released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva).

The number of visits to Scottish attractions rose by 15.6% in 2016, compared to the increase of 7.2% for UK attractions taken together. A similar pattern was seen in 2015, when visitor numbers at Scottish attractions grew by 5.5%, compared to the UK-wide rate of 3.2%.

The most visited attraction in Scotland was the National Museum of Scotland (NMS), which opened 10 new galleries last year. NMS, which was also the 15th most visited attraction in the UK, received 1,810,948 visitors – 16% more than the previous year.
Close behind it was Edinburgh Castle, which received 1,778,548 visitors last year. The 13% increase in visitor numbers made it the second most visited attraction in Scotland and the 16th most visited in the UK.
Visits to the Scottish National Gallery rose by 12% to 1.5m, and the number of people who went to Glasgow’s Riverside Museum increased by 11% to 1.3m.

There was also a big boost in the numbers visiting the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One). The venue attracted 286,000 visitors – 29% more than the previous year.

Bernard Donoghue, the director of Alva, said: “Like the 2015 figures, Scotland has continued to outperform the rest of the UK with a substantial increase in their visitor numbers. 2016 was a great year for Scottish tourism – proving that Scotland is reaping the benefits of significant capital investment in attractions and creative programming by its institutions.”

Scotland's tourism secretary, Fiona Hyslop MSP, said: “The success of our leading visitor attractions will continue to play a vital role in making Scotland a destination of first choice for visitors from the UK and across the world.”

Visitor numbers also rose last year for attractions in Wales (11%), Northern Ireland (7.4%), and England excluding London (5.9%). Donoghue said that many Alva members in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Cornwall had record years in 2016.
“It was a good year for visitor attractions in the UK, but we had a greater regional variance than I think we’ve had for a number of years,” he said.

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