A boost in overseas visitors during July to September 2009 saw Scotland outperforming the rest of the UK, according to the latest visitor figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
Scotland saw an increase of 25% in visits from North America in the third quarter of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008. Visits from other countries outside Europe and North America increased by 43%; tourist expenditure in Scotland was up by 7%.
In comparison, the UK as a whole saw a 6% increase in visitors from North America for the same quarter and only 1% growth from countries outside Europe and North America.
Scottish tourism minister, Jim Mather said, ‘Tourism is crucial to Scotland’s economic wellbeing and these figures are an excellent indication of the Scottish tourism industry’s hard work and resilience in the face of a global economic downturn.
‘These figures compound the success of ‘Homecoming 2009’ which proved to be an exceptional year with hundreds of events being heavily promoted throughout the world. During these three key months, Scotland saw huge support from overseas visitors who experienced all that our fantastic country has to offer.’
According to the latest edition of Visitor Attraction Barometer, published by VisitScotland, visits to Scotland’s tourist attractions increased during 2009 to some 32 million, up almost 4% on 2008.
Free attractions fared particularly well, showing a 10% rise in visitor footfall – testament perhaps to the credit crunch and the staycation trend during 2009. Paid-for attractions also showed an encouraging 3% increase.
Research for Visitor Attraction Barometer also showed millions of Scotland’s visitors rediscovering simple pleasures such as frequenting forest parks and nature reserves or visiting cathedrals and churches. Such peaceful days out topped the Barometer this year – increasing by 15% and 17% respectively. Visitors also liked to be beside the seaside with visits to attractions in seaside locations up by 15% in 2009 over 2008.
Looking ahead in 2010, Scotland could also see a boost in visitors to its capital city when Varsity Express makes its commercial debut as a regional airline operator on 1 March, offering Monday to Friday flights between London Oxford Airport and Edinburgh.
Commercial director, Will Gilligan said, ‘We have been looking to start a regular shuttle service on this sought-after route for some time. Oxford is the third most visited English city by international visitors (10 million per annum) and Edinburgh is the second most popular destination, after London, in the UK.’
Gilligan added, ‘We anticipate carrying 6,500 passengers in our first year in a mix of 55% business, 45% travelling on leisure.’
The ONS present provisional figures for visits to Scotland by overseas residents in their publication MQ6: Overseas Travel and Tourism. A pdf of the report is available from the ONS website at www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_transport/MQ6-Q3-2009.pdf.
The Visitor Attraction Barometer is conducted by the Moffat Centre, on behalf of VisitScotland. A pdf copy can be downloaded from either VisitScotland’s industry website at www.visitscotland.org or from the Moffat Centre website at www.moffatcentre.com/publications.
For further information on Varsity Express visit www.flyvarsity.com.