Homecoming generated £136m for Lothians economy

The 'Queensferry Rowing Regatta, part of the Forth Bridges Festival. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The 'Queensferry Rowing Regatta, part of the Forth Bridges Festival. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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Festivals in the Lothians which celebrated Scotland’s cultural heritage helped pump £136 million into the economy last year, a report has claimed.

However, Homecoming 2014 – a year-long tourism drive to encourage overseas visitors with a link to Scotland to return home – attracted fewer than 400,000 overseas visitors to the country.

The vast majority of people who attended events connected to the Scottish Government’s Homecoming 2014 event already lived in Scotland, while most people who spent money on staying overnight were event staff, the study found.

The project, led by tourism body VisitScotland, aimed at motivating ancestral Scots, the people of Scotland and “all those with an affinity to Scotland”, to visit the country and engage in five themes: 
ancestry, creative, active, natural, food and drink.

A total of 326,000 overseas visitors cited Homecoming as the “primary reason” for travelling to Scotland, the study found. However, overseas visitors made up just nine per cent of the total, or 400,000 people.

Meanwhile, most people attending Homecoming 2014 events such as the Forth Bridges Festival and the John Muir Festival were from Scotland – with about half coming from the local council area. Most were day visitors rather than overnight tourists, the report said. Of those who stayed overnight, “a significant proportion” were on business, helping to stage the events.

Scottish Conservative tourism spokesman Murdo 
Fraser said: “While there were obvious successes in 2014, it’s clear more needs to be done to attract visitors from overseas. It should be the priority of an event called Homecoming to have a global reach.

“Otherwise there is a risk of it simply becoming a glorified example of ‘stay-cationing’, which is of less benefit than attracting overseas income.”

The report also found that Homecoming 2014, with more than 1000 events over a 12-month period, generated £136m of additional revenue to the Scottish economy and resulted in £94m net additional expenditure by visitors.

Tourism minister Fergus Ewing said: “Scotland welcomed the world in 2014 and this report shows the substantial impact that Homecoming 2014 had on the Scottish economy. The Homecoming celebrations were used to showcase Scotland on the international stage as a dynamic and creative nation.”

The year-long event is the second year of Homecoming to take place in Scotland. The first event came under a cloud after its flagship event, The Gathering, was given an emergency bailout of £180,000 from the Scottish Government following the collapse of the private company running the event. Plans to hold a second Gathering of the Clans during Homecoming 2014 were scrapped.

Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: “2014 was quite simply an incredible year.”