Tourist numbers down - but those who do come are spending more

Visitors enjoy an opentop bus sightseeing tour of Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL
Visitors enjoy an opentop bus sightseeing tour of Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL
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Scotland’s foreign visitor numbers fell in the 12 months to March as tourism campaigns failed to keep pace with the previous year’s line-up of high profile events such as the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup.

The number of tourists from overseas dropped by 8 per cent compared to the previous year – set against buoyant visitor numbers from the summer of 2014, when foreign sports fans flocked to Scotland.

Meanwhile, combined overseas and domestic visits to Scotland dipped by 7 per cent, according to the Office for National Statistics – although expenditure for these markets rose by 2 per cent in the year to end of March.

The tourism market showed signs of a strong recovery in the first three months of the year, however, as figures for quarter one of 2016 showed a spike in visitor numbers of 27 per cent compared to the same time in 2015.

Domestic tourists spent more than £200 million more in visits to Scotland in the last year, 8 per cent up on the previous year. Meanwhile the 300,000 European tourists who visited Scotland in the first three months of 2016 – a rise from 206,000 the previous year – spent £108m, £31m higher than the same period in 2015. The number of visitors from North America, however, was down by 16 per cent.

VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead said: “In a difficult economic and political climate, it is our role to ensure Scotland stays at the forefront of travellers’ minds with continued investment in airline routes, infrastructure, digital innovation and promotion.”

Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Spending from domestic visitors has increased despite the industry operating under challenging conditions.

“European tourists, in particular, continue to flock to Scotland and are spending more.”