ASVA & the Moffat Centre release topline figures for visits to Scottish attractions in 2022

Scotland’s visitor attractions enjoyed a 53.5% increase in visitor numbers in 2022 as COVID restrictions eased, but numbers still fell someway short of pre-pandemic levels.

Attractions across the country recorded 48,675,631 visits, up 16,961,432 on 2021.

Edinburgh Castle returned to the top spot as Scotland’s most popular paid-for attraction, with visitor numbers jumping 217.6% to 1,346,168.

The National Museum of Scotland remains the number one free attraction with numbers increasing 198.7% to 1,973,751.

Previous procedures to manage visitor numbers, including pre-booking tickets and advised direction of travel, were removed by many venues as restrictions eased.

However, figures from the Moffat Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University and ASVA show that, despite the increase, overall numbers are 16% down on the pre-pandemic levels of 2019.

Paid entry attractions saw 15,053,896 visitors across Scotland in 2022, up 63.2% on the previous year.

Free venues had 33,621,735 visitors last year compared to 22,490,582 in 2021 – an increase of 49.5%.

Edinburgh Castle’s success was replicated by Stirling Castle, up 181.4% to 418,180, and Urquhart Castle up 233.6% to 357,154.

Meanwhile, the numbers visiting Newhailes House and Gardens, in Musselburgh, increased 316.6% to 272,737.

Visitor numbers to Greyfriars Kirkyard, the second most popular free attraction after the National Museum of Scotland, tripled from 487,445 to 1,967,871.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum and the Riverside Museum, in Glasgow, posted strong years, up 237% and 275% respectively. The Burrell Collection, which reopened last year after a £66 million revamp, recorded 482,984 visits.

Professor John Lennon, Director of the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “This survey evidences a recovering visitor attraction market dominated by domestic demand.

“Scottish visitor attractions face a very daunting trading environment characterised by cost inflation and labour shortages- problems that have been slow to abate. Recovery is likely to continue but will remain highly dependent upon UK customers for the medium term.”

Gordon Morrison, Chief Executive of ASVA, said: ‘‘Whilst it is encouraging to see somewhat of a recovery for the attractions sector, performance in 2022 was quite patchy.

“Not all operators enjoyed a successful year, and with visitor numbers still considerably down on pre-pandemic levels, there is a long way to go before we can talk of a full sector-wide recovery. Concerns about what the ongoing cost-of-living crisis will mean for visitation and spend remain for many.”

ASVA is calling on the UK and Scottish Governments to take further action to support the industry in the face of rising costs and to revisit any policy decisions that may increase the financial burden on business.

Please note a separate ‘ASVA only’ end of year report is being published in the coming weeks which will contain considerably more detail about visitor numbers, spend etc in 2022.

To view the top ten lists of free & paid attractions in 2022, please click here.