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VisitScotland Chief Executive hails "unparalleled growth" in tourism from North America

VisitScotland Chief Executive, Malcolm Roughead, responds to the release of the quarterly (Q3 2016) International Passenger Survey (IPS) tourism statistics by the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS). He said:

It is remarkable to see such unparalleled growth in the North American market in both visits and spend. Of course, a favourable exchange rate has played its part, but a focus on airline capacity and connectivity – with around 90,000 extra seats on services from North America in 2016 - alongside a concentrated marketing approach has proved a real formula for success.

“It is disappointing to see a slight dip in European visits from core markets such as France and Germany, but with uncertainty over safety and security during 2016 in these countries, it is perhaps understandable. However, it’s interesting to see a significant rise of 48% from our Eastern European markets.

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.

VisitScotland’s first ever global campaign – the Spirit of Scotland – launched in February 2016, has been a resounding success with the biggest ever engagement across all our digital channels. In 2017, we are working hard to build on that strong foundation and create and invest in more innovative projects, events and activities to inspire people all over the world to put Scotland at the top of their must-see list. With the Rough Guide recommending Scotland as a top place to visit in 2017, and a country-wide celebration of the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, we are starting in a very strong place.”

Q3 Statistics for overseas visitors to Scotland

Quarter 3 only (Jul – Sep 2016) 
Overseas visits have increased: 4.5%
Overseas spend has increased: 13.9%

Year to date (Jan – Sep 2016)

Overseas visits have increased: 3.5%
Overseas spend has increased: 11.8%

Rolling year (Oct 2015 – Sep 2016) 
Overseas visits have increased: 0.3%
Overseas spend has increased: 6.3%

Q3 Overseas Analysis

Visitors from North America increased 36% in trips and 57% in expenditure during Q3 2016 against the same period in 2015. This may be attributed to more affordable rates against the Pound to these markets.

Q3/2016 is the largest volume of trips by North American Visitors since 2006.

An increase in airline capacity between Scotland and North America may have also had an impact. Airlines such as Delta Air Lines, Icelandair, Air Canada Rouge, Air Transit and WOW contributed a further 90,000 seats throughout 2016.

The majority of overseas visitors came from Europe. Despite numbers from our core markets being down on the same period in 2015, markets such as France and Germany were affected by safety and security concerns. Visitors from these destinations also took more self-drive holidays across Europe during this time, which may have affected travel to Scotland.

EU15 markets also took more holidays to destinations such as Iceland and Scandinavia, which could be seen as direct competitors in terms of product to Scotland.

Travel may have also been affected by the number of international events taking place over the summer period, namely the European Football Championships in France, and the Rio Olympics.

Despite the decrease in core European markets, Other EU nations increased 48.5% against the same period in 2015.

Visitors from outside North America and Europe were also up during Q3 2016 (11%) against the same period in 2015.

The ONS statistics are available at:

The Scottish Government response to the statistics can be found here.

Due to an error in the Great Britain Tourism Survey, domestic tourism figures have not been published. Corrected data will be published by VisitScotland when available at:

Last Modified: Thursday 19 January 2017 07:11
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