ORGANISERS of the world's biggest clan gathering yesterday claimed the centrepiece event of Scotland's Homecoming celebrations is set to deliver an £8 million boost to the nation's economy.
Overseas visitors are expected to spend an average of ten days in Scotland centred on The Gathering in Edinburgh over the weekend of 25-26 July.
The predicted economic boom is 2 million more than anticipated when the event was announced two years ago, and represents a fifth of the entire 40 million financial boost Homecoming is hoped to deliver.
Organisers also said that only about 1,000 "passports" offering full access to all events at The Gathering – priced between 88 and 110 – are still available.
Tourism industry leaders say hotel bookings for the period are already higher than any other equivalent period throughout the year.
It is hoped thousands of Scots will descend on Edinburgh for the event, which will effectively kick off the capital's summer festivals season.
More than 150 different clans are expected to take part in The Gathering, which will feature two days of events at Holyrood Park, including a Highland Games, a parade up the Royal Mile and a clan pageant on the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade.
Visitors from the US and Canada have snapped up half of the 7,000 passes sold so far, with Australia and New Zealand taking up a further 12 per cent.
Jamie Sempill, director of The Gathering, said: "Research we have been carrying out indicates that the average length of stay for most of our overseas visitors is at least ten days.
"We had projected for the event to generate 6 million initially, but we've now revised that based on all the evidence we've been getting."
More than 40,000 spectators are expected to flock to Holyrood Park for the main events.
Major showcases of Scottish food and drink are planned, while a host of musical acts are being lined up, including Julie Fowlis, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Dougie MacLean, Capercaillie and Roddy Hart.
The Esplanade pageant will tell the history and development of the clans, and will feature pipers, massed bands and Highland dancers, as well as lighting and audio-visual effects.
Johanne Falconer, the area general manager for the Town House Company, which runs the Bonham, Channings and Howard hotels, said: "All of our hotels are relatively busy with just a few rooms to sell on that weekend. People are travelling from England, Ireland and the United States. Many of them have booked a year in advance."
Alan Chalmers, house manager at the Royal Over-Seas League in Princes Street, said: "We've been booked up for the weekend of The Gathering since last year and if we had more rooms we would easily fill them. This weekend is definitely drawing more people to the city."
Spotlight on diaspora's effects
ALL three presiding officers past and present of the Scottish Parliament are to head up a conference exploring the influence of "diaspora Scots".
Alex Fergusson, George Reid and Lord Steel will jointly chair the Scottish Diaspora Forum, which will be held at the Holyrood building to coincide with The Gathering in July.
It will look at the vision for the future of the Scots as a global diaspora and tackle the question: "What is Scottishness?".
Historian Tom Devine, Jonathan Mills, the director of the Edinburgh International Festival, and Dr Louise Richardson, principal of St Andrews University, will be among the speakers.
Mr Fergusson said: "The Scottish Diaspora Forum will provide a unique opportunity to reflect upon how Scots have shaped today's world." Free tickets are available from www.scottishdiasporaforum.org