Edinburgh zoo pandas still drawing crowds

Yang Guan and Tian Tian are a big draw. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Yang Guan and Tian Tian are a big draw. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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THE huge interest in ­Edinburgh’s Zoo’s giant pandas – in their second year in Scotland – helped to make the attraction one of the most popular in Scotland, according to official figures.

Numbers released today by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) show the zoo is beaten only by Edinburgh Castle when it comes to getting visitors to part with their hard-earned cash and is the second most popular paid-for attraction north of the ­Border.

Visitor numbers leapt by 51 per cent in the first year of Tian Tian and Yang Guang’s residency in Edinburgh. According to zoo officials, visitor numbers generally settle at 35 per cent above pre-panda numbers in the second year of residency, but Edinburgh Zoo is still maintaining a 40 per cent rise.

Barbara Smith, managing director of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said: “Edinburgh Zoo is delighted by this news. 2013 was a very successful year for us, bucking the trend for a panda zoo in year two with only a very small drop in visitor numbers compared to the first year of their arrival. It is testament to all that Edinburgh Zoo has to offer, as well as the ongoing popularity of Tian Tian and Yang Guang.

“We are extremely pleased to be one of the most visited attractions in Scotland.”

The most popular attraction in Scotland overall, attracting more than 1.7 million visitors, was the refurbished National Museum of Scotland, making it the most visited attraction outside London for the third year running.

Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of National Museums Scotland, said: “2013 has been a terrific year for National Museums Scotland and we are pleased and proud of these results, which demonstrate that we continue to capture the imagination of visitors. We have welcomed over five million visitors to the National Museum of Scotland since its reopening in summer 2011, a remarkable achievement for a country of only five million people.”

Edinburgh Castle is also ­celebrating welcoming more than 1.4 million visitors in 12 months, a first in the attractions long history.

Stephen Duncan, director of commercial and tourism for Historic Scotland, which runs the Castle and 77 other heritage attractions across the country, said: “2013 was a fantastic year with record-breaking figures, membership at an all-time high and Edinburgh Castle breaking the 1.4 million visitor mark for the first time.

“In terms of trends, we had anticipated an increase in travel trade numbers this year after a flattening out of numbers in 2012. However, the increase has exceeded all expectations. We are also ­benefitting from an increase in visitors from China and the emerging markets.”

The most popular attraction in the UK, welcoming 6.7 million ­visitors last year, was the ­British Museum in London.

LEADING LIGHTS

The top Scottish attractions were:

• The National Museum of Scotland (13th in UK);

• Edinburgh Castle (16);

• The Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow (24);

• The Scottish National Gallery (29);

• Edinburgh Zoo (33);

• The Riverside Museum in Glasgow (36);

• Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (37)