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The BBC's Rachel Ellison
"Top of the league by far was Blackpool Pleasure Beach"
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Monday, 1 May, 2000, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Monet mania pulls in the tourists
Royal Academy
The Royal Academy joins Britain's top attractions
The Royal Academy's ground-breaking decision to hold Britain's first 24-hour art show has helped make a top tourist attractions.

The stampede to see an acclaimed exhibition by Impressionist master Monet helped push the RA into the English Tourism Council's top 10 tourist pulls of 1999.

Top 10 attractions charging admission in 1999
1. Alton Towers
2. Madame Tussaud's
3. Tower of London
4. Natural History Museum
5. Legoland
6. Chessington World of Adventures
7. Science Museum
8. Royal Academy
9. Canterbury Cathedral
10. Windsor Castle

Visitor numbers leapt from 912,714 in 1998 to 1.39m last year, boosting the academy from 19th to eighth place in the table.

Alton Towers theme park remained the top draw with 2.65m visitors last year, followed by Madame Tussaud's waxwork museum with 2.64 million and the Tower of London with 2.42m.

Legoland in Windsor ran a longer season and jumped two places to fifth with 1.62m visitors.

Westminster Abbey attracted 1.27m visitors and was 11th most popular in the first full year of charging an entrance fee for the whole building.

Overall visits to attractions rose by 1% last year, reversing the 1998 trend when numbers fell for the first time in seven years, the ETC said.

Monet painting
Visitors flocked to see Monet's works
Good summer weather saw visits to outdoor locations like farms increase by 7% and to country parks, gardens and steam railways by 4%.

In contrast indoor attractions suffered from a decline in overseas visitors, causing a 0.5% drop in visits to historic properties and a 1% fall in museum visits.

Free attractions continued to pull in the crowds last year with visits up by almost 2%.

Blackpool Pleasure beach retained its position as the most popular free attraction with an estimated 7.2m visits, followed by the British Museum with 5.46m visits.

"The UK's established attractions are still very popular, but there is no room for complacency," warned ETC chief executive Mary Lynch.

"The rise in visits last year does not bring the figures back to pre-1998 levels and consumer demand appears to be sluggish at best.

"There are many new attractions coming on stream this year funded by the lottery and they will have to compete for people's leisure time alongside other activities like Sunday or leisure shopping.

"Commitment to quality will need to continue to be a top priority for attractions who want to hold on to their market share."

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See also:

19 Apr 99 | Entertainment
Monet show leaves big impression
18 Apr 99 | Entertainment
Academy's last Monet spinner
18 Apr 99 | Entertainment
Art-around-the-clock closes Monet show
20 Jan 99 | Entertainment
London goes Monet mad
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