Visiting major UK tourist attractions are struggling to recover after the pandemic

Visitor numbers at Britain’s most popular attractions, including the British Museum and Tate Modern, have failed to recover since the start of the pandemic as a cost-of-living crisis and a shortage of Chinese travelers limited demand.

Last year saw 123.4m visits to 349 of the UK’s most prominent tourist attractions, better than in 2021 but still well below the 161.2m site visits in 2019, according to industry organization Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. published on Friday. .

This was stated by ALVA Executive Director Bernard Donoghue. Londonattractions were especially slow to recover because they were “heavily dependent on foreign visitors” and “suffered from the tourist equivalent of prolonged Covid” as a result.

In 2022, there were 46.6 million visits to the largest attractions of the capital, which is 33% less than before. pandemic hit

Once ranked as the UK’s most popular tourist attraction, visits to the British Museum are down 35% and visits to the National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum are down over 40% compared to 2019.

Windsor Great Park ranks as the most popular attraction for visitors, with 5.6 million visitors in 2022, boosted by crowds gathering in September to watch the state hearse carry Queen Elizabeth II to her final resting place at Memorial Chapel King George VI.

Donoghue said that with the end of Beijing’s Zero-Covid policy last December, which marked an easing of travel restrictions on China, the outlook for foreign visitors has improved “week by week”.

“Chinese visitors are important not only in terms of the number of visitors, but also tend to spend more,” Donoghue said.

According to the tourist board VisitBritainannual spending by foreign visitors to the UK will hit nearly £29.5bn this year, surpassing the previous record of £28.4bn set in 2019, but visitor numbers won’t fully recover until 2025.

Donoghue added that cost of living crisis meant that the British were making “tactical decisions” about holiday spending, which reduced attendance in many places.

Visits to free rides recovered 14% from 2019 levels and recovered faster than paysite visits, which were down 28%.

Dan Wolfe, commercial director of Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that operates six British palaces, including the Tower of London, said the recovery in tourist numbers was driven by a “massive return of Americans”.

Wolfe said that along with sluggish demand from visitors from China and Southeast Asia, the Tower of London saw a decline in visitors from European countries.

“The question is whether Covid has to some extent covered up the effects of Brexit,” Wolfe said, pointing out how additional bureaucratic hurdles for UK school tours have affected demand.

Tim Reeve, deputy director of the V&A, said that while the museum has benefited from a record high number of domestic visitors, declining international visitors are holding back demand.

“We recognize that it may be some time before international tourism reaches pre-pandemic levels,” Reeve said.