Homecoming fails to attract foreign tourists

Station Stories at Glasgow Queen Street Station was one of the Homecoming events looking  to attract people of Scottish ancestry to come to Scotland. Picture: John Devlin
Station Stories at Glasgow Queen Street Station was one of the Homecoming events looking to attract people of Scottish ancestry to come to Scotland. Picture: John Devlin
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ONLY nine per cent of the visitors who attended a year-long tourism drive to encourage the Scottish diaspora to return home came from overseas, a report shows.

The vast majority of the people who attended events connected to the Scottish Government’s Homecoming 2014 already lived in Scotland and made day trips to festivals and concerts that made up the Homecoming programme.

It should be the priority of an event called Homecoming to have a global reach

Murdo Fraser

The study also found that most people who spent money on staying overnight at were not tourists but event staff.

The project, led by tourism body VisitScotland, was aimed at motivating ancestral Scots, the people of Scotland and “all those with an affinity to Scotland” to visit the country and engage in five themes: ancestry, creative, active, natural, food and drink.

A total of 326,000 overseas visitors cited Homecoming as the “primary reason” for travelling to Scotland in 2014, the study found. However, overseas visitors made up just nine per cent of the total, or 400,000 people.

Meanwhile, most people attending Homecoming 2014 events such as Bannockburn Live and the John Muir Festival were from Scotland, with about half coming from the local area.

Most were day visitors rather than overnight tourists, the report said. Of those who stayed overnight, “a significant proportion” were on business, helping to stage the events.

Scottish Conservative tourism spokesman Murdo Fraser said: “While there were obvious successes in 2014, it’s clear more needs to be done to attract visitors from overseas. It should be the priority of an event called Homecoming to have a global reach.

“Otherwise there is a risk of it simply becoming a glorified example of ‘staycationing’, which is of less benefit to the country than overseas income.”

The report also found that Homecoming 2014, which saw more than 1,000 events take place over a 12-month period, generated £136 million of additional revenue to the Scottish economy and resulted in £94 million net additional expenditure by visitors.

Tourism minister Fergus Ewing said: “Scotland welcomed the world in 2014 and this report shows the substantial impact that Homecoming 2014 had on the Scottish economy.

“The Homecoming celebrations were used to showcase Scotland on the international stage as a dynamic and creative nation.”

The year-long event was the second year of Homecoming to take place in Scotland. The first event came under a cloud after its flagship event, The Gathering, was given an emergency bailout of £180,000 from the Scottish Government following the collapse of the private company running the event.

Plans to hold a second Gathering of the Clans during Homecoming 2014 were scrapped.

Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: “2014 was an incredible year. From culture to food and drink, nature to ancestry, more than 1,000 events across the country showed the world just how incredible Scotland is – and visitors from home and abroad flocked to see us.”