Number of tourists visiting Scotland falls

SCOTLAND saw a dramatic slump in the number of overseas visitors last year, according to new figures released yesterday.

Around 100,000 fewer foreign visitors were persuaded to take a trip to Scotland, a drop of 8 per cent compared to 2009, to 2.4 million. This compares to an average drop across the UK of 0.3 per cent, to 29.8 million.

However actual income generated by overseas visitors to Scotland rose by 86 million last year - an increase of 5.5 per cent.

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London was the only part of the UK to see visits from overseas travellers increase in 2010. Edinburgh was the second-most visited city in the UK last year, although its total number of overseas visitors, 1.3 million, was in line with last year.

The number of visitors to Scotland from elsewhere in the UK was 1.1 per cent down last year, although the first quarter of this year has seen a 6.5 per cent increase.

The new figures from the International Passenger Survey also revealed that record numbers of overseas visitors took a holiday in the UK - with the overall number slumping due to a drop in foreigners taking business trips or visiting friends or family.

However the number of people from the UK holidaying abroad dropped 5.2 per cent last year, with the figure thought to be affected by the uncertain economic conditions and poor exchange rates. In comparison, visits abroad from Scottish holidaymakers and business travellers overseas dropped 7.3 per cent last year.

VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead said: "Undoubtedly, 2010 was a tough year for the industry.

"Considering the worldwide recession, extremely heavy snowfall and a volcanic ash cloud that brought airports to a standstill, these figures are pretty encouraging for Scotland.

"The domestic figures show staycations are here to stay. The 6.4 million overnight visits by Scottish residents last year boosted the economy by 1 billion.

"Staycations are no longer a trend, but a habit, and it is a habit that we will continue to encourage."