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Not its funding, you understand, its visitor numbers. Thanks to a long, hot summer, favourable exchange rates and a post-Olympic “bounce”, the tourism industry enjoyed a record-breaking 32 million visits to Britain in 2013, the highest number since records began.

As a result, tourism earnings soared 12.7 per cent to an unprecedented £21 billion. London overtook Paris as the world’s most popular tourism destination with 16.8 million visits, thanks to a “post-Olympic boom” and a surge in the popularity of the British Royal Family coinciding with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and the birth of Prince George. Visitor numbers in the rest of England, Scotland and Wales grew by as much as 10 per cent.

At Stonehenge English Heritage reported an 18.9 per cent rise in visitors last year with their spokesman reporting “We had a fantastic year, with more than half of all visitors to Stonehenge coming from abroad…”.

The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions are even more bullish: “The rest of the country outside of the capital is set to get an even bigger slice of the tourism cake in future. On their first visit to the UK tourists pretty much exclusively head to London, but our research shows that on their second and third visits, they are actually more likely to visit the rest of the country, to explore its heritage history and countryside.”

A couple of things are worth considering: First, isn’t it irrational that while heritage tourism income is soaring, heritage funding is plummeting? Second, isn’t it puzzling how, when Stonehenge visitor numbers are soaring, there are still calls for Free and Open access to the place? How will that work then?


May 2014

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