May ‘23 visitor numbers to ASVA attractions published

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

Analysing the 2023/2022 data, ASVA attractions experienced a 16.8% increase in visitors in May 2023 compared to May 2022, with the year-to-date figures (January – May) up by an impressive 26%. Factors such as the three Bank Holidays and the King’s Coronation, will have played a part in the May increase, but it must also be noted that the sector was still experiencing some covid related issues in the first half of 2022, particularly in relation to the slow return of international visitors, so it is no surprise to see the 2023 figures outstrip those of 2022.  

When comparing attendance in May 2022 with the same period in 2019, visitation remains down by 19.9% for the month and 13% for the year to date, on what is widely regarded as the last ‘normal’ year before the pandemic. However, with operational issues considered including the recruitment and retention of staff (both paid and volunteers), increased costs of doing business due to inflation and the consumer cost of living crisis influencing decisions, it must be recognised that these are relatively strong figures, certainly as strong as we have seen since the start of the pandemic. 

Data from the Scottish Retail Consortium showed that the additional Bank Holiday, the King’s Coronation and the continued good weather saw total retail sales figures increase by 10.9% year-on-year in May. Retail sales in Scotland held steady in May with a growth of 7.7% in May with a growth of 7.7%. Food sales continue to be the biggest growth area, aided by the aforementioned events and community/family gatherings.

Domestic consumer sentiment provided by the National Tourist Boards for May 2023 found that 49% of respondents were cautious about demand and were concerned with cost escalation. The survey recorded 18% of respondents (a 3% decrease on the April 2023 Survey) saying they were “…been hit hard – no option but to cut back on spending”. Despite consumer concern about the state of the economy, 20% of UK adults intend to take a domestic overnight trip in the second quarter of 2023 although that figure rose to 76% in the following 12 months. However, the key three barriers to taking an overnight UK trip in the next six months were; Rising cost of living, UK weather and personal finances.  

The recovery in international inbound visitation continues in May 2023; with the Eurocontrol (European Air Traffic Agency) indicating that UK air connectivity saw a 4% increase when compared to the same period in 2022, however, UK air connectivity had seen a -10% decrease in year-to-date flights compared to 2019. 

There is certainly no obvious pattern as yet when it comes to the recovery. As has been the case for the past few years, Outdoor/Nature attractions certainly continue to lead the recovery, up 1.9% year to date on 2019, but the figures for May were not quite so healthy as they have been (down 36.6% on 2019). It is only when we look on a more granular level that we see that it is not so much about attraction category or even region the attraction is in that is determining the speed of recovery, it is whether yours is an attraction that is proving to be appealing and recognised to international visitors. Many of these types of attractions are close to or in some cases exceeding pre-pandemic numbers, most notably, but not surprising given media attention of late, St Giles Cathedral (up 25% on 2019).  

The recovery certainly remains patchy overall, and there are fluctuations month by month in terms of visitor numbers across different regions and attraction types. However, for the most part, we can take encouragement that, overall, numbers are getting better and confidence levels within the sector are reasonably good about the summer season.