A DUBLIN-based tour operator has predicted a bumper rise in take-up of its Scottish schedules this year thanks to Homecoming Scotland 2014, the year-long celebration of tourist events.
CIE Tours International, which markets tours to Scotland and Ireland in North America, expects the campaign to attract an additional 2000 visitors to Scotland, accounting for half of its projected 35% growth in 2014. It estimates the upsurge will inject an additional £2.4 million in the Scottish economy.
CIE has based its prediction on its experience of a similar event, The Gathering, in Ireland.
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The event drove a 20% increase in the number of people who visited Ireland on CIE tours last year.
Brian Stack, CIE's US-based managing director, said events such as Homecoming and The Gathering convinced people who had been thinking of holidaying in Scotland and Ireland to take the plunge.
He said: "The Gathering generated a huge amount of extra business. People have bucket lists of things they want to do and it takes something to put them over the edge to actually do what they are thinking of doing.
"When you have something like the Homecoming, what it does is make people say: 'wow, there is something going on over there. We're going to go sometime soon, why not 2014?'
"Plus, when you have something like this, resources from the tourism people are focused more, and they spend more. This business is all about the more you spend, the more you get."
CIE's optimism for the year ahead comes as it derives an increasing amount of its revenue from its Scottish tours.
While its best-selling product three years ago was its Irish heritage tour, its biggest earner is now a combination tour to Scotland and Ireland. That is out of a programme of 40 different tours.
Mr Stack said Scotland was also featuring more prominently in the travel plans of North American holidaymakers because of the Commonwealth Games and independence referendum.
He noted: "Some years ago, Scotland wasn't even the map. We've always had golf tours, no question about that. But in recent years, Scotland has been getting a lot of publicity.
"Even if you are sitting and reading The Wall Street Journal about Scotland having a referendum, what that does is generate interest in Scotland."
CIE is looking to capitalise on that interest by expanding its tour programme in Scotland, both in the frequency of trips it runs and its range of products.
Nine of the operator's 10 UK tours now take in Scotland, with the company having brought nearly 11,000 visitors to the country last year.
This year, it launched a combined five-star tour of Scotland and Ireland, allowing people to visit the top attractions in both countries while staying in some of the best visitor accommodation.
In spite of its five-star billing, Mr Stack insisted the tours were priced at an accessible rate.
Noting that CIE's prices were "one step below the top of the market", he said: "We're looking for people who want a vacation experience. We're not talking about people who are millionaires; we're not interested in that."
Mr Stack will be in Glasgow on Thursday to present awards to some of the UK's leading hotels and visitor attractions, voted for by people who holiday with CIE.
Some 19 of the 32 awards will go to Scottish venues after feedback from 11,000 customers on 250 providers of rooms, dining, tours and visitor attractions.