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by Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland
05 June 2023
Associate Feature: Encouraging signs for tourism


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Associate Feature: Encouraging signs for tourism

With summer in Scotland underway, I am buoyed by the positivity and passion on display throughout our industry. The return of international visitors, along with major events and new visitor experiences, give us cause for cautious optimism.

We’re focusing on the responsible growth of our industry, including the regional and seasonal spread of visitors and attracting higher-value visitors who stay longer and spend more. Supporting the international recovery has also been a priority of our recent activity. 

Last week, we learned that our efforts are beginning to pay off with the latest IPS (International Passenger Survey) for 2022 demonstrating clear signs of recovery. The traditional busier summer (July to September) saw visitor numbers up 7% compared to the same period in 2019 and Quarter 4 showing continued growth of 1% over the same period in 2019.

Both July to September 2022 and October to December were record periods resulting in inbound spend of £3.151 billion for 2022.

Anecdotally we are hearing encouraging signs from tourism businesses who reported a busy spring with good bookings for the months ahead. Although challenges associated with the cost crisis remain, it’s welcome good news that the summer outlook appears positive for many businesses and destinations.

Following the return of international visitors last year, we are continuing to see strong demand from our key markets in Europe and North America. Major connectivity boosts include the resumption of Hainan’s twice-weekly route between Edinburgh and Beijing and a direct Delta Airlines flight between Edinburgh and Atlanta five times per week. With our cities being important gateways to the rest of Scotland, every region stands to benefit from these developments. 

Over 50% of international visitors use a travel agent or tour operator to book their trip, so we have been providing opportunities for Scottish tourism businesses to build important relationships with travel trade. In April, we hosted VisitScotland Connect, where 175 tourism businesses connected with over 250 tour operators and travel agents.

The latest consumer research also gives us grounds for cautious optimism about domestic visitors too. Research by VisitBritain tracking UK residents’ holiday intentions suggests more people may be considering a staycation this year compared to before the pandemic. With UK visitors favouring rural and coastal locations and activities including walking and hiking, visiting heritage sites and family-friendly attractions, Scotland is well placed to capitalise on the staycation trend. 

There are major investments too, across the country. Work on Inverness Castle to create a new visitor attraction continues apace. And there is hotel investment in Glasgow with the new Virgin Hotel and Motto by Hilton currently under construction, alongside the Clayton which opened last year. 

Businesses and destinations across the country have been busy developing their offer for visitors, too. The new Angus spirit trail featuring seven local spirit producers will boost food and drink tourism in the region. And Bùth Bharraigh, the community and visitor hub in Castlebay on Barra, have new beach wheelchairs, making the destination more accessible to all.

Looking ahead, Glasgow and Scotland will play host to the first ever UCI Cycling World Championships, which sees 13 world championships over 11 days of action in August. Events include BMX, indoor cycling, para cycling, mountain bike downhill and trials.

The potential for cycling tourism in Scotland is huge, so we’re capitalising on the cycle buzz by helping businesses make most of this market and help Scotland establish itself as a world-class cycling destination. And our new Scotland. Made for Cycling. marketing activity, and Sustrans partnership work, encourages domestic visitors to consider a biking break. 

This summer, and beyond, I hope you too can support our tourism and events industry and enjoy all that the country has to offer.

This article is sponsored by VisitScotland


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