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In 2021, international travel still recovered from the pandemic and associated travel restrictions. The volume and value of international visits to Scotland in 2021 remained at significantly lower levels than seen up to 2019.
In this section:
- International tourism performance 2015 - 2021
- Seasonality of international visits to Scotland
- Visits by purpose of trip
- Visits by global region
- About this data
1. International tourism performance 2015 - 2021
|Year||Visits||Nights||Spend (£ million)|
International visitors made a total of 479,000 visits to Scotland, staying for 7.6 million nights and spending £459 million. This is an 86% reduction in volume and an 82% reduction in expenditure on 2019. These estimates are based on a sample of 1,626 interviews.
|Year||Visits||Nights||Spend (£ million)|
The average international visitor to Scotland in 2021 spent a total of £958 over a 15.8 day trip with a daily expenditure of £60. Longer stays (15.8 days in 2021 versus 7.9 in 2019) drove the increase in spend per trip, with actual daily expenditure 35% down on 2019 levels.
2. Seasonality of international visits to Scotland
|Visits||Q1 (Jan-Mar)||Q2 (Apr-Jun||Q3 (Jul-Sep)||Q4 (Oct-Dec)|
Despite lower overall levels of international visitors, performance has improved throughout 2021. This is because coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions eased and travel confidence increased amongst consumers. Total visits in the last quarter of 2021 (Q4 – October to December) were higher than the traditional peak season of July – September (Q3). This was for the first time as reported by the international passenger survey.
3. Visit by purpose of trip
|Purpose of Trip||2019||2021|
|Visiting friends or relatives||864,000||242,000|
Let's look at the purpose of trip that motivates international visits to Scotland in 2021. It's significantly different to that seen before the pandemic. Travelling with the purpose of visiting friends and / or relatives makes up half of all visits to Scotland in 2021, compared with 25% in 2019.
Holiday trips in 2021 totalled 6% of pre-pandemic volume. Visiting friends and relations outperformed it in both total volume and against 2019 proportions. This is despite visiting friends and relations only achieving 28% of 2019 level of visitation.
This increase in those visiting friends and relations within the visitor mix has resulted in longer stays (16 days). But compared to a traditional leisure visitor, this group is likely to spend less on:
- Food and drink
There was a trend of higher expenditure per trip across all purposes of travel. Holiday expenditure per trip was up 26% on 2019 levels, driven by longer stays and a desire to maximise time in destination in line with effort to travel.
|Year||North America||Europe||EU||EU15||Other EU||Other countries||Total|
Short haul visitors made up the majority (73%) of visits to Scotland in 2021. This is in line with international consumer sentiment towards travel to the UK and Scotland.
The volume of visits from the North American market, a traditional market of strength for Scotland, was down 89% on 2019 levels.
European markets showed slightly more resilience at 81% down on 2019 levels).
“Other countries” were down 95% on pre-pandemic visitor volumes. The previously rapidly growing market of China falls under the category "other countries".
Important notice on the continued impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) in relation to IPS data collection
The international passenger survey was suspended on 16 March 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Interviewing initially began at UK airports at the start of 2021. The international passenger survey remained suspended at some sea ports and train stations during the year.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have applied the following processes to the data since March 2020:
- The 2021 performance data contains all collected by the ONS throughout 2021
- ONS didn't collect data for those travelling to the UK by Eurotunnel and data for those arriving from Dover was only collected from Q3
- This report covers the regional level data for 2021
- The sample for this period is very low so you should use caution when interpreting results