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England’s leisure tourism market grows, Most visited attractions in England

Tower of London

VisitEngland’s Annual Attraction Survey reveals significant growth in visitor numbers at England’s gardens, farms and leisure and theme parks. Out of the 1500 English attractions in the survey, outdoor attractions performed particularly well in 2015. Gardens, farms and leisure and theme parks reported the biggest increase in visitors, each up 7%, with wildlife attractions and country parks also seeing visitor numbers grow by 4%.

Visits to rural and coastal attractions grew by 5% and 4% respectively, echoing VisitEngland research that shows an increase in domestic holidays to the seaside (up 7%) and countryside (up 12%) in 2015.

Tourism Minister Tracey Crouch said, "Year after year, our world-class tourist attractions continue to draw millions of visitors not just into London, but to the country as a whole. It is fantastic to see such strong growth across the regions, particularly in rural and coastal communities. Tourism contributes around £60 billion to our economy every year and these results show that the benefits of this thriving industry are being spread more evenly around the country."

VisitEngland Chief Executive Sally Balcombe said, “The attractions sector is an integral part of our national tourism offer and plays a crucial role in driving economic growth across all of England’s regions. It’s great to see that more people explored the country’s stunning gardens and scenery in 2015, and we will be further highlighting gardens to visitors this year as we celebrate 2016 as the ‘Year of the English Garden'.”

The Tower of London remained the most visited ‘paid for’ attraction with 2.8 million visits followed by Westminster Abbey and Kew Gardens which saw 1.6 million visitors each.

Topping the list of free attractions for the eighth year was the British Museum with more than 6.8 million visitors followed by the National Gallery (6 million visitors) and the Natural History Museum (5.3 million visitors).

Visits to England’s attractions rose by 2% in 2015 with revenue up 5%.

VisitEngland’s latest figures show that the first four months of this year have set a record for domestic holiday trips in England with trips up 8% to 11 million and spend up 22% to £2.8 billion.

Most visited attractions in England – Free Attractions – 2015




Name of Attraction Region Category 2014 visitors 2015 visitors
British Museum London Museums & Art Galleries          6,695,213          6,820,686
National Gallery London Museums & Art Galleries          6,416,724          5,908,254
Natural History Museum London Museums & Art Galleries          5,388,295          5,284,023
Tate Modern London Museums & Art Galleries          5,785,427          4,712,581
Brighton Pier South East Other          4,500,000 (E)          4,600,000 (E)
Victoria and Albert Museum London Museums & Art Galleries          3,651,450          3,888,374
Science Museum London Museums & Art Galleries          3,358,086          3,356,212
Alexandra Park and Palace London Historic Properties          2,700,000 (E)          2,800,000 (E)
National Portrait Gallery London Museums & Art Galleries          2,062,502          2,145,486
British Library London Museums & Art Galleries          1,627,599 (E)          1,579,570 (E)
National Maritime Museum London Museums & Art Galleries          1,517,787          1,358,964
Tate Britain London Museums & Art Galleries          1,357,878          1,284,519
Imperial War Museum London London Museums & Art Galleries              914,774          1,102,655
MAC Birmingham West Midlands Other              996,523          1,028,371
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery West Midlands Museums & Art Galleries              696,488              909,935
Museum of London London Museums & Art Galleries              909,645              872,978
Ashmolean Museum South East Museums & Art Galleries              875,407              848,359
Museums Sheffield: Millennium Gallery Yorkshire & Humberside Museums & Art Galleries              764,892              764,639
Horniman Museum and Gardens London Museums & Art Galleries              870,051              758,868
Durham Cathedral North East Places of Worship              734,000 (E)              755,000 (E)

Most visited attractions in England – Paid Attractions – 2015

Name of Attraction Region Category 2014 visitors 2015 visitors
Tower of London London Historic Properties           3,081,939           2,785,249
Westminster Abbey London Places of Worship           1,786,106           1,664,850
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Gardens London Gardens           1,368,565           1,622,821
St Paul's Cathedral London Places of Worship           1,782,741 (E)           1,609,325 (E)
Chester Zoo North West Wildlife           1,432,867           1,516,808
Windermere Lake Cruises, Bowness North West Other           1,469,189           1,482,899
Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo Yorkshire & Humberside Leisure / Theme Parks           1,536,279           1,470,828
Stonehenge South West Historic Properties           1,346,177           1,366,765
ZSL London Zoo London Wildlife           1,318,621           1,265,911
Drayton Manor Theme Park West Midlands Leisure / Theme Parks           1,064,835           1,210,141
Royal Academy of Arts London Museums & Art Galleries               824,793           1,096,608
RHS Garden Wisley South East Gardens           1,023,715           1,087,927
Roman Baths South West Museums & Art Galleries           1,015,135           1,044,802
Colchester Zoo East of England Wildlife               964,222               964,050
Eden Project South West Gardens               867,362               960,029
Canterbury Cathedral South East Places of Worship           1,004,573 (E)               957,355 (E)
Houses of Parliament London Historic Properties           1,253,326               928,855
Tatton Park North West Historic Properties               834,500 (E)               875,000 (E)
Tower Bridge Exhibition London Historic Properties               646,659               786,603
Royal Observatory Greenwich London Museums & Art Galleries               785,962               778,865

Visitor admission trends 2015 – by attraction category

Type of Attraction Visitor admission trends 2015
Country parks 4%
Farms 7%
Gardens 7%
Historic houses / castles 2%
Other historic properties 2%
Leisure / theme parks 7%
Museums / art galleries -0.5%
Steam / heritage railways 2%
Visitor / heritage centres 3%
Wildlife attractions/zoos 4%
Workplaces 4%
Places of worship -0.5%
Other 2%

Visitor admission trends 2015 – by region

Region Visitor admission trends 2015
North West 4%
North East 3%
Yorkshire & Humberside 2%
East Midlands 6%
West Midlands 6%
East 3%
London -3%
South East 3%
South West 6%

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