Britain’s top visitor attractions enjoyed one of their best summers in years thanks to the so-called “staycation” effect, with some turning in their best ever visitor numbers, according to figures released on Tuesday.

Data collated by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, which represents 42 organisations in charge of 1,600 tourist venues, reveal a rise of 3.4 per cent in visitor numbers during May 1 to August 31, compared with the same period last year.

The Royal Horticultural Society’s four gardens– Harlow Carr, Hyde Hall, Rosemoor and Wisley – reported a 15 per cent increase in attendance, while the National Portrait Gallery’s visitor numbers for June to August grew 23 per cent.

The gallery’s BP Portrait Award was up nearly 70 per cent on last year’s exhibition.

The National Trust said attendance in July was up 8.3 per cent on last year while the August figures rose 12.1 per cent.

Liverpool’s attractions, such as Tate Liverpool, suffered deep falls, although this year’s summer figures were always likely to compare unfavourably to 2008 when the city was the European capital of culture.

The National Museums of Scotland rose 15 per cent, and numbers at Edinburgh Castle were up 7 per cent.

Forecasts of a hot summer, which turned out to be misjudged, and sterling’s weakness against the euro prompted many UK holidaymakers to forgo their summer trips abroad for holidays at home.

Alva said many attractions had predicted the staycation trend and prepared accordingly, adding new activities and experiences.

Rachael Ashton of Chester Zoo said the staycation effect “has been a bonus” and would help deliver a bumper year for the venue.

Alva added that several attractions reported rises in international visitor numbers during the summer.

The Office for National Statistics last week reported a jump in the number of north American visitors in August, up from 376,000 in the same month last year to 460,000, although overall international visitor numbers were down from 3.4m to 3.2m.

“It is most reassuring to see that the ‘staycation’ trend predicted by the Alva’s members has translated into profitable business as it is vital for Britain that our tourism industry thrives,” said Robin Broke, the Alva’s director.

The staycation effect was derided last month by Peter Long, chief executive of Tui Travel, the tour operator, who predicted that the experience of poor weather during the summer would drive many holidaymakers back into its arms.

Christopher Rodrigues, chairman of VisitBritain, the national tourism agency, said: “He would say that, wouldn’t he. What’s happened is Britons are exploring their own country again. That’s a long-term good for domestic tourism.

“I don’t think we will wean people off overseas trips but we won’t be pessimistic.”

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