East of England visitor attractions top VisitEngland league table for growth

VisitEngland chief executive James Berresford on the beach at Aldeburgh.

VisitEngland chief executive James Berresford on the beach at Aldeburgh.

Visitor attractions the East of England have seen the biggest increase of numbers of any region in the country, according to a new survey.

VisitEngland’s Annual Atrractions Survey for 2014 reveals that visitor numbers at attractions in the East last year grew by 10% compared with 2013.

This compares with an average rise across England as a whole of 4%. All nine regions registered increases, with the North East (7%), the South East and the North West (both 6%), and the West Midlands (5%) also seeing above average growth.

However, the major destinations of London, the South West and Yorkshire saw increases of just 2%, behind the East Midlands on 3%.

VisitEngland said that warmer weather in 2014 has supported growth in coastal regions, which showed average growth of 7% – a factor which is likely to have contributed to the growth in the East.

All types of visitor attractions reported increased numbers with the exception of places of worship, which saw a decline of 5% compared with the previous year.

The strongest growth was reported by farms and visitor/heritage centres, which both reported 10% increases in visitor numbers.

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Above average growth was also reported by wildlife attractions/zoos (6%), and country parks, gardens and historic houses/castles (all 5%), with steam/heritage railways (4%) in line with the national trend.

However, growth was below average for other types of historic properties, leisure/theme parks and museums/art galleries (all 3%) and workplaces, such as breweries, distilleries, vineyards and craft centres, (1%).

Despite the East being the fastest growing region, none of its attractions make it into VisitEngland’s rankings of the country’s most popular attractions,

The Tower of London remained England’s most visited attraction in the paid for category with 3.1million visits, an increase of 6.5%, followed by Westminster Abbey with 1.8m visits.

Gross revenue across all attraction categories increased by 5% year-on-year. The East of England performed less strongly in this respect, with below average growth of 3%, compared with top performers Yorkshire and the North West (both 8%) and London (7%).

The South West, South East, East Midlands and North East were all in line with the national average on 5%, with the West Midlands on 4%.

The most popular free attraction, for the seventh year running, was the British Museum with 6.7m visitors, followed by the National Gallery on 6.4m.

VisitEngland chief executive James Berresford, said: “It is wonderful that attractions across the country are experiencing an increase in visitor numbers and the benefits are being felt across regions.

“We know that England has a fantastic range of unique and outstanding product, which generate high levels of satisfaction for visitors. Our attractions are core to England’s tourism offer; contributing to economic growth and employment and we are fortunate to have such a wonderful and wide variety available to suit all visitors.”

Tourism Minister Tracey Crouch said: “I’m delighted that more visitors are enjoying England’s world-class attractions, especially after English tourism experienced a record-breaking start to the year.

“I’m looking forward to working with the tourism industry to build on this success with the government’s new five point plan for tourism - which aims to attract even more tourists to experience our amazing attractions, create great careers, and help local economic growth.”

Amanda Bond, brand manager for Visit Suffolk, said: “It’s wonderful to see how well we are performing as a region which is a result of our fantastic range of experiences and quality of offer.

“Our attractions are a vital contribution to the local economy, with Suffolk attracting 25million day trips annually and spend of £895m,” she added.

“Earlier in the year, we welcomed the news that the region bucked the national trend with spend per trip up 13% year on year. Tourism in Suffolk is growing from strength to strength and Visit Suffolk continues to play a significant role in raising the county’s profile.”

George Kieffer, chairman of Visit Essex, added: “Throughout Essex a wide range of visitor attractions are reporting increased visitor numbers compared to last year, despite a relatively cold Spring.

“We are very encouraged to see increasing numbers of visitors discovering the diversity of attractions, facilities and restaurants available throughout Essex and we will continue to campaign to highlight the charms of our county.

“The new website we launched last month is a further element in Visit Essex’s work to highlight our offer to visitors from home and overseas.”