February ‘23 visitor numbers to ASVA attractions published

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

As has been noted in the previous report for January, comparing early 2023 figures to those of early 2022 presents some challenges, primarily because there was still quite considerable covid disruption in early 2022, as well as issues with consumer confidence, particular over matters regarding visiting indoor attractions. In February 2022, we were still dealing with the ramifications of the omicron variant of covid-19 and, of course, international travel restrictions were still very much in place, so trading conditions were 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 Feb ’23 figures are up a massive 43.4% on those of the corresponding month in 2022, and indeed, for the first two months of the year, they are up by 47.6% on the same period in 2022.

Whilst we can, and should, celebrate the fact that numbers are considerably up on 2022, we need to look back to 2019 to get a more accurate benchmark for the recovery. Comparing February 23 figures with those of February 2019, we find that, across all ASVA member sites, the sector was down by 15.2%, and for the year to date (Jan & Feb figures combined), ASVA members are down by just under 14%. This shows that there is still some way to go before we can talk of a full sector wide recovery.

Looking at the figures in a little more details, there is no indication as yet that the cost-of-living crisis is impacting too much on consumer behaviour. Indeed, paid attractions (down 6% for the month and 8% for the year) appear to be faring better than free attractions (down 20% for the month and 17% ytd), so there is no clear sign of visitors sacrificing paid for experiences for free activities. There is also little in the way of a pattern when it comes to types of attraction being visited. Outdoor sites continue to perform above the norm, for the most part at least, with Outdoor/Nature attractions up 17% for the month and 29% ytd, indicating that people are still enjoying the great outdoors despite the inclement weather. However, it is also interesting to see Historic Houses and Wildlife attractions also enjoying a relatively good month (up 10% and 13% respectively), so it is not just outdoor attractions that have been attracting visitors.  

Perhaps the best word to describe the year so far is ‘patchy’. Some sites are enjoying a very good start to the year, whilst others are still to see a full recovery. And, of course, visitor numbers are just one part of the story here. Rising costs are impacting almost every attraction across the country, and with most operators unwilling or unable to pass these costs onto visitors, margins are becoming tighter and tighter. Even with more visitors returning therefore, it is not necessarily the case that we can say that everyone is feeling confident about business success this year.

However, here’s to numbers continuing to pick up month after month, and hopefully, we are indeed starting to see the long-awaited recovery for our sector.