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Shortage of travellers from China and Far East slowing resurgence in visits to major tourist sites, says industry body

A shortage of travellers from some Asian countries is impeding the recovery in visits to prominent British attractions, the head of a leading tourism body has claimed.

Bernard Donoghue, director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), made the announcement alongside figures showing that visits to the UK’s most popular tourist sites last year were nearly a quarter lower than pre-pandemic levels. 

A total of 123.4 million Britons and inbound travellers came to the most visited UK destinations in 2022, a 69 per cent increase on the previous 12 months but far below the 161.2 million that came in 2019. 

Donoghue said a shortfall of foreign tourists, especially from China and the Far East, meant attendance numbers at many venues were unable to recover to their 2019 volumes.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, China represented one of the UK’s largest sources of inbound tourists and the second-largest group of spenders among overseas travellers.

The country’s Government imposed controversial and draconian lockdowns across major cities for much of 2022, severely impacting the ability of its citizens to take a foreign holiday.

Having begun to loosen restrictions in December, Donoghue said he was ‘confident that they will return this year and we will see a continuing healthy recovery.’

For the second year in a row, Windsor Great Park saw the highest number of visitors, around 5.6 million, many of whom came to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee or witness the funeral procession of the late Queen Elizabeth II.

The most popular indoor attraction was the Natural History Museum, where visitor volumes almost tripled to over 4.65 million thanks partly to high attendance at the Dippy Returns: The Nation’s Favourite Dinosaur exhibition.

London venues were among nine of the ten most visited sites, including the British Museum, the Southbank Centre, Somerset House, the Science Museum and the Tower of London.

Outside England, the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh was the top-ranked attraction in Scotland, Bodnant Garden in Conwy held the highest-ranked position in Wales, and Titanic Belfast took the number-one spot in Northern Ireland.

‘Visitors flocked back… in 2022 to breathe, heal, repair and to enjoy special moments with special people in special places,’ said Donoghue, who noted particularly strong demand over the festive season.

Alva’s figures also showed that admissions to venues that charged entrance fees doubled, but the volume of people attending sites with free entry, not counting special exhibitions and events, skyrocketed by 183 per cent. 

Donoghue suggested that inflationary pressures were behind the faster growth in popularity of those attending sites for free. 

He told the PA news agency: ‘We’ve seen the cost of living crisis really have an impact on visitor numbers from about August of last year onwards.

‘The British public are making tactical decisions about how they spend their leisure pounds and leisure hours. As a consequence, we’ve seen those free visitor attractions doing particularly well.’

Source : This is Money