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Article published 13/12/2023

By Caroline Warburton, Destination Development Director

"We're now very much in the run-up to Christmas, and thoughts are of seeing family and loved ones, exchanging gifts, attending festive activities and opening doors on our advent calendars.

Do we think about this time as part of the tourism calendar too?

The winter months are an important time of year for the visitor economy. Many businesses are planning for the year ahead, investing in new products and services, recruiting staff for the busier season, and ensuring their operations are on a sustainable footing financially. Money in the tills and forward bookings are just as crucial now, if not more so.

We want Scotland to be a year-round destination and one where the benefits of tourism are spread throughout the year and to all corners of the country. When businesses can generate income for all 12 months instead of just the summer season, it can also ease pressures on communities and infrastructure.

This thinking is behind the marketing and promotional activity we undertake in the autumn and winter months.

And the good news is, our visitors are increasingly thinking the same way. Winter breaks are growing in popularity among our international and domestic visitors."

Caroline Warburton, Destination Development Director, VisitScotland

Repeating the positive results of 2022

"Scotland saw some very positive results in visitor numbers and spend in the October to December period last year. October to December 2022 had the highest number of trips of the year for domestic overnight visitors to Scotland, at 3.8 million, according to the Great Britain Tourism Survey (GBTS). The final quarter of 2022 also had the highest level of spend at £999 million.

October to December 2022 also had the most visits from overseas recorded for the period in Scotland ever, according to figures from The International Passenger (IPS) tourism statistics for Scotland (since 2002 when this began being recorded).

We’d love to see these visitor numbers repeated this year, so we worked with national and regional partners to promote a range of activities and events in the lead up to Hallowe’en, right through St Andrews day, Hogmanay, Burns Night and beyond.

The cost of living is of course still a factor for many. Tourism figures are indicating that visitors are looking watching their budgets, with shorter trips away, booking different accommodation or cutting back on eating out or visiting places. That’s challenging for businesses, who are themselves facing higher costs. However, businesses are responding by highlighting the unique or special experiences which we know people are looking for as well as providing offers."

Shoppers in Edinburgh 

Resources and ideas to support local this winter

"We’ve been using our consumer website to connect visitors with some of those great value offers that can help drive those Scotland experiences this winter.

There are some really great deals out there. For example, the chance to travel around Scotland with ScotRail’s Kids for a Quid offer, where kids are just £1 with a paying adult.

Another boon for families is Historic Environment’s offer of child entry for only £1 when purchased with a full price adult ticket, and all their attractions are free on the first Sunday of every month, from November to March.

There’s plenty to appeal to those hunting gift ideas or stocking up for family gatherings. We’ve been supporting Scotland Loves Local's Gift Cards which remind and encourage us to support local retailers, experience providers and hospitality business, and we’re championing the best of Scotland’s farm produce with Go Rural.

Gifting a visitor experience such as a voucher for an overnight stay, a spa break or perhaps an adventure day out is another great way friends and family support tourism businesses around Christmas.

There are local Christmas markets and festive events to enjoy in the centre of our villages, towns and cities which you can find on

One of the very best things about the festive season is the opportunity to meet up with friends and families, and this is key way that we can support the hospitality industry. Many of us will have Christmas parties, and Hogmanay means big business for many parts of the country, not least Edinburgh.

Performance at Celtic Connections. Credit: Glasgow Life / Gaelle Beri


Looking into the New Year, there are ways to keep the winter blues away. January brings the 2024 National Cyclo-cross Championships in Falkirk, and Burns Night just about everywhere.

And of course, Glasgow is alive with Celtic Connections – created in 1994 for exactly that purpose of supporting the local economy in what’s traditionally down-time. In 2024, the festival’s 30th birthday will be one to celebrate for the city’s hospitality businesses.

In many ways, winter is one of the most exciting, eventful and romantic times to be in Scotland, especially on days we can combine crisp winter weather with cosy hospitality venues in the evenings. Enjoying it is good for business."

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