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70 per cent of North American visitors to Scotland visit the Highlands

By Rachel Smart

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70 per cent of North American visitors to Scotland visit Highlands.
70 per cent of North American visitors to Scotland visit Highlands.

Around 35 Scottish tourism businesses – including three from the Highlands – attended the North America Business Development Mission (BDM) in London, to help support the continued growth of international visitors to Scotland.

The one day appointment-based workshop, followed by an evening networking reception at Scotland House, was designed to facilitate face-to-face meetings between Scottish tourism suppliers and international tour operators from the North American market.

Organised by VisitScotland, the event was attended by the National Trust for Scotland, as well as a variety of Scottish restaurants, attractions and accommodation providers, including Dornoch Station Hotel (Marine & Lawn Hotels), Inverness Castle (High Life Highland) and Visit Inverness Loch Ness.

In 2022, the US was once again Scotland’s largest international source market measured by number of visits, nights and spend. Canada was Scotland’s sixth largest international source market measured by number of visits and third by expenditure and number of nights.

US visitors accounted for 21 per cent of all overseas trips to Scotland in 2022 and 38 per cent of all overseas spend here. Canadian visitors accounted for 4 per cent of all overseas visits to Scotland and 6 per cent of all overseas spend here.

The BDM provided a platform to support Scottish tourism businesses to increase their presence to a wider customer base internationally, learn more about the North American market and how to work with travel trade, with the aim of establishing new business relationships.

Each supplier had an opportunity to present their unique product offerings and services to a selection of North American tour operators that VisitScotland works closely with and who were looking to develop new and/or extend existing programmes in Scotland with a focus on aligning to our responsible tourism objectives.

The 35 Scottish tourism suppliers and 26 North American buyers, included tour operators organising both group and individual / small tours, destination management companies, wholesalers and online platforms, all of which are an integral part of the North American distribution system. A total of around 550 appointments were held during the event.

Gwen Raez, senior market development manager at VisitScotland, said: “This exciting event aimed to connect North American tour operators looking to extend their programmes with tourism businesses in Scotland that are offering what the US and Canadian visitor is looking for.

“We carefully matched the appointments, so hopefully we will see even more North American visitors enjoying these experiences and accommodation in the near future. Initial feedback from tour operators has been that they are delighted with the tourism product we were sharing with them.”

Alan Rawlinson, business development manager at Visit Inverness Loch Ness, said: The North American market is number one for international visitors to Scotland and over 70 per cent come to visit the Highlands, so it’s very important that we continue to keep the buyers informed of what’s new and what’s happening in the area.

“As other destinations promote themselves harder, as a destination we need to continue to work with the trade and attending key trade events is an essential part of this.”

Raeanne Verlegh, travel trade and hospitality business development manager for the National Trust for Scotland, said: “The importance of the North American market to our travel trade operations cannot be overstated, and in turn, their visits to our properties help protect Scotland’s heritage for generations to come.

“The event was a fantastic opportunity to highlight some of our unique experiences, which have been developed with international audiences in mind, from our well-known sites, such as Culloden Battlefield, to our hidden gems, such as Greenbank Garden and Weaver’s Cottage. Meeting the clients face to face helps us to develop strong relationships, and we look forward to working with everyone we met with.”

Councillor Ian Brown, leader of Inverness City and Area and co-chair of the Inverness Castle delivery group, added: “The Inverness Castle Experience is due to open to the public in 2025. As VisitScotland research tells us that a significant proportion of our visitors is likely to come from North America, it was vital for us to raise awareness of the new visitor attraction with travel trade operators attracting people from that part of the world.

“We know that people coming from overseas tend to have a longer lead in time, so it was important for the Inverness Castle Experience to be represented at the event, to ensure it is included in the plans for visitors coming to the Highlands in 2025.

“There was significant interest from travel trade buyers and I’d recommend other businesses in our position to consider including this event in their marketing plans.”

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