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Scotland's heritage sector records 7% increase in visitors

21 July 2010

Historic Scotland has today (21st July 2010) reported a 7% increase in visitors to its sites over the past twelve months.

The figures, which include 345 of Scotland’s leading heritage sites including Scotland’s number one paid for visitor attraction, Edinburgh Castle, are ahead of projections and paint an encouraging picture for the tourism sector, following a more challenging year in 2008-2009.

The figures show a strong performance across each month of the year, which reached a high of an 11% in August. There was a small dip in December and January after a number of sites had to be closed due to the extreme weather conditions and people being unable to travel.

Throughout the year, the sector benefited from the awareness and industry collaboration generated by the Year of Homecoming which helped drive the tourism agenda in Scotland. During this period membership numbers broke the 100,000 barrier for the first time- a 15% increase on the previous year. This was aided by an extremely successful ‘Make Your Own History’ campaign which helped to increase awareness of the agency’s sites and the value proposition of the membership product. Meanwhile, sales of the Homecoming Pass, a joint initiative between Historic Scotland and The National Trust hit the 10,000 mark.  

Income also grew to a new record high during this period, with the Top Ten sites in the portfolio – including Stirling Castle, Fort George and one of Scotland’s five world heritage sites, the Neolithic village at Skara Brae- growing their income as a group by 14% year on year.

Minister for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop said;

“The heritage sector is worth £2.3 billion to Scotland’s economy  so it is very encouraging to see this level of growth in what has been a challenging year for many organisations.  

“Events such as Homecoming helped bring new visitors both home and abroad to our sites, whilst initiatives such as the domestic membership campaign have certainly helped encourage Scots to enjoy their heritage and explore the rich and diverse sites on offer.”

The figures also reinforce the impact of the ‘staycation’ trend on Scotland’s heritage tourism sector, with the proportion of Scottish visitors increasing across a large percentage of the portfolio – particularly in rural and outlying areas. Meanwhile, increased regional flights from Europe into Edinburgh Airport, together with a favourable exchange rate for countries operating within the Euro continued to increase the volume of visitors at key sites.

Stephen Duncan,  Head of Commercial and Visitor Operations said;

“We are seeing a real trend in ‘home’ visitors coming to our sites which has been borne out in the extremely successful year that we had for membership.

“People are looking for value for money so products which are based around giving visitors the opportunity to visit a number of sites, at their own pace are proving extremely popular.

“The continued strength of the Euro and a number of new air routes direct into Edinburgh has certainly helped to generate a larger number of European visitors – particularly French, German and Spanish. We are also seeing more visits to multiple sites, so there is certainly a growing appetite there for exploring Scotland’s rich heritage, which is great news for all associated with the sector.”

Notes for editors:

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

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For further information

Iona Matheson
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8703 or 07827 956 858