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VisitScotland’s visitor trends

Highlights from VisitScotland’s quarterly visitor trends data

Date : 27/10/2014

Scotland welcomes 5.3 million British visitors in first 6 months of 2014.

VisitScotland's October Trends and Statistics Snapshot reported that 5.3 million domestic visitors enjoyed a break in Scotland during the first half of 2014, contributing £1.2 billion in spending. While these figures show an overall decline of 4 per cent in overnight trips taken by British residents and 1 per cent in spend, it’s worth framing within the context that the UK as a whole was also down 5 percent in terms of trips and 4 per cent on spend. 

Urban focus

Even before the attraction of major events later in the year such as the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and Edinburgh festivals, visitors to urban areas of Scotland were on the up. Glasgow recorded a 21 per cent increase in trips during the first two-quarters of the year and 48 per cent surge in expenditure according to the Great Britain Tourism Survey (GBTS), recently made available to VisitScotland. More rural areas in the north and south of the country witnessed a decline in visits, perhaps marking a reversal of last year’s trend that saw more growth in rural areas than urban ones. 

VisitScotland’s Scottish Accommodation Occupancy Survey suggested that most businesses believed the Commonwealth Games had been beneficial to trading. The impact diminished as you moved outside of Glasgow and Edinburgh and the activity of the Games, but there was a general feeling that the Games had been good for business.


July’s sunshine is likely to have played an important role in the strong recovery in the number of people making day trips in Scotland during the month; 14 million trips were taken throughout the month and expenditure increased compared to the same time in 2013. Scotland’s recorded spend per trip was above the UK average cumulative spread at £33.86; above the UK average cumulative spend per trip to July of £32.41. 

Spending spread?

UK residents were also taking more foreign holidays according to the IPS, which reported in its half-year figures that while outbound trips had increased in number, overall expenditure was down. Chris Greenwood, Senior Tourism Insight Manager at VisitScotland, suggests that this could be explained by people taking a foreign holiday along with shorter breaks and thus spreading their spend over a longer period of time in a continuation of recent frugality. This increase in foreign holidays may well have been influenced by factors such as poor weather at the beginning of the year and the impact of the World Cup in Brazil. Several travel companies also reported a surge in late summer bookings.

The increase doesn’t necessarily mark a move away from the staycation trend of the last 5 years, but perhaps highlights the relative weakness of the Euro and the fact that different segments of the UK consumer market are considering different options. Some clearly still value a foreign holiday, or a combination of both, while others might believe that a domestic holiday meets their needs and that they can get greater value for money at home. In any case, confidence among all accommodation sectors has been high.

VisitScotland’s September Trends and Statistics Snapshot explains that sustained growth of the Sterling Exchange Rate Index (SERI) has meant that Scotland is, at present, a more expensive destination for international visitors due to. As a result of 1.2% growth in July, the currency was up 1 per cent against the dollar, and 1.4 per cent against the Euro compared to June. This had its benefits for some UK residents, who were able to enjoy comparatively cheap holidays abroad.

North American market continues growth

International tourism to the UK was very positive. The September Snapshot noted that June saw a record number of visits from overseas and spending hitting a June record of £1.97 billion. The North American market again saw the largest growth in quarter 2, both in terms of trips and expenditure. The IPS shows that 72 per cent more visitors came to Scotland from this market during quarter 2 this year than the same ti

me in 2013, with spending contributing to 31 per cent of spending from total world visitors for the quarter. 

Interested in finding out more? Read VisitScotland's full Trends and Statistics Snapshots – September 2014 for September and October.