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Article published 17/05/2024

International Passenger Survey

The 2023 International Passenger Survey (IPS) by the Office of National Statistics showed almost four million overseas tourists came to Scotland last year, an increase of 15% on 2019 levels with spend also up 41%.  

The previous record for international visits was in 2018 when Scotland welcomed 3.7 million overseas tourists. 

This means that in 2023, Scotland was the only UK nation or region to surpass 2019 levels.  

The main purpose of international visitors trips to Scotland last year was for a holiday (2.5 million visits). This was followed by visiting friends and relatives (1 million), then for a business trip (366,000).

European visitors were responsible for more than half of all trips (58%) with trips increasing by almost a fifth compared to 2022.

This was followed by North American visitors which accounted for almost a quarter of total visits (24%), up by 16% on the previous year. Visitors from the rest of the world accounted for 17% of all inbound visits.

people standing at a reception desk to enter a visitor attractionVisitors entering Edinburgh Zoo. Credit: Scottish National Zoological Society.

IPS key stats

Almost 4 million

 visits to Scotland in 2023 from international visitors

Over 34 million

nights spent in Scotland by international visitors in 2023

£3.6 billion

international visitor spend in 2023

47% increase

in spend from visitors of "Other Countries" in 2023 compared to 2022

Response from our Chief Executive, Malcolm Roughead

Responding to the latest IPS update, Malcolm Roughead, our Chief Executive, said:

"These figures mark a turning point for tourism in Scotland, showing not only recovery but crucially growth in international visitors with number of visits and spend now above 2019 levels. Scotland is the only UK region to have reached this milestone.

They are further evidence of the strength of Scotland's offering and the clear desire for people across the world to experience this, with record demand from North America.

Our international visitors are hugely important to Scotland’s tourism industry, as well as the wider economy. They often stay longer and spend more, generating several billions of pounds annually, supporting a wide range of businesses, jobs and communities across the country. With many businesses still recovering from the challenges of the pandemic and current economic climate, this will be welcome news." 


“At VisitScotland we're not complacent and remain focused on delivering our core purpose to drive the visitor economy and sustainably grow its value in Scotland."

"This includes influencing both international and domestic visitors before they leave home through our digital channels, as well as working with travel trade and transport partners to support tourism businesses here in Scotland."

"By encouraging regional and seasonal spread we can ensure Scotland remains a competitive year-round, must-see, must-return destination.”  

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