The ALVA figures for 2021 allow us to gain a glimpse of visit numbers across the heritage sector. Visitor numbers in London have not bounced back; indeed, they are marginally down on 2020. Is this due to the lack of visitors from outside the UK? Are members of the public concerned about visiting such venues where it is not possible to maintain social distancing?
Such a dramatic drop in numbers (from 36.6 million in 2019 to 7.7 million in 2021) will have an impact on income in terms of special exhibitions, retail outlets and catering. What is not clear is if this will be reflected in the numbers retaining membership of friends’ organisations.
Three Historic Royal Palaces feature in the ALVA visitor figures for 2021. The Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace attracted just over 1 million visitors in 2021: this is down from 4.5 million visitors in 2019, and slightly up from 730,816 in 2020.
The release of the ALVA visitor figures for 2021 allows us to see how the heritage sector has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The eight properties designated as ‘The Treasure Houses of England’ attracted 2.4 million visitors in 2021: the same eight attracted 1.4 million in 2020, and 3.1 million in 2019.
Visitor numbers for the top 10 sites in the care of Historic Environment Scotland (HES) suggest that the road to recovery will be a long one. These top 10 sites attracted 855,626 visits in 2021: in 2019 the same 10 sites attracted 4.3 million.
The 2021 visitor figures for English Heritage are now available. Stonehenge remains the most visited site: 334,087 visits in 2021 compared with 1.6 million in 2019. Brodsworth Hall and Gardens has made an appearance in the top 10 with 93,614 visits in 2021. Tintagel, with 267,094 visits, had a particularly popular season perhaps reflecting the popularity of Cornwall as a holiday destination: in 2017 it had 246,039 visits.
The visitor figures for the National Trust in 2021 are now available. The top 10 NT locations attracted 4.3 million visitors: the most popular was Attingham Park with 597,154 visitors, followed by Cliveden with 553,041. These same ten properties (except for Clumber Park where the information is not easily accessible) attracted 4.6 million visitors in 2019, and 3.2 million in 2020. The figures for 2021 are higher than those for 2018 (4.2 million).
The top 20 National Trust properties attracted 7.2 million visits in 2021, up from 7.6 million for the same 20 in 2019.
The National Trust has recovered best best with 4.3 million visits to its top 10 properties, down slightly from 4.6 million visits to the same 10 properties in 2019. In contrast Historic Royal Palaces attracted just over 1 million visitors in 2021, down from 4.5 million in 2019.
These 51 properties attracted 11.7 million visitors in 2021, compared to 21.8 million in 2019 (7.7 million in 2020).
The impact of lockdowns due to the pandemic is making itself clear on the visitor figures released by ALVA. Reduced visitor numbers will see a reduction in income from ticket sales as well as through retail outlets. We have yet to see the impact on those who pay annual memberships.
One of the last heritage sites I visited in London prior to lockdown was the Tower of London (for the Heritage Alliance conference). ALVA has now released the visitor numbers for three of their properties in London: the Tower, Hampton Court Palace, and Kensington Palace. The combined number of visitors in 2019 was 4.5 million; in 2019 it fell to 730,816.