Mixed fortunes in tourism as spending hits £5bn

Figures released on Friday showed a mixed performance by the Scottish tourism industry in 2015 compared to the highs of 2014 — but total tourist spending still rose 5% to almost £5 billion, the Scottish Government said.

Despite this, the figures show a 4% decrease in overseas tourism visits to Scotland and a 8% decrease in overseas tourism expenditure compared to 2014.

There was a 4% decrease in domestic (GB) tourism visits to Scotland in 2015 compared with 2014.

However, domestic tourists spent £400 million more in visits to Scotland in 2015 compared to the previous year — a 14% increase.

Around 15 million tourists visited Scotland in 2015 and visitor spend was at its highest level for more than a decade.

VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead said: “We have recorded our highest combined visitor spend since 2005, showing that interest in the country continues to fuel increased economic growth and jobs for Scotland.

“A 5% increase in overall tourism expenditure in 2015, including a 14% jump in domestic spend, is a stunning success for Scottish tourism.

“Despite a slight dip in international visitors in 2015 our spend figures remain strong and Scottish tourism continues to create jobs and sustain communities in every corner of Scotland — putting it at the heart of the Scottish economy.

“2014 was an incredible year for Scottish tourism with high impact events including the Commonwealth Games, the Year of Homecoming and the Ryder Cup raising Scotland’s profile to new levels.

“Nations can often experience a downturn following the kind of year Scotland enjoyed however these results prove Scottish tourism has capitalised on the success of 2014.

“As a nation we are more connected than ever before through transport and digital channels — giving us a louder voice within key markets and it is vitally important that we leverage the reputation we have on the global stage to bring new events, new airlines and new visitors.

“Scotland has a new confidence which is shining through in everything we do on the international stage.

“The launch of our first ever global campaign earlier this year — the Spirit of Scotland — showcases this, and all of our country’s personality, places and people to the world, inviting more audiences than ever before to sample it for themselves.”

The majority of overseas visitors and expenditure comes from mainland Europe.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said: “Our tourism sector is of vital importance to the Scottish economy, employing 196,000 people across the country.

“It is encouraging that spending from domestic visitors has increased despite the industry operating in a challenging environment.

“Our tourism industry has worked hard to make Scotland a destination offering quality experiences for visitors building on 2014, a pivotal year for tourism.

“A second programme of themed years is underway, which this year will focus on Innovation, Architecture and Design followed by History, Heritage and Archaeology in 2017 and Young People in 2018.

“The themed years programme is used to shine a spotlight on some of Scotland’s greatest assets, icons and hidden gems through a wide ranging variety of new and existing activity to boost tourism in every corner of Scotland.”