Bernard Donoghue, the director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, said the industry was ‘hit first, hit hardest and will take the longest to recover.’
He said: ‘In the past 14 months, most of our members have been closed for every Bank Holiday, and therefore we continue to ask the Government to introduce a new Bank Holiday for 2021 at the end of September to thank the NHS and key workers and help the tourism industry repair our balance sheets.’
The ALVA’s attendance figures show an increase in overseas visitors contributed to a ‘very strong’ start to 2020 for visitor attractions but then numbers fell off a cliff.
The total number of visits in 2020 was 45.4million, representing an annual decline of 70% on the 151.3million for 2019.
All visitor attractions were closed during the March lockdown but gradually began to reopen as restrictions eased.
This meant outdoor sites – which were allowed to open for more of the year – generally fared better, with some featuring much higher in the list of most visited attractions, compared to 2019.
For the first time, two gardens appeared in the top 10 – Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey.
Despite the challenges, the most visited attraction remained the Tate Modern with the Natural History Museum in South Kensington second and the British Museum third.
The most visited attraction outside London was Chester Zoo, which moved eight places in the list to sixth.
Some however fared terribly due to lockdown. Two notable examples that would normally be among the most visited attractions in the UK were Royal Museums Greenwich which saw a 96% decline in visitors and Edinburgh Castle which saw an 87% drop.
Mr Donoghue said forcing England’s indoor visitor attractions to remain closed when non-essential shops reopen is ‘extraordinary’.
He added: ‘There is huge disappointment that indoor visitor attractions in England can’t open until the 17th of May, five weeks after non-essential retail.
‘That’s something that we just don’t understand and have been raising with Government.
‘It’s extraordinary to me that you can open Primark and H&M but not the Tate and V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum).
‘Not least because, according to Public Health England, there hasn’t been a single case of coronavirus transmission at a visitor attraction in the UK. They’ve proved to be Covid safe.’
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