The number of tourists visiting Scotland from Europe has dropped by 7 per cent in the three months since the Brexit vote, according to the latest official figures.
The majority of international visits to Scotland still come from Europe, the ONS statistics for June to September revealed, but experts said that fears over terrorism, coupled with sports events overseas, had driven away some travellers in the weeks following Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
VisitScotland claimed that security fears – such as recent terror attacks in France and Germany – had prompted would-be tourists in Europe to stay closer to home.
However, the negative effect of Brexit on the pound has driven North American tourists to the UK, with the number of visitors from that region growing by 36 per cent in trips and 57 per cent in expenditure compared to the same period in 2015. Similarly, the number of visitors from eastern European countries – where wages are generally lower, traditionally making a holiday to the UK expensive – rose by nearly half.
VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead claimed visitors from western Europe had taken more self-drive holidays amid terrorism fears, which may have affected travel to Scotland. However, Iceland and Scandinavia, which VisitScotland said were its “direct competitors”, attracted more European tourists.
He said: “It is disappointing to see a slight dip in European visits from core markets such as France and Germany, but with uncertainty over safety and security during 2016 in these countries, it is perhaps understandable. However, it’s interesting to see a significant rise of 48 per cent from our Eastern European markets.”
Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said that the increase in business rates, as well as the rising costs of goods and services, insurance, licensing, the Apprenticeship Levy and increases in the National Living Wage, were all putting pressure on tourism businesses.
He said: “Tourism businesses in Scotland are currently facing numerous challenges in their ability to deliver that quality, authentic and memorable experience, which is at the heart of the Tourism Scotland 2020.While we continue to navigate our way through this period of change, uncertainty and unknowns, we cannot make any assumptions about how these figures might look in the future.”
Overall, the number of overseas visits to Scotland increased by 4.5 per cent, while expenditure had increased by 14 per cent over the three-month period.
VisitScotland added that an increase in airline capacity between Scotland and North America may have had an impact on tourism numbers from the US.