Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of visitors to Scotland over the past year grew by 5 per cent to more than 15 million, helped by events such as the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup – and bucking the trend seen in the rest of the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, Britons are now making more trips abroad than at any time since the early part of the last decade. UK residents made 60.1 million visits overseas in 2014 – up 4.1 per cent on 2013 – with Spain the most-visited destination.
American tourists increased the amount they spent by 48 per cent compared with the previous year. However, most visitors came from Europe. Experts said the introduction of new flights to destinations in Europe, the Middle East and North America – including a route between Edinburgh and Toronto, launched in summer 2013 – had helped boost visitor numbers.
A new daily service between Edinburgh and New York’s JFK airport, run by American Airlines, has just launched this month.
There was a 3 per cent increase in visits to Scotland from tourists living in other parts of the UK in 2014. However, domestic tourism expenditure fell by 1 per cent.
The rest of the UK suffered a 7 per cent decrease in domestic visits and a 2 per cent decrease in tourism expenditure.
VisitScotland chairman Mike Cantlay said: “They say strength comes in numbers and with results like these, there is no denying Scotland’s tourism might.
“It was our mission to welcome the world in 2014 and we did just that with an astounding number of people travelling to our shores to experience the unprecedented number of world-class events, the exceptional welcome from the Scottish people and of course our breathtaking landscapes which never cease to amaze.”
He added: “2014 was amazing, but it is just the beginning, not the end. We must now reposition ourselves for the second part of this decade, build on momentum and ensure the right investment is made at the right time.”
He added that events planned for 2015, which as the Turner Prize and World Gymnastics Championships, as well as the launch of the Borders Railway, would continue to give tourism a boost this year.
Tourism minister Fergus Ewing said: “The rises in visitors and expenditure show that Scotland is a destination that offers quality experiences and visitors are prepared to spend their money in our hotels, tourism attractions and restaurants.”
He added: “With over half a million visitors now coming from North America, a staggering increase of over 100,000 in 2014 compared to 2013, it is clear that Scotland has a great reputation as a destination which is testament to the work of VisitScotland in promoting Scotland abroad and the industry’s efforts to deliver a quality product on the ground.”