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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 February 2006, 01:21 GMT
Attractions see dip in visitors
HMS Victory
Anniversary celebrations meant HMS Victory bucked the trend
Top UK tourist attractions saw a dip in visitor numbers as they battled for business in the aftermath of the July London bombings, figures have revealed.

The National Gallery had 4.2 million visitors - 15.2% fewer - in 2005 than 2004, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva) said.

The London Eye and Tate Modern also saw a 12% dip in numbers.

But Portsmouth Historic Dockyard saw a 22.4% rise, as it marked 200 years since the Battle of Trafalgar in 2005.

While the Tower of London fell to 1.9 million visitors (down 9.7%) the Science Museum to two million (down 7%) and the British Museum fell 6.8% to 4.5 million, Tate Britain attracted 1.7 million (up 58%) and Kew Gardens 1.5 million (up 25.6%).

As in most recent years, the top attraction was Blackpool Pleasure Beach, although numbers fell 3.3% to 5.97 million.

The home to Nelson's ship HMS Victory, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard saw more than 500,000 visitors last year, a rise of 22.4%.

Its managing director, Robert Bruce, said they had had two bites of the cherry in 2005, with the International Festival of the Sea in June and July, and the anniversary itself in October.

Extensive media coverage had helped to boost numbers, while events in London had "displaced" some of the domestic market, he added.

"Clearly the anniversary has caught people's imagination," he said, "and I don't think it will stop overnight. I think, with the Trafalgar effect, there will be some follow on."

'Time to recover'

Charles Saumarez Smith, director of London's National Gallery, said the bombings of 7 July had undoubtedly impacted on visitor numbers, while they were also dependent on trends and exhibitions.

The museum - the most visited in 2004 after seeing a 13.8% rise in numbers - had returned to 4.2 million visits from 4.9 million, as in 2003.

"All the evidence is if you have a big disaster, as we did on 7 July, it takes time for the overseas market to recover," he said.

While he believed Londoners had kept coming to the gallery, domestic visitors also "dropped off" but were returning as "it is easier to get back on train".

"I would be surprised if we weren't back to where we were in another 12 months," he said.

The figures do not include all Alva members as some, such as Alton Towers and Madame Tussauds, choose not to divulge annual statistics.

Although the US dollar recovered against sterling, it remained weak enough to curtail discretionary spending by many North American visitors
Robin Broke, Alva

Alva director Robin Broke said: "The London bombings on 7 July and the failed attempts on 21 July had a considerable impact in central London, especially on the domestic market, throughout the summer holidays.

"However, some sites outside central London benefited from additional displaced visitors.

"Although the US dollar recovered against sterling, it remained weak enough to curtail discretionary spending by many North American visitors."

Tom Wright, chief executive of the VisitBritain organisation, said: "Some of London's attractions certainly faced a difficult summer last year, as the attacks in July dampened domestic tourism particularly.

"However, 2005 was another strong year for inbound tourism to Britain with 30 million international visitors spending 14 billion here and a record 12.1 million customers spending over 375 million in London's theatreland."

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