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The Impact of Covid-19 on Visitor Attractions

Fri 1 Oct 21

The latest survey of Scotland's visitor attractions has revealed that the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to devastate the sector – and it has seen no evidence of a ‘staycation boom’.

Conducted on behalf of ASVA: Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions by Glasgow Caledonian University’s Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Development, the survey on business performance and prospects highlights that survival rather than recovery is the current priority for operators.

Less than half of the sector (48.1%) is currently fully open and more than one in 10 attractions remain closed. A further 40.9% are operating with reduced hours or limited facilities because of the impacts of both the pandemic and Brexit.


Glasgow Science Centre


The pandemic has had a truly devastating impact on Scotland’s visitor attractions and these latest results provide further evidence that this impact is still very much being felt. I cannot emphasise strongly enough that, despite a number of media reports to the contrary, there’s been no ‘staycation boom’ or widespread economic recovery for our sector this year, and we face a very challenging winter period ahead.

With very few international visitors and restrictive regulations that severely limited viable trading throughout the spring and summer, the window of opportunity to trade successfully has been extremely limited and, as a result, we’re still concerned about the survival, not the recovery, of much of our sector as we move into the off-season.

ASVA CEO, Gordon Morrison

Key findings from the survey


  • More than a third of attractions (34.3%) are not currently operating at an economically sustainable level.
  • Turnover is down by over 50% at over a third of attractions (35.8%) in 2021 when compared to the same period in 2019, with only one in 20 (5.5%) operating with a turnover at or above 2019 levels.
  • More than one in five attractions has less than three months' financial reserves as they head into the off-season.
  • Almost half (47.5%) of the sector has seen a decrease in visitor numbers of greater than 50% in 2021, compared to the same period in 2019.

With fewer than 8% of attractions reporting visitor numbers at or above pre-pandemic levels, it’s clear that, despite media reports suggesting tourism has benefited from a ‘staycation boom’, there has been no widespread economic recovery for Scotland’s attractions this year.

Despite the economic challenges they face, the number one priority for attractions continues to be keeping staff and visitors safe. They have maintained the very highest standards of safety throughout the pandemic; this hasn’t changed even as restrictions have been eased. The fact that over 90% of the sector continues to operate with measures above and beyond those required by law demonstrates its ongoing commitment to ‘stopping the spread’ in Scotland – even when that can be, and often is, to the detriment of business performance.

Now more than ever, our sector – which is so important to our country’s £11 billion tourism industry – desperately needs continued support from both the government and the public to survive and make it through what will be a very challenging winter period. We know that many attractions will be extending their season into the winter this year in an effort to recoup lost income, and I’d urge the people of Scotland and rest of the UK to get out and explore the wonderful and varied experiences they offer.

Visitors can expect to enjoy unique, memorable experiences and the warmest of welcomes, along with the highest standard of safety measures. Moreover, with significantly fewer overseas visitors, there are currently more opportunities to explore and experience our world-class attractions with far less of the hustle and bustle often associated with visiting popular sites.

ASVA CEO, Gordon Morrison


You can read ASVA’s summary report on the findings of the Moffat Centre survey or access the full survey report.

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