EDINBURGH, Scotland – Tourism in Scotland has enjoyed a bumper year mostly due to a combination of Brexit and terrorist incidents in traditional holiday hotspots.
Some areas of the country experienced their best summer season in more than a decade, with improved flight connections and the publicity created by films and TV shows such as Outlander adding to the boost.
Tourism specialists claim the depreciation of Sterling after the EU referendum, along with Scotland being seen as a safe destination, is making the country very attractive to international visitors.
And while Brits are continuing to travel abroad in high numbers, albeit choosing destinations such as Spain and Portugal instead of Tunisia or Egypt, many are also “staycationing”.
Trade association UK Inbound, which represents firms bringing tourists into the UK, said feedback from its members showed that 2016 had been a very busy year so far for Scotland.
Chief Executive Deirdre Wells OBE said: “There are a number of factors influencing this. The depreciation of Sterling due to the Brexit referendum result, the fact that Scotland is seen a safe destination, and, to some extent, because there has been positive media coverage in parts of Europe about Scotland’s vote to remain within the EU in the recent referendum.”
Figures from VisitScotland reveal that in the first quarter of this year international inbound visitors increased by 27% compared to the same period last year, while tourism day visits were 30% higher than in the previous 12 months.
Both Glasgow and Edinburgh airports have also seen significant increases in passenger numbers, with international visitors up 9.4 percent at Glasgow Airport in July.
The number of services in and out of Scotland has also shot up, with Glasgow Airport launching 50 new routes over the last 18 months.
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “Anecdotal evidence suggests that Scotland is enjoying a strong summer tourism season with some regions reporting their busiest for over a decade.
“From an increase in flight connectivity, to promotion of the country through the success of films and TV shows set in Scotland such as Outlander, the opening of new attractions and hotels to the launch of our first global marketing campaign – Spirit of Scotland – there are numerous individual reasons why tourism is performing well, but in reality it is all these different ventures together and more which ensure that Scotland continues to punch above its weight as a world-class destination.”
The tourism body added that while it is still too early to know the full impact of the EU referendum “in the short term the low value of the pound could be an incentive to overseas travelers”.
Statistics from travel agents association ABTA also show that Brits are beginning to take more holidays than previously, often opting for both a break abroad and in the UK.
So far this year foreign bookings are up five per cent year-on-year, but there has been a definite shift in terms of destinations, with large decreases in travel to Tunisia, which has seen a 100% drop, Egypt which has dropped 70% and Turkey which is also down 30%.
Travellers are instead choosing to go to destinations such as Spain and Portugal.
A spokesman for ABTA said: “There is evidence that people are taking more holidays at home, but it’s not that they’re swapping one for the other – they’re doing both, they’re taking more holidays.”
Professor John Lennon, director of the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development, based at Glasgow Caledonian University, said the impact of terrorism has meant an increase in visitors from other parts of the EU, particularly Germany and the Netherlands.