20/02/2018
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Two Scottish visitor attractions pass 2 million visitors landmark

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Two of Scotland's most popular visitor attractions each welcomed more than 2 millions visitors during 2017, new figures reveal.

The news comes as The Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) announced that visits to its member sites rose 'dramatically in 2017', the fourth year running that an increase in numbers has been recorded.

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Analysis of statistics submitted by 232 of the organisation’s member sites for its annual ‘Visitor Trends Report’ confirms that over 30 million visits were made to those sites in Scotland in 2017, a rise of 9.7% over 2016 figures. The increase comes on top of a 6% rise in 2016, which itself followed a 3.4% rise in 2015, confirming once again that visitor attractions in Scotland are enjoying a period of sustained growth.

The top two sites

The two top sites – The National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle – each attracted more than 2 million visits, the first time that any visitor attraction in Scotland has surpassed the 2 million milestone. Overall, 77% of attractions reported an increase over 2016 figures, with a significant number noting that 2017 was their ‘best year to date’.

Popular sectors

Sectors which fared particularly well in 2017 include castles and heritage sites (+14.7%), museums and galleries (+7.5%), gardens (+13.6%) and distilleries/whisky-related attractions (+11.8%).

Edinburgh continued to dominate the marketplace, with 11 of the top 20 attractions located in the city. The National Museum of Scotland welcomed the most visitors over this period, while Edinburgh Castle retained its status as the most popular ‘paid’ attraction. Overall, some 59% of all visits were made to attractions that featured in the top 20 list.

Another area of Scotland which fared well in 2017 was the Highlands. Inverewe Garden in Wester Ross enjoyed a major uplift in visitor numbers (+110%), driven in part by the popularity of the North Coast 500 touring route.

The ‘Outlander’ effect continued to benefit many sites featuring in the cult TV series, as well as others with Jacobite connections, with large increases in visitor numbers recorded at attractions including Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre (+ 28%), Glasgow Cathedral (+31%), Castle Fraser (+49%) and Glenfinnan Monument (+58%) .

Attractions in the vicinity of Loch Ness, including the medieval fortress of Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness by Jacobite, which offers scenic cruises on the loch, continued to demonstrate above average growth with increases in visitor numbers of 23% and 29% respectively. Both attractions are benefiting from a programme of visits of around 30,000 per year, from a tour operator specialising in the Chinese market.

Scotland's most popular visitor attraction

Commenting on the news that the National Museum of Scotland was Scotland's most popular attraction of 2017, Dr Gordon Rintoul, Director of National Museums Scotland said: “It is terrific news that the latest ASVA visitor figures have confirmed that the National Museum of Scotland is again the most popular visitor attraction in Scotland. In 2017 we welcomed almost 2.2 million visitors – the first time we have attracted over 2 million in a calendar year. We also recorded the highest ever visitor numbers across all our sites with over 3.1 million visits.

“2017 was a very busy year for the Museum. We staged our acclaimed exhibitions Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, and The Tomb: Ancient Egyptian Burial, which was the most popular special exhibition we have mounted. A varied programme of summer activities included the sell-out Fringe showcase events, Friday Fringe Takeover and the return of Gilded Balloon at the Museum. We are now looking ahead to the spring 2019 opening of two new galleries dedicated to ancient Egypt and East Asia, the final phase in our masterplan to transform the Museum and showcase the breadth of our world-class collections.”

(image copyright Geni)

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