September ‘22 Visitor Numbers to ASVA Attractions Published

The latest ASVA Visitor Attractions Barometer reports, for September 2022, are now available to view in the Members Area of our website

As has been noted in previous reports comparing 2022 figures to those of 2021 presents a number of challenges, primarily due to the levels of covid disruption that were still being experienced through much of 2021. By the time we reached September last year, Scotland had moved fully ‘Beyond Level 0’ in the Scottish Government’s Strategic Framework for Recovery, so covid restrictions were as light as they had ever been since the start of the pandemic. However, it is important to note that even beyond Level 0, there were still covid measures that remained in place, such as compulsory face coverings for staff and the public and the requirement for test and protect information in hospitality settings. It is also highly significant that consumer confidence remained very fragile with both the domestic and international markets, so the recovery of visitor numbers, even beyond level 0, was somewhat limited. It is therefore no surprise that, when we see comparisons between visitor numbers across ASVA member sites in September 2022 and September 2021, there is a significant difference, with the figures up by 44.6% for the month and by 114.5% for the year to date, January to September. 

Further analysis is therefore needed if we are to better understand to what extent visitor attractions are seeing a genuine recovery in 2022. By comparing September 2022 to September 2019 – a more ‘normal’ year – we get a clearer picture of how the sector is actually faring. Comparing September ’22 to September ’19, across all ASVA attractions visitor numbers were down 20% for the month and 26.5% for the year to date. Whilst these are the strongest visitor figures that have been reported collectively by ASVA members since the start of the pandemic, it remains clear that the majority of the sector are still considerably down on what would be regarded as a normal year’s trading.  

Looking more closely at the different types of attractions, for the most part, outdoor venues still continued to outperform their indoor counterparts in terms of speed of recovery of visitor numbers. Outdoor/Nature attractions were actually up an impressive 28.4% on the corresponding month in 2019, and for the year to date, numbers for this sector are actually up on 2019, albeit by just a fraction (0.3%). When compared to the likes of Castle & Forts (down 39.5%) and Museums & Galleries (down 21.3%), it can be seen that the recovery of visitor numbers across the board is anything but consistent. 

It is therefore safe to assume that 2022 has not been a year of ‘full recovery’ for our sector. Numbers have been gradually improving as the year has gone on, with consumer confidence clearly returning and visitor spending holding up well, however, the improvement rate has been slow and is very inconsistent across different attraction types and locations. On top of this, increases in the cost of doing business, issues with recruitment & retention of staff and, of course, the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on the consumer are undoubtedly now causing challenges which inhibit the sector’s recovery. 

Tough times are ahead, of that there is no doubt. ASVA will continue to shine a spotlight on these challenging conditions to both the Scottish and UK Governments, whilst stressing the importance of our sector to the overall recovery of tourism in Scotland and the Scottish economy.