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Article published 25/07/2019

The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games has been named as the greatest moment for Scottish tourism in the last 50 years.

The huge sporting event - which brought around 690,000 visitors for a holiday to Scotland as a result - was voted number one in our recent poll to celebrate our 50th anniversary (Thursday 25 July 2019).

We asked the public to vote for what they considered to be the biggest catalyst for bringing visitors to Scotland, and Glasgow 2014 bagged the top spot with 20% of votes.

In close second place, was Scotland being named the most beautiful country in the world by Rough Guide readers in 2017 (16%) and the release of Hollywood blockbuster Braveheart in 1995 (11%).

Rough Guide readers gave Scotland the number one spot ahead of Canada, New Zealand and Finland. And the release of the Mel Gibson epic, caused a surge in interest in Scotland and its history leading to a boost in visitor numbers for the National Wallace Monument in Stirling. The attraction's visitor numbers leapt from 30,000 a year to nearly 200,000 in 1996.

The first official Scottish Tourism Board was established 50 years ago today (Thursday 25 July) following the Development of Tourism Act 1969 and voters picked this as the fourth greatest moment for Scottish tourism alongside the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival (8%). And rounding out the top five moments was Glasgow’s role as the City of Culture in 1990 (6%).

Our survey, which was carried out by Scotpulse, focused on moments which represented a national impact for Scotland and contributed to tourism becoming one of the country’s most important industries.

We also gave participants the option to suggest their own greatest moment. Some of the verbatim suggestions included: “Andy Murray Wimbledon”, “Billy Connolly no argument”, “Carol Smillie”, “Edinburgh Fringe Festival” (not included in options as it began prior to 1969), “Nessie Sightings” “Whisky” and “Hibs winning the Scottish FA Cup after 114 years”.

The results of the survey varied regionally and across different demographics. The over 55s selected the Rough Guide accolade in top place, while the 2014 Commonwealth Games was number one for those under 55.

Voters in west central Scotland picked the Games whereas the Rough Guide status was top for most of those in east central Scotland and the Highlands and Islands.

The release of Braveheart claimed the top spot for those in Aberdeen, followed by the establishment of the Scottish Tourist Board and in the Highlands and Islands, the North Coast 500 was voted in second place after Rough Guide.

Over the last 50 years there have been so many big moments for Scotland’s tourism industry that it is difficult to choose just one, but the public has spoken.

The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games marked a momentous time for Scotland as we showed the world that we can host the biggest events on the planet and a global spotlight was shone on our country for visitors.

All of these moments and more have helped Scotland to become a tourism giant over five decades and while this is VisitScotland’s own milestone, it’s very much an anniversary to be shared with our industry colleagues and partners.

Today’s success owes much to the vision of pioneers within this resilient and resourceful industry and our 50th allows us to look fondly at the past while, importantly, fixing our gaze toward the future – here’s to 50 more.

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland

The survey of over 1000 people was limited to 20 options, with information on the top five detailed below:

Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games - 20%:

The 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games received acclaim for its organisation, attendance, and the public enthusiasm of the people of Scotland. Commonwealth Games Federation Chief Executive Mike Hooper hailed them as “the standout games in the history of the movement”.

Scotland named most beautiful country in the world by Rough Guide (2017) – 16%:

Scotland beat Canada, New Zealand and Finland to be named the world’s most beautiful country by Rough Guide readers. It was voted number one with the guide stating: “And finally, the world’s most beautiful country is revealed: Scotland. Who can deny that these wild beaches, deep lochs and craggy castles are some of the most wonderful and beautiful sights in the world?”

Release of Braveheart (1995) – 11%:

Before the TV series Outlander sparked huge interest in Scotland’s history with international visitors, Hollywood’s take on the life of Scottish warrior Sir William Wallace was a massive hit in 1995. The Mel Gibson epic – which had its European premiere in the shadow of the National Wallace Monument in Stirling - won five Academy Awards including the Oscar for Best Picture.

Establishment of the official Scottish Tourist Board (1969) - 8%:

In recognition of the importance of tourism to the UK economy The Development of the Tourism Act (1969), came into force on 25 July 1969 and created an official Scottish Tourist Board with statutory powers. Now named VisitScotland, the national tourism organisation has marketed Scotland to the world while supporting the tourism industry’s growth to one of the biggest industries in Scotland.

The Glasgow Garden Festival (1988) - 8%:

The Glasgow event was the third of the five National Garden Festivals, and the only one to take place in Scotland. It was held in the city between 26 April and 26 September 1988 attracting 4.3 million visitors over 152 days and was the most successful of the National Garden Festivals.

Glasgow City of Culture (1990) – 6%:

Following on from the Garden Festival two years before, Glasgow became European City of Culture in 1990. The accolade was regarded as a game-changer for the city, and catapulted Glasgow into the cultural limelight. Frank Sinatra and Luciano Pavarotti were some of the big names who flocked to the city.

Voting results for the 20 top moments

Moment

Percentage of votes

Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games

20%

Scotland named most beautiful country in the world by Rough Guide (2017)

16%

Release of Braveheart (1995)

11%

Establishment of the official Scottish Tourist Board (1969)

8%

The Glasgow Garden Festival (1988)

 

8%

Glasgow City of Culture (1990)

6%

Official national park status for Loch Lomond and the Trossachs (2002) & the Cairngorms (2003)

5%

Launch of North Coast 500 (2015)

4%

Release of Outlander book and TV series (1991 & 2014)

4%

Low-cost air travel introduced: Luton to Glasgow was first ever Easyjet flight (1995)

2%

Year of Homecoming (2009)

2%

Opening of The Helix: Home of the Kelpies in Falkirk (2014)

2%

Release of Disney’s Brave (2012)

2%

The 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles

1%

Royal Yacht Britannia moored in Leith (1998)

1%

Opening of V&A Dundee (2018)

1%

Opening of the SECC (1985)

1%

First Celtic Connections Festival (1994)

1%

The first direct flight from UAE to Scotland launched (2004)

1%

Introduction of Themed Years programme (2010)

0%

Something else

4%

*Source: Scotpulse Online Panel taken July 2019

Discover more blasts from the past in our 50 years of golden moments timeline #VSFifty