Olympic Games and rain get blame after tourist numbers fall by a tenth

The number of tourists visiting Scotland fell sharply last summer, despite high-profile advertising campaigns.

The number of tourists visiting Scotland fell sharply last summer, despite high-profile advertising campaigns.

Official statistics indicate the number of nights visitors spent in Scotland between July and September fell by 12 per cent, or 100,000.

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Spending by tourists also dropped by about £50 million, according to the figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Thedecline in figures is partly due to visitors flocking to London for the Olympic Games.

The news will come as a disappointment after the Scottish Government and VisitScotland ploughed £7 million into a high-profile tourism campaign in collaboration with the Disney-Pixar animation film Brave, set in the Highlands.

Poor weather also played a part in putting tourists off Scotland, as visitor numbers to some of the country’s main attractions plummeted during the rainy summer.

The UK recorded just 413 hours of sunshine between June and August, and Historic Scotland reported that its visitor numbers to attractions such as Edinburgh and Stirling castles fell by 8 per cent between April and September.

At the end of the summer, VisitScotland announced plans to spend £3m on an autumn advertising campaign featuring the slogan “Surprise Yourself”.

VisitScotland chairman Mike Cantlay said: “Times have been undeniably tough for businesses over the summer, particularly in certain sectors like outdoor 
attractions and activities.

“We all know that the summer was a total washout except in the North-west, with many event cancellations, and that the Olympics impacted on domestic visits outside of London.

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“This is such a shame because the first part of the year was a huge success despite the economic gloom –evidenced by a 3 per cent increase in spend in the last 12 months, and a tourism industry which was geared up for making the summer a success.

“What other destination is so well placed to stand out from a crowded and challenged world tourism market?”

Mr Cantlay said he was optimistic about the future of tourism in Scotland.

He said: “We couldn’t be in a better position to win back growth as we prepare to welcome the world in 2014 – with two of the biggest global sporting events and a second Year of Homecoming.”

Tourism minister Fergus Ewing described conditions over the summer as “tough”. “Despite a strong start to the year, the weather played a part in deterring domestic visitors and the Olympic Games kept people 
occupied for three weeks during the summer season.

“The rises in expenditure suggest that Scotland is thought of as a quality destination offering quality experiences and visitors are prepared to spend money in our hotels, tourism attractions and restaurants as a result.

“Scotland has been named as CNN’s top travel destination and that is good news as we go into the Year of Natural Scotland.”

Labour tourism spokeswoman Rhoda Grant described the 12 per cent drop in international visitors over the summer as “very worrying”, particularly in the run-up to the tourism boost expected in 2013-14 dubbed “The Winning Years”.

Overseas tourists spent £1.55 billion in Scotland in 2012