Devorgilla Bridge-Dumfries

The Big Picture - January 2011

In this issue: a rise in domestic Scottish visitors, especially ones visiting friends and relatives.

Half-year figures from the United Kingdom Tourism Survey (January-June 2010) show an increase of four per cent in both trips and nights by domestic visitors to Scotland over the same period in 2009; however, spend fell by just over six per cent. 

June proved to be a particularly strong month with trips, buoyed by good weather, increasing by 20 per centcompared to June 2009.

Notably, visits by Scots residents grew by 16 per cent during this period, while trips from the rest of the UK declined. Whilst the number of pure holiday trips by UK residents declined, the overall increase in trips was largely driven by a 38 per cent rise in the number of people visiting friends and relatives for holidays (VFR). 

This does not appear to have had a negative impact on accommodation occupancy, with many VFR visitors choosing to book accommodation in the local area.

Hotels saw a six per cent growth in trips by domestic UK visitors, however self-catering and camping and caravanning continued to drive the staycation with double-digit growth. 

Stays of one to three nights were increasingly popular for UK visitors (up six per cent over 2009 figures) whilst stays of four nights or more were slightly down.

Whilst financial considerations therefore do appear to be driving UK residents to reassess their holiday requirements, in general they seem to be continuing with travel plans, taking trips closer to home in order to simply ‘get away’.

April to June 2010 saw an overall two per cent decline in inbound international visitor trips, with long haul markets outperforming Europe. 

Half-year figures (January to June 2010), show that countries excluding North America and Europe saw two per cent growth in trips and 39 per cent growth in spend, while trips from North America were down by one per cent and from Europe by 17 per cent. 

Contributing factors include the Icelandic Volcanic incident in April, which closed European airspace, industrial action affecting airlines and air traffic control and civil unrest in European countries due to austerity measures. At the same time we saw strong recovery in emerging nations in the Far East and South America.

Although the financial situation in Europe and the US is stabilising somewhat, the cuts to come and rising unemployment are likely to impact on consumer confidence. The trend towards staying closer to home, managing costs and looking for best value for money is therefore very likely to continue. 

The current strength of the Australian dollar, however, means that more Australians are travelling abroad, and Scotland may be well-placed to see growth from this market.

In general terms, the outlook for Scottish tourism is challenging, but there are many positives for those prepared to look for them.