MORE than two million people flocked to key events during Scotland’s second Year of Homecoming, tourism leaders have revealed.
The £5.5 million initiative, timed to coincide with the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, was at the heart of the biggest ever campaign mounted by VisitScotland.
Extra funding was made available for 137 events throughout the country, almost half of which were being staged for the first time.
VisitScotland has credited the Homecoming campaign with a 16 per cent rise in overseas visitors during the first half of 2014 – before the two big sporting events were held – although the amount they spent over this period was down 7.3 per cent on the same six months in 2013.
The Scottish Government, which provided the bulk of the funding for the Homecoming campaign, yesterday hailed it as “a huge success”.
It is also unclear yet if the 2014 campaign will achieve an economic impact figure of £44m or attract an extra 70,000 visitors, targets set in advance by VisitScotland.
However, 1,049 different events agreed to be part of the final programme, even if they were not funded, compared to 411 in 2009.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
Last year’s year-long programme included one-off events to mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, the 50th anniversary of the Forth Road Bridge and the 100th anniversary of the death of conservationist John Muir.
Other highlights included a huge celebration to mark the unveiling of the giant horse head Kelpies sculptures in Falkirk, the Pipefest parade through the streets of Stirling, a new music festival on the Isle of Eigg, the first national celebration of malt whisky, and a night-time light show at Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden.
Tourism minister Fergus Ewing said: “Homecoming has been a huge success, bringing millions together in a joint celebration of all that is great about our country and showcasing our unique attractions and icons to a massive worldwide audience.”
VisitScotland chairman Mike Cantlay said the events programme had touched “every single corner of the country”.
He added: “I am unaware of any other country in the world our size which has delivered events on such a scale and with such prowess.”
The 2009 campaign, held to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, generated almost £54 million and brought in an extra 95,000 visitors, according to an official report, although at the time critics accused VisitScotland of exaggerating its benefit.Economic consultants brought in five years ago found that the 111 funded events in the Homecoming programme attracted 1.78 million visitors.
However, VisitScotland said that final visitor numbers for Homecoming 2014 would not be published until the spring, when the full economic impact of the initiative should also be known.
A spokeswoman said: “There are obviously still more funded events which need to submit their reports so that attendance figure will increase further as we move closer to the full economic impact report being available.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS