About the Surveys


VisitScotland uses a suite of statistical surveys which combine to monitor the progress of tourism in Scotland.


Great Britain Tourism Survey (GBTS)

The GBTS is commissioned jointly by the national tourist boards of VisitScotland, VisitEngland and VisitWales (the Tourism Department of the Welsh Government). 


It is a national consumer survey analysing overnight domestic tourism trips taken by residents of Great Britain and involves 100,000 face to face interviews per annum, conducted in home.  A weekly sample of around 2,000 adults (representative of the GB population) are asked about any overnight trips taken in the last 4 weeks. It provides volume and value estimates of domestic tourism (from within Scotland, England and Wales).


Further information about the methodology and how this has changed over time can be found in the GBTS annual report within the Latest Statistics section.


GBTS 2016 Methodology Change

In 2016, a new data processing platform was introduced to deliver the GBTS survey, and with this new platform, some changes were made to the way that results were calculated for a small number of respondents. This has resulted in a break in the time series reporting for the project.  To understand the effect of changes the new platform made to the continuous time-series (from 2006), domestic overnight tourism survey data from 2015 was re-processed using the new 2016 data processing platform. In summary, the effect of these changes at GB level was to increase the estimated number of 2015 trips by 0.6%, the estimated number of bed nights by 0.2% and to reduce expenditure by -2.9% compared to the published data.


The 2015 – 16 Comparison Report includes a month by month overview of original and re-processed data for 2015, with both sets of results compared to 2016 data, for trips, bed nights and expenditure. This provides users with information about year on year changes calculated using directly comparable data.


When making trend comparisons between 2015 and earlier and 2016 and after, users should refer to the re-processed 2015 data (“Dimensions”). For all other purposes (comparisons between 2015 and earlier years, profiles by trip characteristic etc) the originally published 2015 data should continue to be used.


For more detail about the changes made and further guidance about how to interpret results, the 2015-16 Data Processing Changes Explanation document provides a comprehensive overview of the changes made, the reasons for these, and the way they have impacted results reporting.


PDF download image  2015-16 Comparison Report  (0.6MB)


PDF download image  2015-16 Data Processing Changes Explanation (1MB)



Northern Ireland Supplement:

Please note, from January 2011 onwards, data about trips taken by Northern Ireland residents is collected separately by NISRA (Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency) and is not reported as part of a UK-wide survey. Data provided by NISRA can be viewed in the 'Tourism in Scotland: Northern Ireland Supplement'. This provides an overview of overnight tourism trips to Scotland made by residents of Northern Ireland.


International Passenger Survey (IPS)

The IPS collects information about passengers entering and leaving the UK and is run by the Office of National Statistics. Interviews are carried out at all major airports, sea routes and at Eurostar terminals and Eurotunnel shuttle trains. Around 250,000 interviews are used to produce annual estimates of overseas travel and tourism.


Further information is available from the Office of National Statistics. Please also read the guide to the IPS and frequently asked questions written by VisitBritain.


Great Britain Day Visits Survey (GBDVS)

The GBDVS is commissioned jointly by the national tourist boards of VisitScotland, VisitEngland and VisitWales (the Tourism Department of the Welsh Government).  The survey aim is to measure the volume, value and profile of Tourism Day Visits taken by GB residents to destinations in the UK.


GBDVS started in 2011 and was conducted using an online methodology. Over 35,000 interviews are conducted with adults aged 16 and over resident in England, Wales and Scotland during 52 weekly survey waves. In the survey a tourism day trip is defined as:

  • Taking part in one of a pre-defined list of activities (based on international tourism definitions)
  • Spending 3 or more hours out of the home on this activity
  • The activity not being something that the respondent does “very regularly”
  • The activity not being carried out in the place that the respondent lives or, if the trip started in the workplace e.g. socialising after work, the place the respondent works
  • The exception to this was trips to visitor attractions, live sporting events and special public events, which are all counted as tourism day trips even when in the place of residence, provided they fulfil the other three criteria.

Further information about the methodology can be found within the GBDVS annual report within the Latest Statistics section.


Scottish Accommodation Occupancy Survey (SAOS)

VisitScotland also commissions the SAOS, conducted by research agency, The Moffat Centre to help monitor occupancy in Scotland's tourist accommodation sectors. The Accommodation Occupancy Survey gathers and analyses data on occupancy levels in hotels, guest houses, B&Bs, self-catering, hostels and caravan & camping parks at a national and regional level.


Further information about the methodology can be found within the SAOS annual report within the Tourism Sectors- Accommodation section.



VisitScotland is tasked by the Scottish Government with the collection of the data in the GBTS and Scottish Accommodation Occupancy Survey in accordance with the EU Directive on Tourism Statistics (Council Directive 95/57/EC) and we work with the other national tourism boards to ensure that consistent data is available at a UK level.


Due to the time involved in collecting and analysing the data from visitors and businesses, there is an unavoidable period of some weeks between the end of a month and the reporting of its statistics.  We work with our survey agencies to minimise this delay.


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