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Scotland’s international tourism surges to new heights in 2023



Scotland welcomed a record number of international visitors in 2023, with nearly four million overseas tourists marking a 15% increase from 2019, according to new figures.

The Office of National Statistics’ International Passenger Survey revealed that these visitors spent £3.5 billion, a 41% rise compared to 2019.

The previous record for international visits was in 2018 when Scotland welcomed 3.7 million overseas tourists.

VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead 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. Scotland is the only UK region to have reached this milestone.

“They are further evidence of the strength of Scotland’s offering and the clear desire for people across the world to experience this, with record demand from North America.”

Mr Roughead continued: “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.

“With many businesses still recovering from the challenges of the pandemic and current economic climate, this will be welcome news.

“Early feedback from tourism businesses, travel trade and airline partners are this international demand is continuing into 2024 with increasing interest for visiting at different times of the year and exploring lesser-known locations.”

He added: “At VisitScotland we are not complacent and remain focused on delivering our core purpose to drive the visitor economy and sustainably grow its value in Scotland.

“This includes influencing both international and domestic visitors before they leave home through our digital channels, as well as working with travel trade and transport partners to support tourism businesses here in Scotland.

“By encouraging regional and seasonal spread we can ensure Scotland remains a competitive year-round, must-see, must-return destination.”

In 2023, international visits to Scotland increased by 23% from 2022 and 15% from 2019, with North American and European visitors up by 16% and 19%, respectively. Notably, visits from countries including Australia and China surged by 53%, contributing to a significant boost in spending.

Scotland’s appeal has been bolstered by improved air connectivity and favourable exchange rates, with new and reinstated routes from the USA, Canada, China, and the Middle East enhancing accessibility.

Notable air connectivity developments include JetBlue’s new route from New York to Edinburgh, launching next week on 22 May, and WestJet’s service from Halifax, which will commence on 20 June.

Additionally, Hainan Airlines’ seasonal service between Beijing and Edinburgh returned today (17 May) with a 2024 schedule extended into October, and Emirates’ daily service between Edinburgh and Dubai will return from November.

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