May ‘22 visitor numbers to ASVA attractions published

The latest ASVA Visitor Attractions Barometer reports, for January 2022, is now available to view in the Members Area of our website.

Comparing May 2022 figures to those of May 2021 presents a number of challenges, as the sector was only slowly reopening in May 21, with the country only moving out of Level 4 restrictions (virtually a complete shutdown) at the end of April. Indeed most of Scotland had to endure Level 3 restrictions until 21st May and then moved into Level 2 after this date, though notably both Glasgow and Moray remained in Level 3 for the duration of May due to increased infection rates. As a reminder, Level 3 rules allowed for non-essential travel between the different countries in the UK and between the different regions within Scotland, however there were considerable limits on numbers who could meet (6 people from 2 households could meet in an indoor setting) and 2m physical distancing was to be observed. As a result, Level 3 restrictions still considerably impacted on visitor numbers across virtually all attraction types on Scotland and therefore a comparison between May 21 and May 22, where we see visitor numbers up 122.6% for the month and up 258% for the year to date, does not provide us with an accurate picture of where the sector is at currently in terms of consolidation and recovery.

It is only when we analyse the 2022 figures against those of 2019, that we can fully understand to what extend the sector is building back from the pandemic.  Comparing May ’22 to May ’19, across all ASVA attractions, visitor numbers were down by 32.8% for the month and down 31.7% for the year to date. The picture within the sector is somewhat mixed, but overall it would appear that May has not been quite as good a month as April, partially driven by particularly inclement weather (Scotland endured it’s wettest May for 7 years), as well as an upturn in covid cases across many regions and, of course, the ongoing cost of living crisis.

Looking at the figures in a little more detail, the inclement weather may certainly help to explain why outdoor attractions did not have quite as successful a month, with Gardens down almost 21% and Nature attractions down by over 37%. However, this just puts those outdoor operators at a similar level to those operating indoor attractions, where the recovery has been slower so far this year. For example, Museums & Galleries were down by almost 27% for the month and Other Historic Properties down by over 48%.

There are of course, also other factors that are affecting numbers. Recruitment challenges continue to impact on some members’ ability to trade at capacity, and there are still some attractions that are not yet open following the covid disruptions of the last few years, including a number of properties under the stewardship of Historic Environment Scotland which are currently undergoing extensive conservation works.  

As reported in April, we are yet to be in a position where we can say that we have a sector in ‘full recovery’ and whilst numbers are better than they have been for a couple of years, we must recognise that conditions remain challenging. In our ongoing dialogue with the Scottish Government and STERG, ASVA will continue to shine a spotlight on these challenging conditions, including recruitment, rising costs of doing business and the escalating cost of living crisis.