Scottish visitor attraction numbers up 17% to 49m

Scotland’s tourist visitor attractions enjoyed a strong year in 2023 with visitor numbers up 17.2%, according to new figures.

Visitor attractions across Scotland recorded almost 48.7 million visits last year, an increase of 7.1 million 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 had 30.6 million visits, up 4.3 million on the previous year.

Visitors to paid-for attractions increased 19.2% in 2023 to just over 18 million.

Edinburgh Castle remained in the top spot as Scotland’s most popular paid-for attraction, with visitor numbers increasing 41.5% to 1.9 million.

The National Museum of Scotland remains the number one free attraction with numbers increasing 10.8% to 2.19 million.

The National Galleries of Scotland: National recorded a 43.8% increase to 1.8 million, while St Giles Cathedral was up 37.6% to 1.47 million and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum was up 32.2% to 1.28 million.

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 soar 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.”

In paid-for attractions, other 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.

ASVA CEO Michael Golding 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 …

“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.”