In total the 23 hectare site near Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire welcomed 90,007 visitors during the 2016 calendar year, up from 74,946 in 2015. That was up from around 58,000 in 2012.
Priest said the boost was helped by its best autum colour in 30 years but was essentially down to long-term planning and investment, particularly the £1.8m pumped into a new visitor centre.
"We’ve had two cracking years. I think without a doubt really good autumn colour played a part and I think people are beginning to learn about the new facilities, and are telling people through word of mouth.
"The investment we put in was well worth it it’s paid for itself," Priest said. "Now by the end of September I know we’ve had a good year and where we used to worry sick about whether we had a good October, now if we do it’s the icing on the cake.
"Now we can invest back into the infrastructure which is fantastic. We’ve got ourselves into a really strong position, visitor numbers are going up. We’ve spent 10 years on purpose planting – more snowdrops, magnolias, wild orchid areas, wildflowers - at certain times of year because everyone thinks of an arboretum as autumn colour, and we have been advertising that. Now it’s four to five months of colour from spring and autumn, which everyone thinks about, is two or three weeks.
"I think it’s all started to come together now, 10 years of hard work and planning and the investment has come good, we’re really chuffed with ourselves."