What you need to know

The steady long-term growth trend in UK visitor attractions continues. Total visits to attractions increased by an estimated 3.5% in 2015 following a 4.4% rise seen in 2014. Over the past five years visits have risen by an estimated 16.5%. Inbound tourism growth – one of the key drivers – is now stalling but domestic tourism had a better year in 2015 and the core domestic days out market remains solid. Two thirds of UK adults visited at least one type of attraction in the 12 months ending September 2015, on a par with the previous two years, and underlining the importance of this sector to the UK leisure economy. Meanwhile, technology is driving significant innovation right across the sector, enriching the visitor experience and opening up new ways to reach and engage with consumers.

Covered in this report

Mintel has chosen to examine the following types of visitor attraction as the core focus of this report:

  • Country parks

  • Gardens

  • Heritage and visitor centres

  • Historic properties (including historic houses, palaces, castles, forts, historic monuments, archaeological sites, historic ships, windmills, watermills and other historic properties)

  • Museums, art galleries and science centres

  • Places of worship (cathedrals, churches when visited specifically as a visitor attraction, not as a place of regular worship)

  • Steam/heritage railways

  • Theme parks

  • Zoos, wildlife parks and aquariums.

Mintel primarily follows VisitEngland’s definitions of the above categories of visitor attraction. VisitEngland defines a visitor attraction as follows:

‘An attraction where it is feasible to charge admission for the sole purpose of sightseeing. The attraction must be a permanently established excursion destination, a primary purpose of which is to allow access for entertainment, interest, or education; rather than being primarily a retail outlet or a venue for sporting, theatrical, or film performances. It must be open to the public, without prior booking, for published periods each year, and should be capable of attracting day visitors or tourists as well as local residents.’

Although consideration is given in the report to both domestic UK visitors and inbound visitors from overseas, the focus of Mintel’s exclusive consumer research is the domestic market.

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