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Kew Gardens tops England visitor attraction list

Kew Gardens tops England visitor attraction list

The Annual Visitor Attractions Survey from VisitEngland shows the severe impact on visitor attractions from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Released today, the study shows with a 65 per cent drop in visitors overall compared to 2019 and a 55 per cent decline in revenue.

These declines were driven by site closures associated with lockdowns and opening restrictions and the significant contraction of inbound and domestic tourism in 2020.

The fall in visitor numbers last year to England’s attractions was most marked for museums and galleries, other historic properties and places of worship, many of which rely on overseas visitors.

Outdoor attractions such as country parks, wildlife attractions/zoos and gardens showed the smallest decreases.

Overall rural attractions fared best last year with admissions dropping by 47 per cent compared to a 74 per cent decline for urban.

Indoor attractions saw a larger decline in admissions in 2020 than outdoor with decreases of 76 per cent and 43 per cent respectively, partly due to lockdown restrictions delaying their reopening but also people being more reluctant to visit indoor attractions.


Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, was the most visited paid for attraction in England last year with 1.2 million visitors, the first time a garden has taken the top spot, although numbers were still down almost half on 2019, followed by Chester Zoo and RHS Garden Wisley.

The Tower of London, which had ranked first since 2009, saw an 85 per cent decrease from 3 million visitors in 2019 to 448,000 in 2020, dropping to tenth place.

Topping the list of free attractions in England was the Tate Modern with 1.4 million visitors, a 77 per cent drop on 2019, followed by the Natural History Museum with 1.3 million, a 76 per cent drop, and the British Museum 1.28 million, an 80 per cent drop.

Tourism minister, Nigel Huddleston, said: “I know what a challenging year it’s been for our brilliant tourism, leisure and hospitality sectors.

“Tourism is one of our country’s greatest assets, driving our economy and delivering jobs across our communities.”

The survey, which gathered information from 1,301 English attractions, also showed the impact from the absence of international visitors in 2020 with a drop of 93 per cent in overseas visitor numbers.

Image: Philippe Gras