Visitors to some London nationals drop for third year running

Geraldine Kendall, 21.03.2018
Decline attributed to security and economic concerns
London's top four most visited museums all saw their footfall decline in 2017, according to the latest figures from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva).

Although it remains the UK’s most popular attraction, the British Museum saw visitors drop by 8% to 5.9 million last year. It is the third consecutive year that numbers have fallen at the institution.

The National Gallery experienced an even larger fall of 16.5%, moving from second to third place on the list. Tate Modern and the Natural History Museum – in second and fourth position this year – saw their numbers drop by 3% and 4% respectively.

The exception was the Victoria and Albert Museum, which saw its numbers rise by 26% following the opening of its Exhibition Road Quarter. The museum moved up three places into 5th position as a result of its successful year.

At 6th place on the list, the Science Museum’s figures remained stable, with the institution reporting a small increase of 0.17% at its Exhibition Road site. The Southbank Centre and Somerset House recorded falls of 17% and 6.8% respectively, though the former's decline was due to the partial closure of its site.

Alva’s director Bernard Donoghue said global security issues had “undoubtedly” affected footfall in London, after the city suffered three terrorist attacks in the first half of the year.
But Donoghue said economic concerns had played a “more crucial part” on visitors to central London, saying the association had heard evidence that “costs linked to a visit such as travel and food and drink have played an important part in deciding where to visit”.

Disruption to transport services had also had an impact, said Donoghue. “The semi-closure of Waterloo station in August as well as the inconsistent train service from South and South East England also deterred people from travelling to London and encouraged people to visit attractions nearer to home.”

It wasn’t all bad news in the English capital however; Tate Britain moved from 29th to 14th place after attracting 61% more visitors thanks to its David Hockney exhibition, while the Museum of London Docklands saw its numbers rise by 21%, which the museum attributed to its Tunnel: Archaeology of Crossrail exhibition.

Meanwhile the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill saw a 2.7% rise, while Hampton Court Palace saw its numbers increase by just over 10%.


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Jonathan Gammond
Access , Wrexham County Borough Museum
26.03.2018, 10:56
Museums have an optimal number of visitors and for most museums we are still striving to reach them. However, from my occasional experiences of national museums,especially those in London, there are actually too many visitors and I couldn't honestly say visiting was a pleasant experience. When you have to queue to see each object and then spend your time dodging selfie sticks, packs of bored foreign school kids, other people's elbows, wondering how long before the staff notice that x object is being used as a dustbin by other visitors, you inevitably think I will go somewhere less well known (and just as interesting) next time. Perhaps I am not alone. Add to that the cost of getting to and across London, let alone staying there, someone then telling you 'National Museums are free to enter' is obviously having a joke at our expense.
Robin Johnson
Museum Education Consultant
29.03.2018, 12:07
Completely agree Jonathan. As I wrote last year, my experience of the Pink Floyd exhibition at the V&A was exactly as you describe above......