Scotland’s economy: overseas tourist figures up but domestic ‘disappointing’

The North American market is driving overseas tourism spend in Scotland
The North American market is driving overseas tourism spend in Scotland
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Tourism leaders have welcomed news that the international tourism market to Scotland is booming, but warned that the official domestic figures, which have been delayed in their publication, are likely to be disappointing.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics published today revealed a three per cent increase in the number of trips and a nine per cent increase in spend among international visitors to Scotland in the past year, driven by strong demand from the North American market. Although the first three months of 2017 saw only a one per cent increase in overseas tourists, the amount of money they generated for the Scottish economy rocketed by 13 per cent compared to the previous year.

However, it is expected that the number of tourists visiting Scotland from elsewhere in the UK - those dubbed "staycationers" - is likely to be lower than in previous years when the figures are published later than expected.

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: “The latest visitor figures for Q1 are hugely encouraging and this should offer a welcome boost to the industry that we can continue to perform successfully as Scotland’s main economic driver during these periods of political and economic uncertainty.

“We are still awaiting publication of the domestic figures for 2016 which have been delayed so we don’t know the full tourism picture. However we anticipate a slight drop in the domestic market so today’s news brings renewed confidence in our international markets.”

The International Passenger Survey showed that overseas visitors from North America spent £641 million in the 12 months to the end of March 2017, a 40 per cent jump compared to £458 million in the previous 12 months.

There was a 19 per cent increase in visits from North America, more than 590,000 choosing Scotland as a destination in the 12 months to the end of March 2017 compared with the previous 12 months.

VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead, said: ““We will, of course, not rest on our laurels. We need to think bigger about Scotland as a tourism destination to ensure we fulfil our potential – every visitor must get a quality experience every single time.

“Our industry is the heartbeat of the Scottish economy, causing a ripple effect which touches every industry and community, creating employment and economic growth.”

Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The rise in overseas tourists is encouraging. Visitors are spending generously when they visit Scotland, particularly those coming from North America.

“Everyone involved in Scotland’s tourism industry is focused on offering an unforgettable visitor experience for people that choose our country as their holiday destination.”