SPENDING by people visiting Scotland from other countries rose by 20 per cent last year, generating almost £1.7 billion, according to new figures.

There were 2.443 million visits to Scotland from overseas in 2013, a rise of 9.8 per cent on 2012.

These visits generated £1.68 billion of spending in 2013, a rise of a fifth on the previous year, according to the VisitBritain figures.

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Scotland was in second place after London for total holiday spending.

Scottish cities were a big draw for visitors, with Edinburgh and Glasgow in second and third place behind London for holiday visits, beating Manchester, Brighton and Liverpool.

Just under half (49.9 per cent) of visits to Scotland were for a holiday, contributing 53.2 per cent of spending.

The figures showed that Germany and the US are key markets for Scotland, while Norwegians and Americans vie for the top spot for ­business visits. Trips to see friends and relatives (up 6 per cent) saw the strongest growth.

Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: "These results are spectacular and a true testimony to the significant investment that has taken place within Scotland's tourism industry. With the success of [Disney Pixar movie] Brave and [it being] the Year of Natural Scotland, the country benefited from an unprecedented level of international marketing which attracted more visitors from overseas.

"Securing new direct flight routes has also been invaluable. The investment in the events of 2014 such as Homecoming Scotland, the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup will undoubtedly keep up this momentum throughout this year and beyond."