VisitEngland reveals impact of COVID on tourism through new survey

 Monday, August 23, 2021 



VisitEngland recently showed the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on visitor attractions through its Annual Visitor Attractions Survey. The study revealed a 65 per cent drop in visitors as compared to 2019 and a 55 per cent decline in revenue.

The declines were driven by site closures associated with lockdowns and opening restrictions and the significant contraction of inbound and domestic tourism in 2020. The majority of fall in visitor numbers was seen in England’s attractions like museums, galleries, historic properties and places of worship, many of which rely on overseas visitors.

Outdoor attractions such as country parks, wildlife attractions or zoos and gardens showed the smallest decreases. Overall rural attractions fared best last year with admissions dropping by 47 per cent compared to a 74 per cent decline for urban.

Indoor attractions saw a larger decline in admissions in 2020 than outdoor with decreases of 76 per cent and 43 per cent respectively, partly due to lockdown restrictions delaying their reopening but also people being more reluctant to visit indoor attractions.

According to the VisitEngland survey, the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens was the most visited paid-for attraction in England last year with 1.2 million visitors. This is the first time a garden has taken the top spot, although numbers were still down almost half in 2019, followed by Chester Zoo and RHS Garden Wisley. The Tower of London, which had ranked first since 2009, saw an 85 per cent decrease from 3 million visitors in 2019 to 448,000 in 2020, dropping to tenth place.

Topping the list of free attractions in England was the Tate Modern with 1.4 million visitors, a 77 per cent drop in 2019, followed by the Natural History Museum with 1.3 million, a 76 per cent drop, and the British Museum 1.28 million, an 80 per cent drop. Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston said in a statement that he is aware of the challenging year for brilliant tourism, leisure and hospitality sectors.

He said that tourism is one England’s greatest assets that drive its economy and delivers jobs across communities. The survey, which gathered information from 1,301 English attractions, also showed the impact of the absence of international visitors in 2020 with a drop of 93 per cent in overseas visitor numbers.

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