The number of trips made to Scotland by visitors from abroad soared during the first two quarters of this year, particularly those from Europe (up 61 per cent) and North America (up 14 per cent), compared with the same period last year.
The news is a boost for Scottish hoteliers and publicans, particularly since the established wisdom is that North Americans' trips abroad remain significantly below pre-September 11 levels.
At CKD Galbraith, our holiday lettings division, Cottages & Castles, is the premier holiday lettings company in Scotland. We have seen an increase in bookings of about 20 per cent over the past 12 months, from those looking to enjoy a tailor-made break in their own space, whether a large castle, shooting lodge, city-centre apartment, or a traditional country cottage. It seems that there are two reasons for the rise in demand, from our point of view. First and foremost is the standard of accommodation provided in a rented house, as opposed to the run of the mill hotel room. Secondly, the opportunity to experience authentic Scottish culture, music, food and drink, is very much back in demand.
We believe that the Scottish tourism industry has improved immeasurably since the early 1980s, when service could be somewhat erratic. In those days it sometimes proved hard to get a hot meal outside of the usual opening hours even if you turned up with children shivering from a marathon mountain trek! Today, both opening hours and service have vastly improved.
We would, however, do well to bear in mind that half of all visitors to the UK never get further than London for their taste of Britain. Scotland has such a wealth of fantastic scenery, historic sites and traditional culture that we should be next on the list of unmissable destinations. But after London we may be competing with the cuisine of Paris or the history of Rome. We must never rely on the fact that tourists will keep coming back unless we give them the kind of welcome that they will tell their friends about when they return home.
We are now taking all the right steps to ensure that Scotland is a major draw for tourists. We hope that this trend will continue, and that excellent service will remain the top priority for every tourism business, from Stranraer to Stornoway.
Cottages & Castles has expanded its portfolio to 200 cottages, 50 castles and 50 large houses available for next year. We are almost fully booked now for 2004 but there may be some last minute offers still available.
We wish all our customers and business partners a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.