The number of people visiting Scotland in the first half of 2014 is the highest seen since 2008, according to new tourism figures from VisitBritain.
1,118,000 international visitors came to Scotland between January and June this year, an increase of 16% on the same period last year, and the highest number of visits for six years. The increase means visitor numbers are moving towards the record levels seen before the economic crisis.
The amount spent by visitors was marginally lower than in 2013; however 2014 could yet be record breaking as the data does not yet include spending during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow or the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
The largest area of growth was among business visitors which increased by 41% to 238,000, holiday visits rose by 9% to a new record of 497,000, while those visiting friends and family reached a new record of 163,000.
The largest number of visitors, 173,000, during these six months came from the US, followed by 161,000 visits from Germany. Visits from Scotland’s other major tourism markets, including the Republic of Ireland and Norway, were also up in the first half of 2014 compared to 2013. Visits from the Republic of Ireland grew by 46% to 79,000 and spend went up 38% to £19 million. Visits from Norway rose 67% to new record of 67,000 and spend was up 47% to £35 million compared to the same period in 2013. Visits from Australia also reached a new record of 57,000 – a 29% rise compared to 2013.
Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said:
"These figures show that the Year of Homecoming in 2014 is providing a unique opportunity to encourage more and more visitors to come and enjoy Scotland.
"The largest growth of visitors in the first six months were from the USA, showing that VisitScotland's promotional campaigns such as 'Meet the Scots', 'Scotland Week' and 'Home of Golf' have clearly resonated with the American public."
Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland said:
“2014 is the year that we predicted that Scotland would welcome the world and with a significant increase in overseas visitors, it seems we have done just that!
“Homecoming Scotland has had a significant impact on tourism. With record attendances at hundreds of events across the country, we have been able to make a concerted effort to reach out to the diaspora and the many visitors overseas who feel they have a connection to Scotland through ancestry, history and culture.
“The events, activity and worldwide attention in 2014 has taken Scotland’s profile and reputation to great heights and we are determined to make the most of this for the future. As we head into the 2015 Year of Food and Drink and beyond, we will look to invest in, develop and build on all we have achieved. It is our turn to get out there and take Scotland to the world”
Get the latest information on the likes and expectations of your international visitors by visiting the Tourism Intelligence Scotland Market Insights reports.