Visitor surge

Record tourism figures a ‘turning point’ for Scotland

tourist, tourism, Chinese tourists
Tourists are flocking back to Scotland (pic: Terry Murden / DB Media Services)

Scotland is benefiting from record number of international tourists, according to official data which will ease post-Covid pressures on the hospitality and leisure sectors.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 3.9 million people visited from overseas last year, breaking the previous peak of 3.7 million in 2018.

The International Passenger Survey also found visitors spending considerably more – 41% higher at £3.5 billion compared with £2.5bn in 2019.

Malcolm Roughead, the outgoing VisitScotland chief executive, said: “These figures mark a turning point for tourism in Scotland, showing not only recovery but crucially growth in international visitors with number of visits and spend now above 2019 levels.

“Our international visitors are hugely important to Scotland’s tourism industry, as well as the wider economy.

“They often stay longer and spend more, generating several billions of pounds annually, supporting a wide range of businesses, jobs and communities across the country.”

Visitors from North America are up 16% while European visitors are up 19%. Tourists from China and Australia also increased.

VisitScotland’s own research suggested that visitors are increasingly looking for unique experiences, such as designing tartan or bagpipe lessons, which Ms Miller said reflected a desire for “once in a lifetime” holidays. Wellness activities, like wild swimming and food and drink trips, are also popular.

Passengers passing through Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) will be able to bring up to two litres of liquids in their hand luggage from the start of next month.

As part of a £1 million upgrade in security the new x-ray scanners across the organisation’s estate also mean electronic devices can remain inside bags for screening.

More body scanners are being put in place at Inverness, Islay, Benbecula, Kirkwall, Storonway and Sumburgh to help speed up security checks.

Some larger airports have already announced delays to implementing the more relaxed liquid rules.

Darren MacLeod, the director of safety, compliance and security at HIAL, said: “The introduction of this new equipment will further improve safety but should also mean a simpler and more straightforward security process for passengers.”

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