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Top tourist attractions pay the price as ‘economic factors’ put UK visitors off

The British Museum, Natural History Museum, Tate Modern and National Gallery welcomed almost two million fewer people in 2017 compared with 2016.

Visitor numbers plummeted at London’s most popular tourist attractions last year because many people cannot afford a trip to the capital, a tourism industry leader has said.

The British Museum, Natural History Museum, Tate Modern and National Gallery welcomed a total of almost two million fewer people in 2017 compared with the previous year.

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(PA Graphics)

Attractions across London as a whole saw an increase of just 1.2%, whereas the UK average growth across 238 sites was 7.3%, including 13.9% in Scotland.

Bernard Donoghue, director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva), which published the figures, said trips to London have become too expensive for many people.

Economic factors have had an impact on UK visitors to central London, with associated evidence that the costs linked with a visit such as travel, food and drink have played an important part in deciding where to visit Bernard Donoghue, Association of Leading Visitor Attractions

He said: “Economic factors have had an impact on UK visitors to central London, with associated evidence that the costs linked with a visit such as travel, food and drink have played an important part in deciding where to visit.”

Mr Donoghue noted that some people have been put off visiting major cities due to global terror attacks, but insisted that “economic concerns are playing a more crucial part”.

He also blamed the decline in visits to some sites on rail disruption, such as during work to modernise the UK’s busiest train station London Waterloo.

“The semi-closure of Waterloo station in August as well as the inconsistent train service from south and south-east England also deterred people from travelling to London and encouraged people to visit attractions nearer to home,” he said.

Almost one in five trains (19%) run by GTR – which owns four south-east England franchises including Southern Railway – failed to arrive at their destination within five minutes of the schedule in the 12 months to March 3, Network Rail figures show.

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The British Museum maintained its position as the most popular tourist attraction despite suffering an 8% drop in visitors to 5.9 million, ahead of Tate Modern (down 3% to 5.7 million) and the National Gallery (down 16.5% to 5.2 million).

Blockbuster exhibitions such as one on Pink Floyd were heralded for the V&A increasing its visitor numbers by 26% to 3.8 million.

For the first time in four years, the UK’s most visited attractions outside London were in Scotland.

The National Museum of Scotland was 11th overall with 2.2 million visitors (up 20%), with Edinburgh Castle in 12th with 2.1 million (up 16%).

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