Gardens continue to attract largest numbers of visitors

Gardens and zoos saw the most significant growth in visitors to attractions last year, according to VisitEngland’s Annual Attractions Survey published today.

The survey, which gathered information from more than 1,500 English attractions, found that historic houses and castles reported a 7% increase in visitor numbers, and country parks a 4% increase. Outdoor attractions performed particularly well, with gardens and zoos showing growth of 8%.

In line with VisitEngland’s Great Britain Tourism Survey results, coastal and rural attractions experienced strong growth of 4% and 5% respectively.

Tourism Minister John Glen said:

"We have an amazing range of world-class attractions in England that draw in millions of visitors every year. 

"Whether it is our unique historic buildings, internationally important museums or stunning gardens, there is a huge amount to see and do. 

"Ensuring that all parts of the country benefit from our tourism industry is a key government priority so it is fantastic to see such growth across the regions." 

VisitEngland Chief Executive Sally Balcombe said:

There are so many outstanding attractions offering year-round experiences throughout the country and it's great to see Brits enjoyed 2016’s ‘Year of the English Garden’. Attractions are a much loved and valuable part of the tourism landscape, adding colour and variety to the visitor experience and encouraging people to get out and explore, driving the value of tourism across the regions.”

The British Museum was the most visited free attraction in England in 2016, for the 9th consecutive year, with nearly 6.5 million visitors, and was closely followed by the National Gallery which had more than 6.2 million visitors.

The Tower of London topped the list of paid for attractions for the 8th year running, with 2.7 million visitors, and Chester Zoo experienced its highest ever ranking, in second place, with nearly 1.9 million visitors.

Visits to England’s attractions rose by 2% in 2016, with attractions reporting revenues up by 7%.

VisitEngland latest figures show that for the first four months of the year (2017) Brits took a record 11.4 million holiday trips in England.

The tourism economy is worth £106 billion annually to England.


Notes to Editors:

  • The VisitEngland Annual Survey of Visits to Visitor Attractions is carried out on behalf of VisitEngland by BDRC-Continental and is based on a survey of 1,545 England visitor attractions.
  • For the full report see the Annual Survey of Visits to Visitor Attractions 
  • Please be aware that the Visits to Visitor Attractions Survey is a self-completion survey. There is no obligation for any visitor attraction, or any parent company / group of attractions to supply data.  VisitEngland does not verify data provided by an attraction beyond a basic 'sense check'. In addition, visitor attractions have the option of taking part in the survey anonymously, meaning not all visitor attractions that participate in the survey are named in the report or included in ranked lists of attractions.
  • For a number of the attractions, data has been included with kind permission of ALVA (Association of Leading Visitor Attractions), English Heritage, Historic England, The National Trust as well as several Destination Management Organisations.
  • Please note ’Places of Work’ is defined as attractions such as breweries, distilleries, vineyards and premises where crafts are created.
  • Country Parks are included in the most visited lists where visitors can visit an attraction at the park that meets our visitor attraction definition, such as a visitor centre or historic property and the figures provided reflect these visitors only. For more information on this, please see the full report.
  • VisitEngland operates the Visitor Attractions Quality Scheme (VAQS). The scheme boasts a reputation for instigating, modifying and shaping change to the customer experience at visitor attractions across England.  Areas covered by the annual assessment include pre-arrival information, the website, online marketing, journey planning, signage, welcome on arrival, toilets, catering and retail outlets.  During the debrief the assessor will also offer business support and advice.  The scheme currently has over a 900 members.