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Boost in overseas visitors hailed as 'superb'

SCOTLAND'S tourism industry was boosted last year by a 10% increase in the number of overseas visits and a 20% rise in spending, new figures have shown.

Data from the Office for National Statistics shows overseas visits rose from just over 2.2 million in 2012 to just over 2.4m in 2013. Spending by tourists from overseas was also up, from £1.4 billion in 2012 to almost £1.7bn in 2013.

The figures from the Great Britain Tourism Survey show a fall in domestic visits, down 4.9% in 2013, with spending also down slightly by 0.1%.

Mike Cantlay, chairman of tourism agency VisitScotland, said the results were "very encouraging".

"The growth in our international markets is superb," he said. "In particular, these results point to the success of our international marketing campaigns such as Meet the Scots and VisitScotland's partnership with Disney surrounding the movie Brave."

He said attracting more direct flights to Scotland had also been "crucial".

Domestic visits had been affected by a fall in people visiting friends and family, he said, but there had been an increase in those heading to rural areas for holidays.

"As we move into an action-packed summer for Scotland with the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and a staggering 830 events under the Homecoming Programme, Scotland is in a perfect position to exploit tourism as a key driver of the Scottish economy," he added.

Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said the rise in tourist spending suggested Scotland was offering "quality experiences" to overseas visitors.

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