Scotland gets record number of international visitors

Scotland attracted its highest ever number of international visitors last year, according to the 2023 International Passenger Survey by the Office of National Statistics.

There were 3.9 million inbound visits to Scotland in 2023, surpassing 2022 by 23% (3.2 million) and 2019 by 15% (3.4 million). 2023 visits also increased by 6% on the previous record year in 2018 (3.7m)

Inbound visitors spent £3.5 billion in 2023, up 13% up on 2022 (£3.1 billion) and 41% on 2019 (£2.5 billion).

Visits from North America (+16%) and Europe (+19%) were both up. Visits from “other countries” which include Australia and China saw a significant rise in 2023 (+53%) compared to 2022.

Spending by visitors of ‘”other countries” in 2023 saw the largest increase (+47%) compared to 2022.

Visits from North America accounted for 24% of all inbound visits and 39% of spend during 2023.

Visits from Europe accounted for 58% of all inbound visits and 39% of spend during 2023.

The Rest of the World region accounted for 17% of all inbound visits and 21% of spend during 2023.

In 2023, Scotland was the only UK nation to show international recovery compared to 2019 levels.

VisitScotland CEO Malcolm Roughead said: “These figures mark a turning point for tourism in Scotland, showing not only recovery but crucially growth in international visitors with number of visits and spend now above 2019 levels.

“Scotland is the only UK region to have reached this milestone.

“They are further evidence of the strength of Scotland’s offering and the clear desire for people across the world to experience this, with record demand from North America.

“Our international visitors are hugely important to Scotland’s tourism industry, as well as the wider economy.

“They often stay longer and spend more, generating several billions of pounds annually, supporting a wide range of businesses, jobs and communities across the country.

“With many businesses still recovering from the challenges of the pandemic and current economic climate, this will be welcome news.

“Early feedback from tourism businesses, travel trade and airline partners are this international demand is continuing into 2024 with increasing interest for visiting at different times of the year and exploring lesser-known locations.

“At VisitScotland we are not complacent and remain focused on delivering our core purpose to drive the visitor economy and sustainably grow its value in Scotland.

“This includes influencing both international and domestic visitors before they leave home through our digital channels, as well as working with travel trade and transport partners to support tourism businesses here in Scotland.

“By encouraging regional and seasonal spread we can ensure Scotland remains a competitive year-round, must-see, must-return destination.”