THE number of overseas tourists visiting Scotland hit a record high last year, according to a new report by the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
Travel Trends 2017 statistics revealed that foreign visitors to Scotland rose by 16.9% to 3.2 million and their spending increased by 23% to £2.3 billion.
The increases were said to be aided by a significant rise in the number of European tourists coming to Scotland; they made 1.9 million visits, up 17% from 2016, with their spending rising by 36% to £1.1 billion.
The statistics show that Scotland was able to markedly outperform the UK as a whole in relation to attracting visitors from the continent as across the UK the number of European visitors increased by 1% and spending decreased by 1%.
A number of factors are said to have contributed to Scotland’s popularity as a tourist destination in 2017, such as the ‘Outlander effect’, which has seen a surge in visitor numbers to historical sites around Scotland, and VisitScotland digital activity.
Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said the statistics were an “enormous boost for Scotland’s tourism industry” and credited VisitScotland for its “hugely successful campaigns” that have helped to bring more international visitors to Scotland.
“Scotland’s airports must also be congratulated for their efforts in bringing new international routes to Scotland, a major factor in growth of tourism numbers,” added Crothall.
VisitScotland’s chief executive, Malcolm Roughead, said the figures heralded “a remarkable period for Scottish tourism”.
He said: “These outstanding results show that Scotland can compete on a global stage.
“Using our unrivalled beauty, rich history, pioneering partnerships and innovative thinking we are communicating with visitors from every corner of the world.”
The report follows a VisitScotland survey in May that revealed visitor numbers to Scotland’s islands had increased by 22% in 2017; a third were from overseas.