The Big Picture - August 2011

In this issue: a fall in overseas trips to Scotland from Europe, but a rise in trips from North America.

International Passenger Survey figures for the first quarter of 2011 show that the number of overseas visitor trips to Scotland fell by just over 5 per cent compared to the same period in 2010, while spend fell by 6 per cent. 

In contrast, Britain as a whole saw trips from overseas rise by 4 per cent and spend rise by just over 5 per cent.

While the number of trips from Europe to Scotland fell by almost 9 per cent in this quarter, reflecting a drop in confidence in the Eurozone since the start of the year, the North American market showed considerable recovery in both trips and spend, in line with UK trends, with an encouraging 17 per cent rise in the number of trips along with a 58 per cent increase in spend. 

Great Britain Tourism Survey figures show that trips by GB residents (excluding Northern Ireland) rose by just over 6 per cent in this quarter compared with the same period in 2010, making this the best performing first quarter since 2008. 

Disappointingly, however, spend fell by a similar figure, perhaps reflecting a drop in consumer confidence fuelled by stagnant household incomes, energy costs, VAT increase and inflation. 

Overnight trips by Scottish residents remained buoyant during this period, increasing by 21 per cent on first quarter in 2010, although spend by Scots fell by 17 per cent. Visits to Scotland from the rest of Britain were down by 9 per cent, largely due to a decline in visits by English residents. 

Some regions of England bucked this trend, with North West, Merseyside, Yorks and Humber all generating increased visits, however trips from London and the Midlands declined, suggesting that distance and transport costs may have had an impact on propensity to travel to Scotland from these regions. 

Trips for the purposes of holidays and visiting friends and relatives were most popular during this quarter, while business trips fell when compared to the first three months of 2010.