THE Scottish tourism industry received a new year boost with figures suggesting visitor numbers and spend rose in the first three quarters of 2011.
According to the 2011 International Passengers Survey and GB Tourism Survey, there was an 8% rise in visitors and an 11% increase in overall spend over the period.
While the number of international visitors fell 4%, it was more than compensated by what’s said to have been the strong performance of the domestic market, which yielded a 10% rise in visitors and a 21% increase in spend.
The figures would seem to highlight the continuing importance of the ‘staycation’ trend to the industry.
ETAG chair Robin Worsnop told SLTN that staycations are a “natural by-product of a weak pound and a strong exchange rate for the Euro”.
“It’s cheaper for the Europeans to come here than for the British to go to Europe,” he said. “With the lack of spending power in the economy and the general state of it, holidaying at home has become a more economical option for many people in the UK.
“The challenge for our industry is to make the experience so brilliant while they’re still coming that they want to keep doing it, even when times get better and they can afford to go abroad.”
Worsnop expressed surprise, though, that the figures for international visitors were down, albeit visitor numbers from North America rose by 18%.
“I don’t think that’s the experience of Edinburgh; it may be across the country but it’s not the experience of Edinburgh.
“Edinburgh Airport’s growth is not being driven by domestic flights, it’s being driven by increases in European short haul passenger numbers.”
Tourism minister Fergus Ewing said: “These figures are encouraging and an excellent demonstration of the resilience of Scotland’s tourism industry. The 8% increase in visitors represents growth in one of our key industry sectors and is great news for the economy.
“The ‘staycation’ trend is continuing to boost visitor numbers and average spend is also rising. We will continue to invest in this market and the recently-launched Year of Creative Scotland will help generate even more opportunities to do so.”