THE number of overseas visitors coming to Scotland in the first six months of the year was up by 16% as the country saw a substantial rise in those travelling from America, new figures show.
There were 1,118,000 international visits from January to June, which tourism bosses said was the strongest first half of year figure for six years.
The amount spent by visitors was £575 million - marginally lower than the record breaking £620 million spent during the same period last year but still higher than any other year.
However, the data from July to September has not yet been released and is expected to impact heavily on the spend figures across Scotland as the country hosted the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup during that time.
Business trips saw the highest growth out of all visits during the six months as an increase of 41% saw a total of 238,000 visits compared to the same period last year, the VisitBritain figures revealed.
Holiday visits rose by 9% to a record high of 497,000, while the amount spent on visiting friends and family also reached a new record of £163 million.
American visits topped the table at 173,000 after a growth of 76%, with visits from Germany following at 161,000. These two markets also brought in the highest amount of tourist spending at £127 million and £64 million respectively.
Visits from China were more valuable than ever before, with this six-month period seeing tourism spending reach a new record of £20 million.
Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said the figures show the Year of Homecoming, a programme of events and activities showcasing Scotland, is providing a “unique opportunity” to encourage more visitors.
Other countries in the top 10 table for the number of visitors coming to Scotland were Ireland, Norway, Netherlands, France, Australia, Sweden, Canada and Poland.
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “2014 is the year that we predicted that Scotland would welcome the world and with a significant increase in overseas visitors, it seems we have done just that.
“Homecoming Scotland has had a significant impact on tourism. With record attendances at hundreds of events across the country, we have been able to make a concerted effort to reach out to the diaspora and the many visitors overseas who feel they have a connection to Scotland through ancestry, history and culture.
“Since 2012, development efforts have delivered over 80 new routes to Scottish airports with more and more announced year on year. In the last year alone, major inbound routes will have delivered hundreds of thousands of additional seats, bringing a remarkable number of new visitors to Scotland.”