VisitScotland Chief Executive, Malcolm Roughead, responds to the release of the quarterly (Q4 2016) International Passenger Survey (IPS) tourism statistics by the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS). He said:

“Overall, 2016 was a very positive year for Scottish tourism, with these figures showing that there is a huge appetite among overseas visitors to explore Scotland.

“A growing interest in ancestral tourism, which in part has been fuelled by the success of the hit television series Outlander, as well as increased airline capacity, has continued to see visitors from North America coming here in large numbers.

“As revealed in our largest ever Visitor Survey, our stunning landscapes, our history and our culture remain key reasons to enjoy a holiday in Scotland, but it is also recognised as the perfect place to ‘get away from it all’, while many visitors also rate their experience here as ‘a perfect ten’.

“Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it creates jobs and sustains communities in every corner of Scotland all year round. Thanks to the hard work of tourism businesses across the country, we are on track to reach the industry’s Tourism Scotland 2020 target to generate economic growth.

“Last year saw a 9 per cent increase in overseas visitor spend, something that shows the importance of tourism to the country’s economy.

“We also recognise, however, that VisitScotland, together with our partners throughout the country, need to continue to work hard to ensure that Scottish tourism continues to punch above its weight on the global stage.”
Q4 Statistics for overseas visitors to Scotland

Year to date (Jan – Dec 2016) – Overseas visitors
Overseas visits have increased by 6.0%
Overseas spend has increased by 9.1%
Quarter 4 only (Oct – Dec 2016) – Overseas visitors
Overseas visits have increased by 17.5%
Overseas spend has decreased by 3.7%

Q4 Overseas Analysis

  • 2016 has seen a 6% increase in visits and a 9% increase in spend, fuelled by strong growth from North America in particular but also from Rest of World markets.
  • Growth from North America can be attributed to an increase in airline capacity between North America and Scotland, with airlines such as Delta, Icelandair, Air Canada Rouge, Air Transit and WOW contributing a further 90,000 seats throughout 2016. Similarly, Scotland could now be reaping the benefits of the three routes into Scotland via the Middle East which are attracting visitors from the rest of the world.
  • Favourable exchange rates could also have had a positive impact on travel from both North America and Rest of World.
  • While EU visits are up overall, we recognise that EU15 visits have seen a slight dip. This could potentially be attributed to increased travel from our core markets to Iceland and Scandinavia, which are direct competitors of Scotland. Markets such as Germany and France could have also been impacted by security and safety concerns.
  • Spend from the EU overall has decreased. This could be attributed to an increase in self-drive holidays across Europe; a more cautious approach to spending because of the geo-political situation; but also potentially an increase in VFR trips by the Other EU Countries.

The ONS statistics are available at: