Visitor Attractions Enjoy Robust Year Despite Pressures

Scotland’s visitor attractions enjoyed a robust year with visitor numbers up 17.2% despite cost of living and inflationary pressures, according to new figures released today.

Attractions across the country recorded 48,685,638 visits last year, an increase of 7,133,336 on 2022, as the sector saw numbers return to pre-COVID levels.

Data from the Moffat Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University and the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) shows free attractions racked up 30,605,269 visits, up 4,354,960 on the previous year.

Edinburgh Castle remained in the top spot as Scotland’s most popular paid-for attraction, with visitor numbers increasing 41.5% to 1,904,723.

The National Museum of Scotland remains the number one free attraction with numbers increasing 10.8% to 2,186,841.

The National Galleries of Scotland: National recorded a 43.8% increase to 1,836,057, while St Giles Cathedral, up 37.6% to 1,473,211, and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, up 32.2% to 1,283,882, also enjoyed a busy year.

The Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, which hosted Banksy’s first exhibition in 14 years, recorded a 60.4% increase in visitors to 510,936, while The Royal Yacht Britannia saw visitor numbers jump 51.1% to 361,175.

Chris Greenwood, Senior Research Fellow at The Moffat Centre, said: “Despite many headwinds experienced by businesses and consumers, visitor numbers have been robust. The overall performance is very positive.

“Consumer sentiment studies have shown greater price sensitivity among consumers relating to travel and tourism but a desire to travel remains.

“Price-sensitive visitors have a wealth of free attractions to choose from and our paid attractions continue to appeal to both international and domestic visitors alike.”

The overall number of visitors to paid-for attractions increased 19.2% in 2023 to 18,080,369.

Strong performers included Culzean Castle and Country Park, up 29.6% to 291,674, Glasgow Science Centre, up 24.2% to 350,441, and Urquhart Castle and Stirling Castle, up 24% and 23.7% respectively.

A total of 616 attractions across Scotland provided data for this year’s Visitor Attraction Monitor report.

Michael Golding, chief executive of ASVA, said:“Our sector’s relentless focus on delivering exceptional visitor experiences has been key to our recovery. The consistent upward trend in visitor numbers year after year is a result of the hard work of businesses.

“This resurgence of visitors is crucial, not only to our attractions and the tourism sector but also plays a significant role in bolstering the wider Scottish economy and supporting the communities that surround these attractions.” He added:“Despite facing ongoing challenges, our unwavering commitment to quality ensures Scotland’s position as a preferred destination for both UK and international visitors, promising continued growth, innovation, and sustainability.”

View the top 10 paid and free admissions here.