Cultural Attraction Visitation Down 6.6 Percent

A new survey from Morey Group released attendance, membership and pricing results of more than 240 museums, zoos, and aquariums throughout the U.S., noting that total attendance is down on average 6.6 percent in the fourth quarter compared to 2007. This decrease is even more significant when factoring in total attendance for the year was up 0.8 percent, which suggests visitation was higher for the year until the fourth quarter.

According to John Morey, Morey Group president, "For the year leading up to September, all cultural attraction segments were experiencing increases in attendance, but the impact of the economy cannot be denied and reduced those gains significantly."

Cultural attractions with an admission charge of $10 or more have been impacted most significantly with a 4.5 percent decrease in the fourth quarter while those with an admission charge of less than $10 actually gained attendance of 3.3 percent.

The decrease in fourth-quarter paid admissions was most significant among aquariums (21.0 percent) and zoos (12.5 percent). Museum and art museum paid attendance decreased 6.0 percent and 5.0 percent, respectively. The average adult admission cost was $10.81, up 6.7 percent from 2007. The average child admission cost was $7.07, up 5.7 percent from 2007.

Membership grew on average 4.3 percent, compared to 2007.

"The decrease in attendance is significant and is the first time we have seen the economy actually impact visitation,” said Morey.  “Typically, cultural attractions are relatively cheap forms of entertainment and as such are not impacted by the economy. The last time we saw a significant shift in visitation was after 9/11, but within six months, most visitation patterns returned to normal."

The percent error in this survey is ±5.8 percent.

The 2008 Cultural Attraction Attendance Report is available online at