SMALL group tour specialist Rabbie’s has reported record sales and a rise in overseas visitors in the opening three months of the year, with Canadian, Australian and US customer numbers up significantly.

The Edinburgh-based operator also said there is a growing interest from Chinese visitors, and a number of dedicated Mandarin-speaking tours have also been “exceptionally popular”.

In one, Rabbie’s Chinese-language Loch Ness tour, hosted a 10-fold increase compared with the same time last year.

Customer numbers were not made available due to commercial sensitivity, but Rabbie’s said Canadian clients rose 27 per cent, while Australia was up 17% and the US rose 15%.

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Another area of success has been Rabbie’s relationship with travel agents, with business through retailers up 27% .

Robin Worsnop, Rabbie’s chief executive and founder, said: “Our revenue overall is up 20 per cent on the same period last year, which is good growth.

“We’ve increased our capacity and marketing to attract more customers from our long haul markets and this is reaping rewards.

“Our authentic small group experiences are proving popular with our target markets.

“Visitors from further afield are much more likely to stay in the UK for a longer period, which means they want to explore.

“Our small-group tours of between one and 17 days offer a really immersive experience with expert guides. We’re also very excited about the launch of new tours from Manchester and Aberdeen in May this year.”

Whisky-themed tours around Scotland were up 21 per cent, London based tours rose 94 per cent and Inverness-based business is up 45 per cent. Cotswolds tours also saw an increase.