Tourism chiefs have hailed the part played by Edinburgh and the Lothians in pumping £136 million into the country’s economy last year.
Homecoming 2014 – a year- long drive to encourage overseas visitors with links to Scotland to return “home” – saw a raft of festivals and events aimed at celebrating Scottish culture and heritage.
From culture to food and drink, Edinburgh and the Lothians played an important roleManuela Calchini
But on Thursday it was revealed fewer than 400,000 international tourists had attended the initiatives – with the vast majority of visitors already Scottish residents.
Despite this, more than 326,000 people travelling from outside the country cited Homecoming as their primary reason for visiting.
And events in Edinburgh and the surrounding area, such as the Forth Bridges Festival and the John Muir Festival, were crucial in persuading these tourists to part with an additional £94m – pumping extra cash into the economy.
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay saw 130,000 visitors flock to the city centre for music and fireworks, while Edinburgh Arts Festival enjoyed an attendance figure of 297,626.
Elsewhere, the Royal Highland Show saw 180,850 visitors and the Edinburgh International Science Festival’s Gastrofest 100,281 – and more than 23,000 packed into the Royal Botanic Garden to see its Night in the Garden light display.
A total of 40,000 people, meanwhile, rushed to the first John Muir Festival to celebrate the life of the influential conservationist.
Manuela Calchini, regional director of VisitScotland, said 2014 had been “quite simply an incredible year”.
She said: “From culture to food and drink, nature to ancestry, Edinburgh and the Lothians played an important role with being included in more than 1000 events across the country showing the world just how incredible the city and surrounding area, and indeed Scotland, is – and visitors from home and abroad flocked to see us.”
Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said: “The Homecoming celebrations were used to showcase Scotland on the international stage as a dynamic and creative nation.
“This was achieved through a year-long programme of over 1000 events designed to welcome visitors from around the world in a celebration of the very best of Scotland’s food and drink, our assets as a country of natural beauty as well as our rich creativity and cultural heritage.
“The Scottish Government aims to continue building on this legacy, through a second series of themed years that spotlights some of Scotland’s greatest assets.”
Ian Ross, chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage, added: “Being part of the 2014 celebrations allowed us to reach even more people from home and abroad.
“It helped us let both locals and visitors know about the new John Muir Way, which is a wonderful way for all of us to enjoy and benefit from Scotland’s beautiful countryside.”