In numbers: How important is tourism to Scotland?

Edinburgh UK Aug 06 2015; The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo take place at Edinburgh Castle. credit steven scott taylor / J P License
Edinburgh UK Aug 06 2015; The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo take place at Edinburgh Castle. credit steven scott taylor / J P License
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FIGURES released by the National Office of Statistics reveal that the number of tourists in Scotland increased by 10% last year, how important is tourism to the Scottish economy?

Tourism is now one of Scotland’s most vibrant sectors, the money it generates plays a vital part in Scotland’s economic growth.

Tourism employment in Scotland. Picture: Visit Scotland

Tourism employment in Scotland. Picture: Visit Scotland

Spending by tourists increased by 10 per cent last year, bringing the total to £4.9 billion. This spending contributed 5 per cent to the overall Scottish GDP.

Despite the number of foreign visitors falling by 1 per cent throughout 2014, spending from overseas travellers increased by 13 per cent and 49 per cent by domestic visitors.

A total of 15.7 million visitors arrived in Scotland in 2014 - triple the country’s resident population.

The high volume of tourists was reflected in the number of visits to Scottish attractions, which also hit a record high, according to research by Glasgow Caledonian University. Six sites were visited over one million times, including the National Museum of Scotland, which racked up a total of 1.6 million visits in the year.

Scotland’s historic environment is estimated to contribute £2.3 billion to the economy

Top 10 visitor attractions:

Venue Visits 2014

National Museum of Scotland 1,639,509

Edinburgh Castle 1,480,676

Scottish National Gallery 1,295,015

Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum 1,121,995

Riverside Museum 1,049,834

St Giles Cathedral 1,029,359

Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop 813,304

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 806,810

Edinburgh Zoo 671,941

Gallery of Modern Art 622,284

During the Commonwealth Games, visitor numbers to Glasgow increased by 34 per cent and generated £282 million visitor spending. This spending was spread across several industries including cultural and creative. Accommodation occupancy was impacted and peaked at 95 per cent throughout the 11-day long event.

Vital employment opportunities are created by tourism reflected in figures measured by the Scottish Government’s Tourism Growth Sector. Employment in tourism-related industries accounted for around 8.5 per cent of overall employment in Scotland in 2011.

Scotland’s Year of Homecoming, organised by the events sector, generated £136m for the economy. Over 1,000 Homecoming events took place across the country and attracted 326,000 visitors to various towns and cities. Events including Bannockburn Live, the John Muir Festival, the Forth Bridges Festival and Highland Homecoming showcased the best of Scottish culture and heritage.

According to a report published by the Historic Advisory Council, Scotland’s historic environment is estimated to contribute £2.3 billion to the economy, supporting 60,000 jobs in the tourism and construction industries.

Scotland’s creative and culture sector is also directly impacted by the presence of tourists. Scotland hosts more than 200 cultural festivals a year, including those in Edinburgh. In 2011, a study of Edinburgh’s festivals showed they contributed over a quarter of a billion pounds to Scotland’s economy while supporting more than 5,000 jobs. More than 2 million tickets for the festival were issued in 2014, for the first time its history.

Tourism is extremely vital to the success of the Scotland’s economy. Its effects are evident, not only in the number of visits to attractions but to our continuingly evolving industries. Work is now underway on the second programme of themed years which is to focus on Food and Drink in 2015 and Innovation, Architecture and Design in 2016.