THE number of overseas tourists to visit Scotland slumped last year, new figures have shown, resulting in a 13 per cent drop in expenditure by foreign tourists during the key summer holiday period.
A 4.7 per cent rise in overseas visitors to the UK outperformed a 1 per cent annual drop in the number of foreign tourists who travelled to Scotland last year, a new report from the Office for National Statistics and VisitScotland showed.
The amount spent by overseas travellers also fell compared to last year, dropping by two per cent in the 12 months to September – driven by a 13 per cent fall between July to September.
However, high profile events such as the British Open boosted “staycation” visitors north of the Border by 9 per cent last year, with expenditure up 14 per cent. Domestic overnight visits account for over 80 per cent of all tourism visits to Scotland.
Overall, the number of people visiting Scotland, both domestically and overseas, rose by 7 per cent to 15.5 million in the year to September, while total expenditure hit more than £5 billion – 8 per cent higher than the previous year – for the first time.
Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said: “This is an excellent set of figures that shows Scottish tourism goes from strength to strength.
“Scotland’s tourism offer is unrivalled and, despite last summer’s washout weather, over a million more visitors came to Scotland, spending eight per cent more compared to the year before.
“That’s solid proof that people are prepared to come here to enjoy our natural assets, tourism attractions and quality experiences, and to spend in our hotels, shops and restaurants. With world class events like last year’s British Open at St Andrews, and a hugely successful Year of Food and Drink, these figures are something to celebrate.”
He pointed to this year’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design as a potential driver for tourism in the coming twelve months.
Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland said: “Scottish tourism continues to thrive and grow despite a backdrop of difficult economic trading conditions hitting the travel industry throughout the world.
“Many thought 2014 would be the big year for Scottish tourism, but I’m thrilled to see a continuing strong performance in 2015.”