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Regional attractions show growth but London continues to dominate tourism picture

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City of London Corporation
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London continued to dominate the landscape as the UK's leading tourist destination, while an increase in domestic tourism resulted in growth for all regions outside of the capital.

According to VisitBritain, the free-to-enter British Museum was the UK’s most-visited attraction with 6.82 million people attending in 2015. The National Gallery and Natural History Museum rounded made up the top three, with Brighton Pier the only non-London attraction to break the top 13, ranking fifth with 4.6 million visitors.

The tower of london is the most paid for attraction in the UK by a significant margin, welcoming 2.78 million visitors in 2015, with Westminster Abbey a long way off in second, with 1.66 million people coming through its doors.

Outside of London, Chester Zoo, which opened its £40m Islands expansion last year, ranked as the highest paid-for attraction, drawing in a record 1.51 million visitors, up from 2014’s 1.43 million.

An independent report published in 2014 suggested that funding bias towards London for the arts is unfair. The report showed that £41.30 a head was being spent on the arts in London, compare to the second-highest £12.10 a head for the West Midlands.

According to the Museums Association, the longstanding imbalance was being further exacerbated by cuts in local government funding and the difficulty of raising philanthropic funding outside of the capital, which is still reflected by the latest set of visitor numbers released by VisitBritain.

Ranking both the UK’s top 20 free-to-visit and pay-to-visit attractions, of the 40 listed, more than half are in the UK capital, with 23 London attractions making the grade. Outside of London, the South East ranked second, with four visitor attractions – Brighton Pier, Ashmolean Museum, RHS Garden Wisley and Canterbury Cathedral – included.

Out of the 1,500 English attractions included in the survey, gardens, farms and theme parks reported the largest increase in visitors, each up 7 per cent, with wildlife attractions and country parks also seeing visitor numbers grow on average by 4 per cent.

Visits to rural and coastal attractions grew by 5 per cent and 4 per cent respectively, echoing VisitEngland research that shows an increase in domestic holidays to the seaside (up 7 per cent) and countryside (up 12 per cent) in 2015.

On a positive note for attractions outside the capital, all regions showed growth for visitor admission trends, the highest being the Midlands and Southwest, which both grew 6 per cent. London by comparison was the only region in decline, with admission dropping by 3 per cent.

"Year after year, our world-class tourist attractions continue to draw millions of visitors not just into London, but to the country as a whole,” said tourism minister, Tracey Crouch.

"Tourism contributes around £60bn (US$77.8bn, €69.8bn) to our economy every year and it is fantastic to see such strong growth across the regions, particularly in rural and coastal communities.”

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London continued to dominate the landscape as the UK's leading tourist destination, while an increase in domestic tourism resulted in growth for all regions outside of the capital.

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