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Introduction to Tourism

Tourism is an important sector within the Scottish economy. It is an important element in the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Scotland. The number of visits and expenditure in Scotland provides the main measure of the health of this industry. The latest annual data for Scotland are shown below.

The number of visits and expenditure by overnight overseas visitors to Scotland is published by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS). These are National Statistics, derived from the International Passenger Survey (IPS).

Overnight domestic tourism visits and expenditure in Scotland by British residents are derived from the Great Britain Tourism Survey (GBTS). These figures can be found in VisitScotland.

Key Tourism Facts

  • Latest figures indicate total overnight and day visitor expenditure in Scotland was around £8.9 billion in 2015 - this comprised of expenditure from overnight visitors of £4.9 billion and expenditure by day visitors of £3.9 billion.
  • In 2015, spending by tourists in Scotland generates around £11 billlion of economic activity in the wider Scottish supply chain and contributes around £6 billion of Scottish GDP (in basic prices). This represents about 4.5% of total Scottish GDP.
  • Employment in the tourism-related industries sector (as measured by the Scottish Government's Sustainable Tourism Growth Sector) in Scotland was 207,000 in 2016 - accounting for around 8.0% of employment in Scotland.

Overnight Tourism Annual Statistics

Overseas and Domestic Tourism Visits to Scotland

The number of visits made by overseas visitors to Scotland rose by nearly 17% between 2005 (2.4 million) and 2016 (2.8 million).

The number of domestic tourism visits made by Great Britain residents to Scotland has fallen by around 11% between 2006 (12.9 million) and 2016 (11.5 million).

The number of combined (overseas and domestic) visits to Scotland in 2016 (14.3 million) was down 9% on the 2006 total (15.6 million).

Total Overnight Tourism Visits to Scotland

Overseas and Domestic Tourism Expenditure in Scotland

In current prices (not adjusted for inflation) overseas expenditure has risen by around 29% since 2006, to almost £1.9bn in 2016. In constant (2016) prices this is an increase of around 8%.

Since 2006 domestic expenditure has risen by 9% in current prices to £3.3bn in 2015, this represents a 27% rise in constant prices. In constant (2016) prices this is an increase of around 8%. Note that the 2016 domestic expenditure data is not available.

The total combined expenditure in Scotland in 2015 was up 24% in current prices to £5.0bn and up 5% in constant prices compared to 2006.

Note that the tourism expenditure chart below refers to figures in 2016 constant prices.

Total Overnight Tourism Expenditure to Scotland