Overseas visitors are showing a slow return to DCMS-sponsored museums and galleries after the pandemic, according to new figures released by the Government department.

Between April 2021 and March 2022, it reports an estimated 1.3 million visits by overseas residents to DCMS-sponsored museums and galleries.

The figures reflect a partial recovery over the 12 month financial year, some of which was still heavily impacted by lockdown rules.

The number is nearly 23 times higher than in the previous year, 2020/2, when there were just 54,000 overseas visits during the height of the lockdown.

But overseas visitors were still 94% fewer than the 22.7 million in 2018/19, the last financial year completely unaffected by the pandemic.

The 2021/22 financial year included some museum gardens and outdoor sites reopening from April 12 2021. Some museums reopened from 17 May 2021 with restrictions remaining in place. Legal restrictions related to the pandemic ended 19 July 2021.

‘Plan B’ measures in England following the spread of the Omicron variant were put in place in December 2021 and were removed in January 2022.

The figures come from the majority of the 15 DCMS-sponsored museums and galleries, which include the likes of the British Museum, Imperial War Museums, National Museums Liverpool, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum Group and the Tate Gallery Group.

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Total number of overseas and domestic visits to DCMS-sponsored museums and galleries, 2018:19 to 2021:22 (DCMS)
Total number of overseas and domestic visits to DCMS-sponsored museums and galleries, 2018:19 to 2021:22 (DCMS)

The Museum of the Home and the National Portrait Gallery were excluded from the most recent figures as both were closed throughout the financial year.

DCMS said the decrease in overseas visitors to museums mirrors the decrease in overseas visitors to the UK, with overseas residents making 10 million visits to the UK in 2021/22, a 75% decrease from 40.0 million in 2018/19.

There were a total of 17.1 million combined domestic and overseas visits to DCMS-sponsored galleries and museums in 2021/22, a decrease of 64% from the pre-pandemic 2018/19 year, but more than five times larger than the 2.6 million in 2020/21.

A separate DCMS report today shows that for the year 2021/22, DCMS-funded cultural organisations generated a total of £413.3 million through fundraising income, excluding donated objects, which it said was a real term increase of 12.3% from 2020/21 and an increase of 6.8% from 2018/19 which is the last financial year unaffected by Covid-19.

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