Museums in the UK experience 158% increase in visits

© Victoria and Albert Museum London - VA Medcraft Modern glass art piece hanging from the ceiling of a classic building.

© Victoria and Albert Museum London - VA Medcraft

Although the 2022 visitor figures of the UK museum sector are indicating a positive upwards trend, the numbers are still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels. According to the annual report by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva) the overall visitor number was 23% lower in 2022 than 2019.

Alva indicated that the lower overall figure is caused by the combined impact of Covid19, Brexit-related recruitment issues and the cost-of-living crisis. The cost-of-living crisis can be identified in the statics considering that attractions offering free entry except for special exhibitions and events reporting the strongest year-on-year growth, with a 183% increase. Meanwhile sites that charge admission experienced a 101% rise in visitors.

While the overall figure still is lower than pre-pandemic times, Alva’s statistics also shows that many museums have seen a rise of more than 200% in visits. The Natural History Museum celebrated being the most visited indoor site for the second year in a row. The museum reported a 196% rise compared to 2019. In third and fourth place were the British Museum and Tate Modern, which saw visits increase by 209% and 202% respectively.

Across the UK, London saw the strongest year-on-year performance with visits up 152% followed by Scotland up 128% and Northern Ireland up 120%. Outside London, the English region with the biggest year-on-year growth was the North West, which was up 49%.

Alva director Bernard Donoghue said “We are still experiencing the tourism equivalent of 'long Covid' with many attractions still not back up to 2019 visitor levels due, mainly, to the absence of international visitors, notably from China and the Far East, but I am confident that they will return this year and we will see a continuing healthy recovery.”