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MGS advocates for tourism impact of museums and galleries

Two adults stand and look up at a display of vintage cars.

On Monday 18th March MGS CEO Lucy Casot met with the Scottish Parliament cross-party tourism group to deliver a presentation on the importance of museums and galleries to tourism in Scotland. 

MSPs and key tourism sector stakeholders learned about opportunities which museums and galleries have identified to attract visitors, engage with communities, and contribute towards local and national economies.  

Following recent news that Scottish museums and galleries rank among the most-visited attractions in the UK, Lucy spoke of the vital role of the museum sector in attracting domestic and international audiences. Through diverse collections and dynamic engagement, museums and galleries have achieved national and international recognition for delivering unique, inclusive, and high-quality visitor experiences. 

A large black cylindrical boiler situated in front of a single-storey building with white walls and a grey roof. In the foreground is a yellow-trimmed doorway which bears the text "Scapa Flow Museum".
Scapa Flow Museum was shortlisted for ArtFund's Museum of the Year award 2023. Photo credit: Orkney Museums, Orkney Islands Council.

Lucy also raised a number of challenges currently faced by the museum sector, with budget cuts and underinvestment in capital infrastructure – followed by a difficult post-pandemic recovery – leading to limited capacity and low morale. 

She highlighted that additional resources and funding will enable museums and galleries to increase their economic impact, further their contributions towards Scottish tourism, and play a greater role in supporting the strategic objectives of the Scottish Government.  

A spotlight on The Burrell Collection and Scapa Flow Museum demonstrated the clear value of this approach. Transformed by upfront investment, both venues were shortlisted for ArtFund Museum of the Year 2023. The Burrell Collection, which won this award, has gone on to welcome over one million visitors since re-opening in 2022. 

In emphasising the adaptive, innovative, and collaborative nature of both Museums Galleries Scotland and the wider museum sector, Lucy presented the cross-party tourism group with a strong call-to-action for Scotland’s museums and galleries to receive further investment and build deeper partnerships. 

Additional funding, coupled with deeper engagement with cross-portfolio activity, stronger partnership with tourism sector bodies and tourism decision-making structures, will enable the museum sector to unlock its full potential. 

Museums, galleries, and Scottish tourism: key facts

  • New ALVA figures show Scotland outperforming the rest of the UK for visitor recovery – visitors are up an average 21% at leading attractions in 2023. 
  • The figures also show that 6 out of the top 10 of most visited free attractions in Scotland are museum and gallery organisations.
  • The National Museum of Scotland was the top free visitor attraction in the UK outside of London in 2023, recording over 2 million visitors. 
  • 2019-2020 on-site at museums and off-site spending by museum visitors amounted to an estimated £900 million of added value to the Scottish economy.  
  • It is estimated that a total of £115.1 million direct, indirect, and induced Gross Value Added is generated within the museum sector and its supply chain.  
  • The work of an estimated 4,930 volunteers in museums and galleries is valued between £3.9 million and £4.4 million per annum.