Rise in European visitors

Number of visitors and tourism spend continue to increase.

The number of overseas visitors from Europe increased sharply by 22% in the 12 months to the end of September 2018, according to official statistics released today. 

In the same period, spending by European visitors in Scotland also registered an increase of 7%, jumping from £1.08 billion to £1.15 billion.

Overall international trends were positive, with a growing number of international visitors choosing Scotland as their preferred destination.

The figures also show:

  • 14.3% increase in overseas overnight visits to Scotland (from 3.1 to 3.5 million)
  • 3.3% increase in overseas tourism expenditure in Scotland (from £2.18 to £2.25 billion).

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, said:

“I am pleased that Scotland’s tourism industry continues to perform strongly, despite the challenges posed by Brexit. The sector continues to attract an increasing number of visitors from the EU and beyond, who come to enjoy our varied heritage and breath-taking natural landscapes – outperforming the UK in attracting overseas visitors.

“Our tourism industry is of vital importance to the Scottish economy. As visitors continue to come to Scotland, spending more time in the country and travelling to more destinations, this is a welcome boost for tourism businesses across all of Scotland. 

“European and international visitors are a huge asset to our tourism sector, economy and wider wellbeing. As set out in our recent discussion paper, all the scenarios point to Brexit – and the end of free movement of people – having a damaging effect on the recruitment and retention of EU staff in the tourism sector. We will do all we can to ensure European visitors can continue to travel to Scotland freely and provide the certainty that people and businesses want.”


The ONS publication ‘Overseas travel and tourism trends’ provides information on estimates of completed international visits to and from the UK, and earnings and expenditure associated with these visits.

Over the 12 months to September 2018, there was a 5.4% fall in overseas overnight visits to the UK, and a 7.9% fall in overseas tourism expenditure in the UK, compared to the previous 12 months.

The Scottish Government published a discussion paper on Scotland’s Population Needs & Migration Policy.


Media enquiries

Back to top