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VisitScotland Chief Executive hails “spectacular growth” in international tourism

Press release   •   Oct 12, 2017 13:24 BST

VisitScotland Chief Executive, Malcolm Roughead, responds to the release of the quarterly International Passenger Survey (IPS) tourism statistics (Q2 2017) by the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) and the domestic tourism statistics derived from the Great Britain Tourism Survey. He said:

It is magnificent to see such spectacular growth from international markets in what has been a busy year for tourism in Scotland. Across the board from accommodation provider to CalMac Ferries to Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, we have heard from many who have had a record-breaking year.

“Such major growth from our international markets can be attributed to increased, targeted marketing activity in key North American and European countries, favourable exchange rates, increased capacity on flights and the Outlander effect which has taken the country by storm since the release of the popular TV series.

“Domestically, the day trip and holiday market is booming in Scotland with a rise in visitors by 9.3% and 4.6% respectively in the first 6 months of the year and this is also reflected by the significant rise in Historic Environment Scotland attractions reported last week which is great to see during the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

“Of course with great numbers comes great responsibility, and it is imperative the country’s tourism industry remains sustainable. This includes looking at how we can share the tourism windfall with lesser known parts of Scotland and outside of peak season, alongside ensuring that infrastructure meets current and future demand.

“VisitScotland is committed to working in partnership with the government, businesses and communities so that Scotland remains a must-visit destination for future generations of holidaymakers. Tourism is more than a holiday experience, it is integral to sustaining communities across Scotland by generating income, creating jobs and stimulating social change.


YEAR TO DATE (Jan-Jun 2017)

Jan – Jun 2017 - Overseas Visitors
Overseas visits have increased: + 14.0%
Overseas spend has increased: + 35.1%

Jan – Jun 2017 - Domestic Visitors (overall – see actual holiday breakdown below)
Domestic visits have decreased: - 14.5%
Domestic spend has decreased: - 15.9%

Jan – Jun 2017 – Combined Visitors
Total visits have decreased: - 9.6%
Total spend has increased: + 1.6%

Jan – Jun 2017 – Holiday Visitors Only
Domestic Holiday visits have increased: + 4.6%
Domestic Holiday spend has decreased: - 2.0%

Jan – Jun 2017 – Tourism Day Trips

Domestic Day Visits trips have increased: + 9.3% Domestic Day Visit spend has increased: + 48.6%


Quarter 2 (Apr - Jun2017) - Overseas Visitors
Overseas visits have increased: + 21.6%
Overseas spend has increased: + 41.8%

Quarter 2 (Apr - Jun2017) – Domestic Visitors
Domestic visits have decreased: - 3.2%
Domestic spend has decreased: - 3.9%

Quarter 2 (Apr - Jun2017) – Combined Visitors
Total visits have decreased: - 10.4%
Total spend has increased: + 14.9%


Rolling year (Jul 2016 – Jun 2017) – Overseas Visitors)
Overseas visits have increased: + 10.8%
Overseas spend has increased: + 19.4%

Rolling year (Jul 2016 – Jun 2017) – Domestic Visitors)
Domestic visits have decreased: - 10.2%
Domestic spend has decreased: - 15.1%

Rolling year (Jul 2016 – Jun 2017) – Combined Visitors)
Total visits have decreased: - 6.4%
Total spend has decreased: - 2.7%

January to June Purpose of Visit 2016 2017 % Change2017/16
Trips (Millions) All Purpose of Trip 5.557 4.754 -14.5%
Holiday 2.622 2.743 +4.6%
Business Travel 1.094 0.582 -46.8%
Visiting Friends and Relatives 1.359 1.275 -6.2%
Spend (£ Millions) All Purpose of Trip £1,354 £1,139 -15.9%
Holiday £737 £722 -2.0%
Business Travel £319 £152 -52.4%
Visiting Friends and Relatives £236 £211 -10.6%

Q2 Analysis

  • Despite a decrease in all tourism trips, domestic holidays have increased throughout 2017. The decrease has been driven by both Visiting Friends & Relatives, and Business Travel.
  • The increase in volume and value of day visit activity indicates that tourism is still prospering. However consumers are being more cautious and selective in their spending patterns, which is reflected in the Consumer Confidence and Real Household Disposable Income Index. Day visit activity is reinforced by buoyant attractions sector data from Historic Scotland and the Moffat Centre Visit Attractions Monitor.
  • Overseas tourism to Scotland has increased 10.8% in terms of trips, and 19.4% in expenditure for the rolling 12 month period of July 2016 to June 2017. This was largely driven by a 38% increase in trips and 48% in expenditure by visitors from North America. Favourable exchange rates during this period may have attributed to this increase.
  • Growth in visitors from North America could be attributed to the added capacity from Delta and Norwegian Air commencing in May and June 2017 respectively.
  • Overseas travellers seem to be resilient despite turbulent events throughout 2017.
  • UK residents took 35.8 million visits abroad in the first six months of 2017, 4.3% more than the same period last year and spent £14.8 billion (in nominal terms), up 6.4% on the first four months 2016. With International Inbound expenditure for the same six month period recorded at £20.8 billion this resulted in tourism balance of trade deficit of -£10.0 billion. Source: ONS

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
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  • 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