Skip to main content
Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 07/05/2024

Survey findings | phase one

Last month  (25 April), we published the first phase our latest Scotland Visitor Survey 2023, adding further finding today (7 May) around food and drink. 

This is an extensive piece of research which ran from March – October last year. Over 11,500 face to face interviews were conducted and a further 3,000 online surveys were submitted. 

The survey aims to understand why visitors take a holiday or a short break in Scotland and what their experience is while they are here. It covers the whole visitor journey from inspiration to planning, booking, and their overall satisfaction, advocacy, and likelihood to return. We also delved into our visitors demand for Scotland’s food and drink.  

The findings will help us build a better picture of what is particularly important to our visitors and will help inform and drive our activities as a tourism industry going forward. 

Knowing what our visitors think and what they want is crucial in ensuring Scotland is kept front of mind in a competitive marketplace.

We’ve summarised each of the three areas the survey explored in this initial phase.

Visitor and trip profile

This research gives a comprehensive visitor and trip profile allowing us to see who visits Scotland and their knowledge of our country. It covers everything from where our visitors come from, key demographics, party composition, if they are repeat visitors and more.


  • 25% were repeat visitors to Scotland (higher for the UK market)
  • Europeans had the youngest visitor profile compared to UK and long haul visitors
  • 10% were on the "trip of a lifetime" (29% of long haul travellers)
  • 30% were travelling as a family group
  • 10% were solo travellers
  • Visitors spent on average 7.3 nights in Scotland

The survey delves into each of our visitor markets – taking a deep dive into the findings.

Read the full report on visitor and trip profile

A group of people standing together in a beach one person is holding a musical instrument

Motivation and inspiration

It comes as no surprise that our scenery and landscape (70%) and our history and culture (48%) remain the top motivators for all our visitors choosing Scotland.

Key motivators for what "calls people to Scotland" within each of our markets:

  • visiting friends and family was a strong motivator from our UK visitors while our Scotland residents highly valued being “close to home”
  • our European visitors also stated “Scotland’s people” as a reason for choosing Scotland
  • across the pond Scotland’s people and food and drink are stronger drivers for our US audience compared to other markets
  • ancestral ties are much more important to our Canadian visitors while our Australian visitors have strong family connections, stating visiting friends and family as a key driver

When it comes to inspiration, personal recommendations came out top. Film, TV and literature were also a source of inspiration for one in five visitors and was particularly strong with our European and long-haul visitors. It tends to have a lasting influence which goes well beyond the film or TV release year or premier.

Read the full report on motivation and inspiration

Some top reasons to choose Scotland

Scenery & landscape

History & culture

Friends & family

Our people



Food & drink

Event or festival

Highlights of the visitor experience

This area of the survey looked specifically at the visitor’s experience. It asked if visitors are likely to recommend Scotland to friends and family and the likelihood of visiting again.

Generally, visitors to Scotland were very positive about their holiday or short-break experience in Scotland.

Here is a snapshot of the results:

  • 82% of visitors are likely to recommend Scotland (rating 9 or 10 out of 10)
  • 80% of visitors are quite or very likely to return
  • 59% of long haul visitors stated this was the best holiday they had ever taken (rating 9 or 10 out of 10)
  • 71% of visitors rated their experience in Scotland as 9 or 10 out of 10
  • 52% stated personal recommendations were the most influential source of inspiration
Read the full report on the visitor experience

Image of a sign thats reads "i love Scotland" with a Highland Cow in the background

Food and drink

Survey findings delved into food and drink as a motivator for choosing Scotland, and as an experience as part of a trip and the importance of locally sourced food. Visitors also rated how satisfied they were with their food and drink experience. Headline results include:

  • long-haul visitors (19%) name food and drink as the reason for choosing Scotland as a destination, with scenery and landscape the top motivator across all visitors
  • almost half of visitors (46%) took part in at least one food and drink experience during their trip
  • visiting a whisky, gin distillery or brewery (26%) was a popular food and drink activity – particularly within our German and European markets
  • experiencing locally produced food and drink was important to all visitors, especially those from the US (51%)
  • service and quality of food and drink scored highly, however value for money scored lower across the overall experience
View the full report

Food Tourism Industry Guide

We've created a new Food Tourism Industry Guide in partnership with Scotland Food & Drink to provide a one-stop shop to help businesses succeed and grow in the food tourism industry.

It's packed with:

  • practical advice
  • key research and insights
  • resources
  • inspirational case studies

The guide is designed to help businesses develop, market and deliver a quality food tourism experience for visitors. 

Check out the guide

Coming soon...

The remaining phases of the survey findings will include regional breakdowns, planning and booking and transport. 

Related links