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Natural History Museum named UK’s most visited indoor attraction – but tourism industry suffering ‘long-COVID’

The Natural History Museum was the most visited indoor attraction in the UK for a second consecutive year, new figures show.

The London museum had 4,654,608 visitors last year, topping the British Museum, which had 4,097,253 visitors, and the Tate Modern, with 3,883,160 visitors, according to data from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva).

But it was Windsor Great Park that took the title of most visited attraction in the UK once again with 5,636,844 visits – a 4% increase on 2021.

Westminster Abbey, where the Queen’s funeral was held in September, saw one of the largest increases in visitor numbers in 2022, up 551% to 1,063,063 visits.

However, while figures were up 69% across all attractions last year compared to 2021, they were still 23% down on 2019 pre-COVID levels.

Director of ALVA, Bernard Donoghue, said the figures showed the UK tourism industry was experiencing the “tourism equivalent of long-COVID”.

“[This is] due, mainly, to the absence of international visitors, notably from China and the Far East, but I am confident that they will return this year and we will see a continuing healthy recovery,” he said.

“The year ended strongly with attractions reporting a very busy Christmas, strong visitor numbers and strong retail sales.

“People clearly wanted to create special memories with their loved ones after two difficult years and a challenging economic climate.”

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Commenting on the figures, The Natural History Museum’s director, Doug Gurr, said: “We are thrilled to have become the UK’s most popular indoor attraction for a second year running.

“It is a testament to our innovative and inspiring public programme of events and exhibitions.”

Among the popular attractions which drew in crowds to the Natural History Museum was the return of Dippy the Dinosaur following a four-year tour of the UK.

The 85ft-long (26m) plaster cast of a diplodocus skeleton, which was first put on display in the London museum in 1905, was seen by 1,060,813 visitors when it came back as part of a new installation from late May 2022 to January 2023.

The Our Broken Planet: How We Got Here and Ways to Fix It display, which engaged audiences with the planetary emergency, was also seen by 1.2 million visitors during its run from May 2021 to August 2022.

The popular Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition also garnered 148,671 visitors.

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