Visitor numbers to Scottish attractions soar by ten per cent

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Visitor numbers to key tourist sites in Scotland have rocketed by nearly ten per cent, as Chinese visitors flock to Loch Ness and TV fans seek out Jacobite ruins.

Over 30 million visits were made to 450 of Scotland’s best known visitor attractions last year, a rise of 9.7 per cent and the fourth consecutive year of growth.

Urquhart Castle beside Loch Ness. Picture: Contributed

Urquhart Castle beside Loch Ness. Picture: Contributed

The Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) said The group, which represents a range of sites from castles to galleries and wildlife parks, also said that Loch Ness continued to grow as a tourist interest, while locations linked to popular TV series Outlander also performed well.

The two top sites – The National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle – each attracted more than two million visits, the first time that any visitor attraction in Scotland has surpassed the two million milestone. Overall, more than three quarters of attractions reported an increase over 2016 figures, with a significant number noting that 2017 was their “best year to date”.

While Edinburgh continued to take the lion’s share of the tourism market, attractions in the vicinity of Loch Ness, including the medieval fortress of Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness by Jacobite, which offers cruises on the loch, continued to demonstrate above average growth with increases in visitor numbers of 23 per cent and 29 per cent respectively. The report said that both attractions are benefiting from a programme of visits of around 30,000 per year from a tour operator specialising in the Chinese market.

Meanwhile, the “Outlander effect”, which has seen visitors flock to locations used in the hit TV series based on the books by Diana Gabaldon, widened to include increased interest other Jacobite sites such as Castle Fraser in Inverurie, which saw visitor numbers rise by almost 50 per cent.

Douglas Walker, chairman of ASVA, said: “These figures demonstrate that the visitor attractions sector in Scotland is in robust health. Attractions that have invested in their visitor offer by developing innovative new products and services and launching inspiring events and exhibitions programmes, supported by creative and effective marketing campaigns, are not only reaching new visitor markets but are actively encouraging their existing visitors to return time and again”.

Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “With Scotland’s iconic tourist sites attracting over 30 million visits, 2017 was another hugely successful year for our world-class visitor attractions.

“Tourism is of vital importance to communities throughout Scotland, stimulating economic growth and promoting the importance of our cultural heritage to a wider audience.”