The Big Picture - November 2011

In this issue: a decline in international visitors to Scotland, and a rise in the domestic market.

International Passenger Survey figures for January to June 2011 show an eight per cent decline in international visitors to Scotland over the first six months of 2010. 

While visits from North America increased by seven per cent during this period, this failed to offset a fall of 11 per cent in European visitors. Spend across all international markets was also down by 17 per cent.

The first half of 2011 has therefore been challenging in international markets for Scottish tourism, with markets continuing to be impacted to varying extents by the economic downturn and other factors, including the civil unrest in North Africa and increasing volatility in the Eurozone area.

Figures for Quarter Two show that international visitors fell by nine per cent in the period of April to June. This is particularly surprising, as anecdotally the industry has been very upbeat about European markets like Germany. 

Set against the global downturn it is clear these figures reflect the continuing worries people have about spending money on travel – particularly second holidays and short breaks.

It is encouraging to see the North American market improving and this may in part have resulted from North American visitors coming for the Royal Wedding, staying longer than Europeans would have and travelling further afield.

In contrast, the domestic market in the first six months of 2011 was buoyant, with January to June seeing a six per cent increase in trips by British residents to Scotland compared with the same period last year, with spend rising by some 13 per cent. This means that domestic market figures are at their highest level for five years.

Taken as a whole, the combined domestic and international figures paint a very positive picture, with visits and spend overall showing an encouraging four per cent growth in visitor numbers and a three per cent increase in spend.

These figures are a positive backdrop as we move into what we call the winning years - a once in a lifetime opportunity to continue to grow tourism with Scotland being the focus of numerous world-class events,including The Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games.

Based on information supplied by VisitScotland’s Tourism Insights Team.