March '22 visitor numbers to ASVA attractions are published

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

Comparing the March 2022 figures with those for the same month in 2021 is still largely irrelevant for the majority of attractions, or at least certainly those whose primary activity is indoors. Most of Scotland remained in Level 4 during March 2021 so virtually all indoor attractions across the country were closed for the entire month. A number of outdoor attractions were open and were trading well, but the overall picture was that the majority of the sector was unable to trade. Against that backdrop, reporting an increase in visitor numbers in March ‘22 of over 356% when compared to March ’21, does not provide us with an accurate picture of where the sector is at in terms of consolidation and recovery so far this year.

It is only when we analyse the 2022 figures against those of 2019 that we can get a more accurate picture. Comparing March ’22 with March ’19 overall across ASVA attractions, visitor numbers were 22.3% down for the month and 33.3% down for the year to date. These are actually the most encouraging set of figures that have been reported since the pandemic struck in March 2020, reflecting the cautious optimism that the sector has been feeling about the start of the main season so far this year. Of course, had there been no pandemic and had we been reporting visitor numbers down by a third for the year, this would be viewed as a crisis, rather than as something to be optimistic about! This shows that the ‘recovery’ – if we can call it that – is very fragile indeed and for many within the sector, 2022 will be a year of consolidation at best. Better than the dark days of restrictions and lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, but not yet coming near the high watermark of 2019.

It is also worth noting that sectoral performance is still patchy, with outdoor operators, such as Wildlife Attractions (up 43%) and Nature Attractions (up 56%), considerably outperforming other parts of the sector. Numbers have yet to bounce back by any significant margin in others, for example, Museums & Galleries (down by 45%) and Distilleries & Breweries (down by 52%).

The main take-away from the March data is that there is a long way to go before we can talk of a full recovery for the attractions sector in Scotland. In our ongoing dialogue with the Scottish Government and STERG, ASVA continues to highlight this and emphasise the challenges we face that are impacting recovery – including recruitment, rising costs of doing business and, of course, the ever-developing cost of living crisis.