Edinburgh area most popular among visiting tourists

A view of Edinburgh from Calton Hill. Picture: submitted
A view of Edinburgh from Calton Hill. Picture: submitted
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Edinburgh and the Lothians has continued to attract more visitors – and their money – than any other region of Scotland, new figures have revealed.

Glasgow and the Clyde Valley was the second most-popular tourist destination, VisitScotland’s Tourism in Scotland’s Regions 2012 report showed, with the Highlands and Islands third.

Strathclyde Country Park was the most popular tourist destination in Scotland – attracting almost three times as many people as the National Museum of Scotland or Edinburgh Castle.

A total of 5.5 million people visited the Lanarkshire attraction – which boasts facilities for boating, kayaking and fishing, as well as the theme park M&D’s.

The National Museum of Scotland was visited by 1.89 million people, while 1.2 million took a trip to Edinburgh Castle during their stay. Kelvingrove art gallery in Glasgow attracted just over 1 million visitors in 2012.

Edinburgh and the Lothians ranked highest in terms of visitor spend and hotel occupancy, as well as overall visitor numbers. Hotel occupancy in the Edinburgh area peaked at 90 per cent in August and September.

A large proportion of the £1.4 billion spent by overseas tourists came from Americans, who forked out £274m, followed by German visitors, who spent £143m while in Scotland. Nearly £600m of the total cash generated by foreign visitors was spent in the Edinburgh area, followed by Glasgow.

Professor John Lennon, director of the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development at Glasgow Caledonian University, said that the recession had deterred visitors from exploring further afield in Scotland.

“One thing people are taking into consideration is the relative cost of travelling further afield – up to the Highlands and so on,” he said.

“The task now is ensuring that the impact of tourism is more widely spread across the country. It’s about getting people to understand that you can go an hour north of Glasgow and enjoy some stunning scenery.”

He added: “With Strathclyde Country Park is it is likely that a large proportion of the

numbers have come from local people making regular visits – to walk their dogs and so on.

“While that is not to say that it is a good place to visit, Edinburgh Castle remains Scotland’s most popular paid-for visitor attraction, while the vast range of free museums in the capital also make for excellent tourist destinations.”

More visitors to Scotland came from the US than anywhere else in the world – with two thirds of the 324,000 American tourists flocking to Edinburgh and the Lothians. A further 92,000 visited Glasgow – while just 3,000 headed to the Borders and 5,000 to Dumfries and Galloway.

The average length of stay for a domestic tourist was 3.4 nights, while those from overseas tended to remain in the country longer, with an average stay of almost eight nights.

Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: “The Tourism in Scotland’s Regions 2012 report is incredibly useful as it allows us to gain an insight into our visitors, their activities and how they are likely to spend their money.”

“This in turn gives us the

ability to engineer our award–winning marketing activity to suit their needs; something which is of vital importance as we prepare to welcome the world in 2014.”