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VisitScotland CEO hails latest visitor numbers

Press Release   •   May 18, 2017 10:33 BST

Edinburgh Castle

VisitScotland Chief Executive, Malcolm Roughead, responds to the release of the quarterly (Q4 2016) International Passenger Survey (IPS) tourism statistics by the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS). He said:

“Overall, 2016 was a very positive year for Scottish tourism, with these figures showing that there is a huge appetite among overseas visitors to explore Scotland.

“A growing interest in ancestral tourism, which in part has been fuelled by the success of the hit television series Outlander, as well as increased airline capacity, has continued to see visitors from North America coming here in large numbers.

“As revealed in our largest ever Visitor Survey, our stunning landscapes, our history and our culture remain key reasons to enjoy a holiday in Scotland, but it is also recognised as the perfect place to ‘get away from it all’, while many visitors also rate their experience here as ‘a perfect ten’.

“Tourism is more than a holiday experience - it creates jobs and sustains communities in every corner of Scotland all year round. Thanks to the hard work of tourism businesses across the country, we are on track to reach the industry’s Tourism Scotland 2020 target to generate economic growth.

“Last year saw a 9 per cent increase in overseas visitor spend, something that shows the importance of tourism to the country’s economy.

“We also recognise, however, that VisitScotland, together with our partners throughout the country, need to continue to work hard to ensure that Scottish tourism continues to punch above its weight on the global stage.”

Q4 Statistics for overseas visitors to Scotland

Year to date (Jan – Dec 2016) – Overseas visitors
Overseas visits have increased by 6.0%
Overseas spend has increased by 9.1%
Quarter 4 only (Oct – Dec 2016) - Overseas visitors
Overseas visits have increased by 17.5%
Overseas spend has decreased by 3.7%

Q4 Overseas Analysis

  • 2016 has seen a 6% increase in visits and a 9% increase in spend, fuelled by strong growth from North America in particular but also from Rest of World markets.
    • Growth from North America can be attributed to an increase in airline capacity between North America and Scotland, with airlines such as Delta, Icelandair, Air Canada Rouge, Air Transit and WOW contributing a further 90,000 seats throughout 2016. Similarly, Scotland could now be reaping the benefits of the three routes into Scotland via the Middle East which are attracting visitors from the rest of the world.
    • Favourable exchange rates could also have had a positive impact on travel from both North America and Rest of World.
    • While EU visits are up overall, we recognise that EU15 visits have seen a slight dip. This could potentially be attributed to increased travel from our core markets to Iceland and Scandinavia, which are direct competitors of Scotland. Markets such as Germany and France could have also been impacted by security and safety concerns.
    • Spend from the EU overall has decreased. This could be attributed to an increase in self-drive holidays across Europe; a more cautious approach to spending because of the geo-political situation; but also potentially an increase in VFR trips by the Other EU Countries.
  • The ONS statistics are available at:

    Notes to Editors

    • Follow us on twitter: @visitscotnews
    • VisitScotland is Scotland’s national tourism organisation. Its core purpose is to maximise the economic benefit of tourism to Scotland.
    • The organisation’s core objective is to contribute to the Tourism 2020 Strategy ambition of growing tourism revenues by £1 billion by 2020.
    • This will be supported by seven overarching strategies:
      1. Marketing: we will market Scotland and its outstanding assets to visitors from all parts of the world, including the promotion of Scotland to people living in Scotland to visit different parts of the country
      2. Events: we will support the national events strategy and its delivery, and sustain, develop and promote Scotland’s international profile as one of the world’s foremost events destinations
      3. Internationalisation and International Engagement: we will utilise all our platforms to enable Scottish-based tourism businesses to better understand international opportunities and market to a global audience and we will work within One Scotland Partnerships to optimise the potential of Scotland’s Diaspora and our strategic partners at regional, European and global levels
      4. Customer Experience: we will provide information and inspiration to visitors both locally and globally via their preferred medium of choice
      5. Quality and Sustainability: we will provide support and advice to businesses, with the goal of improving the quality and sustainability of the tourism sector in Scotland. We will provide quality assurance to visitors through our Quality Schemes
      6. Inclusive Tourism: we will strive to make tourism in Scotland inclusive and available to all
      7. Working in Partnership: we will listen to and work with the industry, partners and communities to shape our offering and support
    • To ensure everyone can safely enjoy Scotland’s amazing countryside and landscapes, VisitScotland encourages all visitors to fully respect their surroundings by behaving in a responsible and appropriate way.
    • VisitScotland works together with tourism businesses to make tourism a success for everyone and ensure the industry continues to grow.
    • The organisation employs 700 people and has offices and VisitScotland Information Centres across Scotland.
    • Spending by tourists in Scotland generates around £12 billion of economic activity in the wider Scottish supply chain and contributes around £6 billion to Scottish GDP (in basic prices). This represents about 5% of total Scottish GDP
    • The Scottish Government is the Managing Authority for the European Structural Funds 2014-20 Programme. For further information visit or follow @scotgovESIF
    • For VisitScotland’s press releases go to, tourism statistics and frequently asked questions go to
    • Where possible, a Gaelic speaker will be made available for broadcast interviews on request (Far an tèid iarraidh, agus far am bheil sin nar comas, bruidhinnidh neach le Gàidhlig aig agallamh)
    • 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology
    • 2017 is the year to delve into the past and discover Scotland’s fascinating stories through a wide-ranging variety of new and existing activity to drive the nation’s tourism and events sector, boosting tourism across Scotland.
    • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology begins on 1 January 2017 and will end on 31 December 2017. It will build on the momentum generated by previous themed years in Scotland including the 2015 Year of Food and Drink, Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Year of Creative and the Year of Natural.
    • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland, and supported by a variety of partners including Creative Scotland, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Enterprise, The National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Built Environment Forum Scotland, Heritage Lottery Fund, Museums Galleries Scotland and Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland.
    • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology is supported by £570,000 of Scottish Government funding.
    • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology events fund is managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.
    • For more information visit or join the conversation at #HHA2017