THE full scale of the torrid times faced by Scottish tourism has emerged, after figures revealed the value of the sector had slumped by almost £200 million in the space of a year – equivalent to more than £500,000 a day.
• Visitors to Scotland dropped by four per cent last year, according to latest figures
• Olympics, bad weather and economic climate blamed for downturn
• Spending in Scotland down 6.3 per cent, and the number of trips into Scotland from overseas down 5.3 per cent
Around 600,000 fewer visitors came to Scotland throughout 2012 compared with the previous 12 months, according to figures published in a study for the Office for National Statistics yesterday.
That represented a slump of around 4 per cent – the same figure given for the drop in spending from overnight visitors from across the UK and overseas.
Industry leaders have blamed the impact of the economic downturn, prolonged bad weather and competition from the London Olympics. The drop in figures had been predicted by many experts after a difficult summer north of the Border.
Visits from overseas were particularly badly affected, with the total number of trips down 5.3 per cent, to 2.2 million, and spending down 6.3 per cent, to £1.4 billion.
The value of the domestic tourism industry in Scotland was down 4.2 per cent, to £2.89bn, with the number of overnight stays dropping 4.6 per cent to 12.8 million.
The official figures emerged just days after Mike Cantlay, the chair of VisitScotland, described the environment for tourism businesses as the toughest since the start of the economic downturn.
However, the UK market, which is responsible for the bulk of tourism business in Scotland, staged a recovery in the final three months of the year, with the number of visits up 4.5 per cent.
The hardest-hit period for the industry in Scotland was during the summer, when the overall number of visitors was down
12 per cent.
Mr Cantlay said: “There’s no doubt the combination of national and international events in 2012 – with the Olympics, bad weather, unstable economic climate and suspension of connecting flights to Scotland – have resulted in tough trading conditions for our industry.
“However, we need to look forward, learn from the negatives and build on the positives.
“VisitScotland will continue to invest in and support the tourism industry, ensuring the country does not miss out on the opportunities presented by the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and Homecoming in 2014.”
The Scottish Government said last year had been “challenging” for the industry, but pointed out that the key North American market had recorded an increase of 13 per cent in its value, up £41 million.
Tourism minister Fergus Ewing said: “There are signs of recovery in the last quarter of 2012. However, it is clear the industry has had a tough time due to the Olympics and miserable weather conditions.”