Scottish tourism chiefs have welcomed official statistics showing that the number of overseas visitors to Scotland is on the rise.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of overseas visitors who came to Scotland between January and September last year had increased by 7.9 per cent when compared with the same period in 2012.
Over the same period, overseas spend rose to £1,380 million, up from £1,161m for the same period in 2012, a rise 18.8 per cent.
The rise in foreign tourists was accompanied by a slight increase in the number of domestic visits, which went up by 1.3 per cent.
Domestic spend increased by 3 per cent when the same nine-month period was compared over 2013 and 2012. Combined overseas and domestic spend was up by 8.5 per cent.
The encouraging figures were helped by a rise in visitors to rural areas such as the Highlands and the South of Scotland, a trend which tourism bosses attributed to 2013’s status as the Year of Natural Scotland, which celebrated the country’s natural and historic landscapes.
Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland said: “We named 2013 the Year of Natural Scotland, and it certainly did us proud.
“VisitScotland’s confidence and continuing investment in European markets, despite unpredictable economic climates has proved tangible with a large rise in spend and visits from this continent overall.
“And of course new flight routes played their part with Air Canada Rouge and Virgin’s Little Red – to name but a few – linking up Scotland with the world.
“Strong growth in the domestic market has been fuelled by a rise in visitor numbers to rural areas including the Highlands and south of Scotland, which reflects the success of putting an emphasis on ‘the great outdoors’ in 2013.”
Mr Cantlay added: “After a challenging 2012, these results are simply stunning.
“It’s just the motivation Scotland needs as we head into 2014, the year that we welcome the world with an outstanding programme of global events including the Ryder Cup, Commonwealth Games, Homecoming Scotland and the MTV EMAs. We must keep the momentum going.”
Fergus Ewing, the tourism minister, said: “These encouraging figures come on the back of a strong summer that has helped our tourism industry enjoy continued growth.
“VisitScotland’s confidence to continue investing in European markets has proved successful as has the agency’s tourism drive in North America and the Far East.
“The rises in expenditure suggest that Scotland is thought of as a destination offering quality experiences and visitors are prepared to spend their money in our hotels, tourism attractions and restaurants as a result.
“Scotland offers a world-class tourism experience. This is why the Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014 has named Scotland as the third best country to visit in 2014.”