Romantic lure of Scotland fuelling boom in US visitors

The welcoming nature of the Scottish people, a spiritual bond with its landscapes and the romance of hit TV show Outlander is fuelling a record boom in American visitors, new research has found.
Tourist visit the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty ImagesTourist visit the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Tourist visit the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

They are said to expect “a sense of welcome and inclusion” in Scotland in contrast to a fear that they may not be as welcome in other countries.

American visitors are said to be booking trips on the back of an “authentic feeling of connection to the Scottish people,” according to the study by national tourism agency VisitScotland. Scotland is also said to be capitalising on a desire to “feel a cosy feeling from a small welcoming country” and the need for a holiday which is “the opposite of superficial.”

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The number of American visitors soared to more than 700,000 in the 12 months to the end of June this year, an increase of 38 compared to the previous year. They spent an estimated £732 million - up 48 per cent on the previous year.

The average US visitor is believed to spend £1130 per trip, which lasts an average of nine days. One in three US visitors has ancestral links, while history and culture are said to inspired more than half to book a Scottish holiday.

The research states: “Consumers from the US expect vast landscapes in Scotland that are (unlike the US) wild and not managed, and green, not dry. They expect to be awed and inspired by the beauty and majesty of mountains and lochs. They expect the scenery to be breathtaking and dramatic, and they expect a variety of both rural and urban scenery.

“Scotland’s history and culture is a stronger motivator for visitors from the USA in comparison to domestic or European markets. Films and TV programmes about Scotland are also important prompts to visits for visitors from the US, especially Outlander. Being able to see castles is of particular importance and seen as a key benefit of a holiday here.

“They expect to feel an ever-present sense of history and imagine that they will experience or even ‘feel’ the mysteries of the past via legends, myths and romantic stories. It makes Scotland stand out.

“They expect a sense of welcome and inclusion. This contrasts to a feeling that visitors from the US may not be as welcome in other locations abroad. They expect to ‘feel at home’ on holiday in Scotland and to be moved at some level from their experiences.”

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Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland’s chief executive, said: “Not only are our US visitors fascinated by our history and culture, they’ve also fallen in love with our breathtaking, timeless landscapes. The Outlander effect has played a significant part in helping attract visitors from the US. Some historic attractions have shown staggering increases in visitor numbers as the series brings to life aspects of Scotland’s history, our people and culture.”

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