TOURIST attractions across Scotland had a welcome boost in visitor numbers last year despite the rising cost of living and inflationary pressures, figures have shown.

Attractions recorded 48,635,638 visits in 2023, an increase of 7,133,336 since 2022 as the sector saw a return to the numbers enjoyed pre-Covid.

Data from the Moffat Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University, and the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA), shows free attractions racked up 30,605,269 visits, up 4,354,960 on the previous year.

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The overall number of visitors to paid-for attractions increased 19.2% in 2023 to 18,080,369.

Edinburgh Castle remained the most popular paid for attraction in Scotland, with numbers increasing last year by 41.5% to 1,904,723 since 2022.

The National Museum of Scotland remained the number one free attraction with numbers increasing 10.8% to 2,186,841.

National Galleries Scotland: National recorded a 43.8% increase to 1,836,057; while St Giles Cathedral was up 37.6% to 1,473,211; and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, up 32.2% to 1,283,882; also enjoyed a busy year.

Banksy’s first exhibition in 14 years saw visitor numbers for Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art jump by 60.4% since 2022 to 510,936.

The Royal Yacht Britannia welcomed 361,175 visitors in 2023, up 51.1%.

Chris Greenwood, senior research fellow at the Moffat Centre, said: “Despite many headwinds experienced by businesses and consumers, visitor numbers have been robust. The overall performance is very positive.

“Consumer sentiment studies have shown greater price sensitivity among consumers relating to travel and tourism but a desire to travel remains.

“Price-sensitive visitors have a wealth of free attractions to choose from and our paid attractions continue to appeal to both international and domestic visitors alike.”

A total of 616 attractions across Scotland provided data for this year’s visitor attraction monitor report.

Michael Golding, chief executive of ASVA, said: “Our sector’s relentless focus on delivering exceptional visitor experiences has been key to our recovery.

“The consistent upward trend in visitor numbers year after year is a result of the hard work of businesses.

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“This resurgence of visitors is crucial, not only to our attractions and the tourism sector but also plays a significant role in bolstering the wider Scottish economy and supporting the communities that surround these attractions.”

“Despite facing ongoing challenges, our unwavering commitment to quality ensures Scotland’s position as a preferred destination for both UK and international visitors, promising continued growth, innovation, and sustainability.”