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Scotland's tourism facts

Loch Brandy - Credit Visit Scotland/Kenny Lam

Tourism industry in Scotland

Latest stats and facts on Scotland's tourism industry. Published February 2020.

Tourism spend worth £10.5bn 

Tourism contributes significantly to the Scottish economy and is vital to the economic performance and employment of towns, cities, regions and rural communities across the length and breadth of Scotland.

15.5 million visitors were attracted to Scotland in 2018, with three and a half million people coming from overseas.

Total spending by tourists reached nearly £5 billion in 2018, and the value of the sector to the wider economy is estimated to be £10.5 billion.

Tourism employs 218,000 people, which accounts for more than 8% of Scottish employment across a range of occupations and skills.

Young travellers at Pittenweem Harbour. Location shoot with Channel 4 and VisitScotland in an interactive campaign for E4. Credit Visit Scotlanbd/Kenny Lam

Total overnight tourism trips in Scotland reached 15.5 million in 2018, a 3% increase from 2017. UK residents made 12 million trip, while overseas visitors made 3.5 million trips. The number of nights spent in Scotland rose by 1.2 million (+2%) to reach 65.4 million, driven by a longer average length of stay of domestic visitors in 2018.

Tourism expenditure as a whole reached £4.9 billion, with UK visitors spending £2.7 billion, while international visitors spent £2.2 billion. Despite being 5% down from 2017, overnight tourism expenditure was the third highest since 2011 and just £2 million less than in second best 2015.

Where are visitors coming from?

Europe provided the largest single market area for visitors to Scotland in 2018 with 2.2 million visitors or 64% of all international visitors, up from 59% in 2017. European visitors increased 19%, with their expenditure reaching £1.1 billion, down 2% year on year.

North American visitors totalled 623,000 trips spending £555 million, decreasing by 9% in visitors and by 14% in spend.

Visitors from “Other countries” including Australia, New Zealand, China and India accounted for 666,000 trips and £539 million spend, growing 4.0% and 9% respectively.

Scottish tourism stats

14,970 companies

8.4% of Scotland's total companies (2019)

218,000 employment

8.3% of Scotland's total employment (2018)

£4.1bn GVA

3.0% of Scotland's GVA (2017)

Edinburgh Castle attracted record visitor numbers in 2017, bringing more than two million people through its doors.

Positive growth 

2017 was also another strong year for Scottish hotels, with RevPAR and occupancy levels having increased in the main cities across the country.

Strong markets in Scotland’s leading cities drive year round occupancy, and high room rates in Glasgow and Edinburgh mean that demand for additional accommodation – particularly 4-star and above – point to significant opportunities for providers, developers and investors.

2017 visitor attraction figures showed exceptional performance across Scotland. Visitor numbers to both Edinburgh Castle and the National Museum of Scotland reached record highs, each bringing more than two million people through their doors.

Collectively, all of these statistics are painting a very positive picture of growth for the sector.


Company insight

Tourism companies surveyed between July and December 2019
Performance last 6 months
  • 57% reported increased turnover
  • 31% reported improved profitability
Expectations next 6 months
  • 70% expect to grow exports
  • 46% expect to add staff
V&A Dundee - Photo credit Visit Scotland/Kenny Lam

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