Museum visits rise as Britons holiday at home

Mon Oct 19, 2009 7:16pm EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - British tourist attractions such as the Roman spa at Bath received more visitors this summer than last, as penny-wise Britons spent their holidays at home, an industry body said on Tuesday.

British tourists are likely to stay put next summer as well, after the country's foremost museums, cathedrals, gardens and zoos welcomed 3.4 percent more visitors between May and August 2009 than a year earlier, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) said.

"People stayed in Britain because it was very expensive to go abroad," said Robin Broke, director of the industry body that represents attractions such as the British Museum and Buckingham Palace.

Next year, he said, "people will still be concerned about their jobs. Their disposable income probably will still be pretty tight."

ALVA said the National Portrait Gallery reported a 23 percent increase in visitors while Bath's Roman baths recorded a rise of 6 percent.

Owing to the financial crisis and a weaker pound, which has fallen 4 percent against the euro since January, many in Britain chose to holiday at home this summer, a phenomenon dubbed "staycationing."

Although the number of foreign visitors to Britain fell 9 percent in the first eight months of the year, spending by foreigners dropped only 1 percent, Broke said.

"They actually spent almost the same as they spent the previous year," he said. "They are finding Britain good value."

For 2009 as a whole, Broke said he expected a drop of 5 percent in international tourists, with travel picking up in the latter half of the year as economies stabilized.   Continued...