April 2023 visitor numbers to ASVA attractions published 

The latest ASVA Visitor Attractions Barometer reports, for April 2023, are now available to view in the Members Area of our website

Comparing the 2023 figures to those of 2022 continues to present some challenges simply because there was considerable covid disruption in the early part of 2022, and as a consequence, there were issues with consumer confidence relating to the visiting pf indoor attractions. International travel restrictions were also still very much in place, so trading conditions remained far from ‘normal’.  It is therefore little surprise to find that when we look at the visitor numbers from 2023 vs those of 2022, we see that the April ’23 figures are up more than 20% on those of the corresponding month in 2022, and indeed, up further still, by more than 30%, when comparing the year to date (January to April). 

Whilst we can, and should, celebrate the fact that numbers are up on 2022, we need to look back to 2019 to get a more accurate benchmark for the recovery. Comparing April 2023 figures with those of April 2019, we find that, across all ASVA member sites, the sector was down by just over 9% for the month, and for the year to date (January- April), ASVA members are down by just over 11%. Whilst this shows there is still some way to go before the industry is back to pre-pandemic levels, and for certain parts of the sector, there is still some way to go, the trend we are seeing is one of gradual improvement month by month, with numbers slowing starting to climb back up towards the high watermark of 2019.

Looking at the figures in a little more detail, the recovery of the sector is definitely somewhat patchy. It is interesting to note that, in the main, attractions in the Highlands of Scotland are outperforming those in other regions, with Highland attractions up 15.8% for the month and 0.3% year to date on 2019 figures. This trumps other areas where the recovery is stronger, including Edinburgh & Lothians (down 5.6% for the month and 8% year to date on 2019) and Fife (down 1.5% for the month and 9.8% year to date on 2019). Aberdeen and Grampian is perhaps the most interesting to view however, as the year to date figures there see attractions in this region up by a very impressive 2.3%. There are signs of a slight slowdown however, as the monthly figures show that April was ‘only’ up 2.2% on 2019, so a significantly slower increase than that seen in the Highlands.

In terms of type of attraction, Outdoor/Nature attractions continue to perform well, up 13.4% year to date on 2019, though they are a little down (by 5.2%) for the month. Perhaps the most interesting development is the significant increase in visitors to Historic Houses/Palaces (up 3.1% for the month and 9.7% year to date on 2019) and Other Historic Properties (up a staggering 34.7% for the month and 22.1% year to date on 2019). There was clearly a significant Eater bounce for ‘Other Historic Properties’ in particular, with visitors flocking though the doors to undertake Easter related activities.

These are all positive figures to report, but as can be seen from other regions and other sector types are seeing much more patchy performance, e.g. Greater Glasgow down 13.9% for the month and 18.1% year to date on 2019, and Museums/Art Galleries down 15.9% for the month and 24.5 year to date on 2019. And, as mentioned last month, visitor numbers are just one metric here and are not providing us with the complete story in terms of the recovery. Rising costs and staffing recruitment challenges are undoubtedly impacting on performance and the bottom line across many attractions. Even with more visitors returning in good numbers in 2023, it is therefore not necessarily the case that every attraction operator is looking confidently ahead.