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2022 marked the second highest number of trips by visitors from France in more than a decade.
Figures from the International Visitor Survey (IPS) found that in 2022 there were 267,000 visits from French tourists, up by a fifth compared to 2019 and just 35,000 down on a record high in 2018.*
It means after the United States, France is Scotland’s most valuable international tourism market.
As well as recording an impressive bounce back in visits following the COVID-19 pandemic, the figures revealed that French tourists were staying longer and spending more. In 2022, visitors from France contributed £190m to the Scottish economy, an increase of 41% from 2019.
While more than two thirds of all trips were described as a holiday, over a fifth came to Scotland to visit friends and family.
An earlier lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, as well as the strong appeal from French visitors for experiences such as jet setting, wildlife, culture and a growing interest in Scottish food and drink have been cited as potential reasons for the rise. Scotland’s proximity to France and a growing appreciation of sustainable travel may also have helped generate interest.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions had a devastating impact on the tourism and events industry.
With no restrictions on international travel last year, visits to Scotland from all overseas markets were just 7% lower than pre-pandemic, while the overall spend increased.
The figures come as the Scottish Government Minster for Small Business, Innovation, Tourism and Trade Richard Lochhead is in France this week on a trade and investment visit.
Mr Lochhead said: “The latest visitor statistics show Scotland remains an iconic destination for people around the world. This includes French tourists, with the number of visits from France up 20% on the last pre-pandemic figures in 2019.
“Scotland and France have a long and close relationship that brings significant benefits to both of our countries and I am here in France to ensure this relationship flourishes even further in the years ahead. I am sure there will be many Scots crossing the channel to watch the Rugby World Cup in France later this year and we hope to hear many French accents at some of our major events that include the Scottish Government backed UCI World Cycling Championships and Edinburgh’s Festivals.
“The impact of tourism is vital to the Scottish economy, reaching every corner of the country, creating jobs and income that benefits local communities and these positive figures show that our European visitors appreciate Scotland is open, and welcome them to see everything this beautiful country has to offer.”
VisitScotland believes the figures demonstrate a strong appetite for Scotland’s distinct and highly regarded tourism offering.
Vicki Miller, VisitScotland Director of Marketing and Digital, said: “Scotland’s valuable tourism and events industry is still facing challenges, but it is hugely encouraging to see the resilience and commitment of those within it rewarded with an increase in international visitors from one of our most important markets.
“These visitors are staying longer and spending more. This helps support jobs and sustains communities right across the country. Every region and destination in Scotland stand to benefit from this interest.
“Our work now will focus on building on these shoots of recovery to support the sustainable growth of tourism in Scotland. Our marketing, funding, partnership work and business support activities are all designed to ensure a quality experience for visitors and make Scotland a year-round, must-visit destination.”
Scottish tourism businesses have also welcomed the rise, Nicolas Roland, UK manager of Destination Management Company Abbey UK, said: “The French market is one of our top markets in terms of visitor numbers. We are happy to see the number of French visitors rising again after the pandemic and mainly that the interest from the French market has not stopped. French travellers come to Scotland because of its relatively easy access and for its offering in terms of nature, authenticity and attractions.
“While there is still a Harry Potter factor for quite a few clients, we notice that there is a growing interest in culinary experiences, may this be around whisky, or the fine food Scotland offers and also train tours for travellers who might be more cautious about the environment.”
For further information and for full figures visit: Visitors from France - Research & Stats | VisitScotland.org
French visitors flock back to Scotland following COVID-19 pandemic. 2022 marked the second highest number of trips by visitors from France in more than a decade.