Fewer international tourists spending more in Scotland

Edinburgh Castle Image copyright PA
Image caption Edinburgh Castle is one of the most popular tourism attractions in the country

International tourists spent more than £500m in Scotland in the second quarter of 2016, official figures have shown.

It is the highest spend by overseas visitors between April and June ever recorded by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

However, the overall number of visitors dropped 7.5%, with a decrease in European tourists.

VisitScotland said the Scottish tourism industry was showing "resilience amid global uncertainty".

The tourism body believes the overall drop in visitors was probably caused by the early Easter and security tensions after terror attacks in Florida, France and Belgium.

However, the visitors that do come are spending more - particularly those from North America.

According to the ONS, overseas visitors spent £493m in the second quarter of last year, an increase of 9.5% compared to the £540m this year.

Despite the drop in the number of tourists from Europe, the Scottish government said they had spent £276m, which accounts for more than half of the total expenditure.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Stirling Castle is another big draw for international tourists

Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: "It is encouraging that overseas tourists are spending more when they visit Scotland. These figures highlight the hard work undertaken by our industry to make Scotland a must-visit destination.

"Scotland is famed for its warm welcome and these figures prove that visitors are prepared to come here to enjoy our incredible views, top class attractions and to spend in our hotels, shops and restaurants."

Ms Hyslop said the tourism industry was thriving despite difficult trading conditions and uncertainty in the run up to the EU referendum.

An estimated 217,000 people are employed in tourism in Scotland.

ONS figures also showed that in the first half of 2016, overseas visits increased by 2.6% and spend increased 9.3%.

Big questions

VisitScotland chief executive, Malcolm Roughead, said: "It is positive to see that Scottish tourism is continuing to perform well in the first half of 2016 with an increase in both visits and spend year on year.

"And the news that, in the second quarter of the year, international visitors have broken through the £500m spend barrier for the first time ever is truly extraordinary."

In response to the figures, the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) said businesses should be congratulated on their determination and resilience.

The alliance has been working with the Scottish government and other public agencies on a "Big Five Questions" strategy, which aims to maintain sustainable growth in the sector over the next four years.

The STA's chief executive, Marc Crothall, said: "Tourism faces many challenges and unknowns post-EU referendum and engaging in the Big Five Questions right now is the most effective way to future-proof individual businesses and strengthen and grow Scotland's tourism industry for 2020 and beyond."

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