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Over 32 million visits were made to visitor attractions across Scotland in 2013

Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions publishes 2013 Visitor Trends Report.

The Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) has announced the findings of its 2013 Visitor Trends Report. Analysis of statistics submitted by almost 250 of the organisation’s member sites confirms that over 32 million visits were made to visitor attractions across Scotland in 2013, a rise of over 225,000 (or 0.6%) on 2012 figures.  

Sectors which fared particularly well include heritage properties, sports and outdoor activity venues and distilleries.

Whisky tourism continued to draw visitors to Scotland, with the majority of whisky-based attractions reporting a rise in their numbers. The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh experienced its highest ever visitor numbers, 11.5% up on the previous year.

For the third year, the National Museum of Scotland was the most visited attraction with 1,768,090 visits recorded.  Edinburgh Castle was the highest paid entry attraction with 1,420,027 visits.

Edinburgh continued to dominate the marketplace, with 11 of the top 20 attractions located in the city, however sites in the North and South of Scotland recorded the biggest increases in numbers, with visits up by over 7% in both regions.

Special exhibitions and events have successfully driven business at a number of attractions.

The National Museum of Scotland has invested in a comprehensive exhibitions and events programme to keep visitors coming back, with exhibitions such as ‘Vikings!’ and ‘Mary, Queen of Scots’ helping to generate over five million visitors to the site since it re-opened in 2011.

The Jack Vettriano retrospective at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum was the attraction’s most successful ever special exhibition, attracting more than 123,000 visitors in its 23 week run.

The ‘Brick City’ exhibition at Paisley Museum, a display of the world’s most iconic buildings and landmarks by LEGO artist Warren Elsmore, was so successful that it was extended by 2 weeks to meet demand, helping to boost visitor figures by almost 70% for the year.

Two Jousting Weekends at Linlithgow Palace, which were backed by an award-winning marketing campaign, boosted numbers by almost 20%, while at Iona Abbey, which celebrated the 1450 year anniversary of St Columba establishing the ancient holy site, visitor figures increased by 6%.
Edinburgh Zoo bucked the trend of other giant panda zoos the year after their pandas arrive, recording only a small 6% decrease in 2013 with visitor numbers still remaining 40% higher than ‘pre-panda’ figures.

Inveraray Castle and Jail collectively saw a rise of 13%, attributed in part to the ‘Downton Abbey’ effect, with the Castle featuring as ‘Duneagle’ in the popular drama series.

Last year’s good weather also appears to have benefited seaside destinations such as St Andrews, where the town’s four major attractions recorded a rise of 9%.

The Highlands also fared well, with visitor numbers to Glencoe, location of some of the most dramatic scenes in the Bond movie ‘Skyfall’, up by over 37%.

The early season low temperatures, combined with snow at altitude, benefited the ski areas at CairnGorm Mountain and Nevis Range too, which saw figures rise by 9.5% and 8% respectively.

David O’Neill, Chair of ASVA said: “As ever in Scotland, the unpredictable nature of our weather was a factor in 2013.  The first part of the year saw largely cold and wet weather.  The coldest March in 50 years, combined with an early Easter, saw overall visitor numbers to the end of May drop by almost -4%. However during the peak summer trading months we enjoyed largely good weather and this contributed to an increase in visitor numbers.  This was more marked at outdoor sites, and indeed some indoor sites such as museums and science centres saw a fall in numbers as people enjoyed the sun.

“Success appears to continue to breed success in Edinburgh, where the city’s visitor attractions have increased their market share in recent years. Whilst some of this can undoubtedly be attributed directly to substantial increases at many of the sites including the National Museum of Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland and St Giles Cathedral, another key factor is the opening of a number of new attractions over recent years, such as the Scottish Parliament, which have provided even more reasons to visit the city.  

“Looking forward, we are confident that 2014 will be a bumper year for the visitor attractions sector in Scotland as we reap the benefits from Homecoming 2014 and major events including The Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, as well as the opening of exciting new attractions such as the Bannockburn Visitor Centre”.