Scottish tourism hits a slump after the highs of 2014

Scotland's Neil Fachie (left) and pilot Craig MacClean win gold in the Men's Para-Sport Sprint B Tandem final. The Commonwealth Games provided a huge boost to tourism in Scotland. Picture: Jane Barlow.
Scotland's Neil Fachie (left) and pilot Craig MacClean win gold in the Men's Para-Sport Sprint B Tandem final. The Commonwealth Games provided a huge boost to tourism in Scotland. Picture: Jane Barlow.
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The number of overseas visitors to Scotland slumped in 2015 - despite the industry seeing a marked rise across the UK.

Scotland was also hit with a 4.2 per cent drop in visitors from around the UK - despite an increase of 14.2 per cent in what domestic tourists spent north of the border.

Overall, the country attracted almost 640,000 fewer visitors last year, down from a spike of 15,2 million visitors in 2015, at a time when a record 36.1 million tourists flocked to the UK.

National tourism agency VisitScotland, has blamed last year’s “downturn” on the impact of major events like the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games in 2014.

The figures have emerged months after VisitScotland launched its biggest ever promotional campaign, which is aimed at boosting the value of the industry by around £1 billion over the next four years.

However the new figures have also emerged at a time when the industry is fighting controversial plans to introduce the UK’s first tourist tax in Edinburgh to help offset the impact of cuts to its festivals and events.

The new figures revealed there has been a marginal increase in the total number of visitors to Scotland in the space of the last two years.

However the value of the industry has increased by £414 million over the same period, a rise of 9.1 per cent.

The overall tally for 2015 of £4.97 billion was hailed by VisitScotland as the best performance by the industry over the last decade.

Chief executive Malcolm Roughead said: “Despite a slight dip in international visitors in 2015 our spend figures remain strong and Scottish tourism continues to create jobs and sustain communities in every corner of Scotland – putting it at the heart of the Scottish economy.

“2014 was an incredible year for Scottish tourism with high impact events including the Commonwealth Games, the Year of Homecoming and the Ryder Cup raising Scotland’s profile to new levels.

“Nations can often experience a downturn following the kind of year Scotland enjoyed however these results prove Scottish tourism has capitalised on the success of 2014.

“We have recorded our highest combined visitor spend since 2005, showing that interest in the country continues to fuel increased economic growth and jobs for Scotland.

“A five per cent increase in overall tourism expenditure in 2015, including a 14 per cent jump in domestic spend, is a stunning success for Scottish tourism.

“As a nation we are more connected than ever before through transport and digital channels – giving us a louder voice within key markets. It is vitally important that we leverage the reputation we have on the global stage to bring new events, new airlines and new visitors.”

The Scottish tourism industry is said to support almost 300,000 jobs and represent more than 10 per cent of the nation’s workforce.

Scottish tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “It is encouraging that spending from domestic visitors has increased despite the industry operating in a challenging environment.

“Our tourism industry has worked hard to make Scotland a destination offering quality experiences for visitors building on 2014, a pivotal year for tourism.”