We came to Scotland to see the Loch Ness Monster

    We came to Scotland to see the Loch Ness Monster

    • By Douglas Fraser
    • Business and economy editor, Scotland

    Image caption,

    Linda Taylor says Scotland was on her bucket list as a place to visit

    American Linda Taylor and her friends are excited to be in Scotland for the first time.

    Having planned their trip for years, they have finally made it to the banks of Loch Ness.

    Linda, from Fort Lauderdale, says a visit to Scotland had long been on their bucket list.

    “Because of Covid, it was postponed for a while, and now we’re here – with the Loch Ness Monster,” she adds.

    “We’ve seen all the castles, and it’s been terrific. The history, the scenery, it’s beautiful. I’m so glad to have been here, and hope to come back again.”

    Linda is among a growing number of Americans who have made plans to visit Scotland.

    Bumper bookings from American travellers are driving a sharp revival for many parts of Scotland’s tourism industry, as new and renewed routes into Edinburgh take off from major US cities.

    Image source, Getty Images

    Image caption,

    United Airlines plane taking off from New York

    Hoteliers are reporting exceptional numbers, driven by the free publicity on TV drama Outlander, gothic survival TV show The Traitors, and news coverage of the Queen’s final journey through Scotland last year.

    They say that the UK has been among the first to benefit from the reopening of international travel for Americans following the pandemic.

    The relatively weak value of sterling against the US dollar has made Britain seem good value.

    Edinburgh Airport has begun new links this month with Atlanta, Georgia, and also with Calgary in Canada, while resuming links with Boston and Chicago.

    Following Brexit, it has been successful in attracting a bigger share of transatlantic travel than Glasgow, which used to dominate.

    And the capital’s airport has a significantly higher share of inbound American travellers – as opposed to outbound travellers from the UK – than any other major airport in Britain.

    Between March and October last year, more than half the passengers on US flights began their journey in the US, peaking at 76% in August last year.

    American visitors to Scotland

    Image source, Getty Images

    In 2019, before the pandemic, 636,000 US citizens visited Scotland.

    Americans accounted for 18% of international visitor numbers.

    Their total spend for the year amounted to £717m.

    US visitors each spent an average of £161 per day.

    The average length of stay was 6.7 nights.

    Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar says that a big change is in the spread beyond the summer months, with more airlines continuing to fly these routes into autumn.

    “We were on a growth trajectory, and post-Covid, it really accelerated.

    “The American market was fastest out the blocks. They stopped travel restrictions a year before Europe did, so they were ready to go.”

    Mr Dewar reports that transatlantic passenger numbers are 25% higher this year than they were before the pandemic.

    “We’ve got more destinations, higher frequencies and a really interesting development is we’ve got longer seasons.

    “One American airline said Edinburgh was the most profitable first year it ever had on a transatlantic route.”

    Ina Davies, of Highland Hotels Association and general manager at the Courtyard by Marriot hotel at Inverness Airport, says many of her customers use Inverness as a base for the North Coast 500 road route.

    Some of them, she adds, have been inspired by the American version of The Traitors, filmed at Ardross Castle in Easter Ross for both UK and for its American versions.

    Image source, Ardross Castle

    Image caption,

    Ardross Castle features in the American version of The Traitors

    Ms Davies says the weak pound has also boosted American visitor numbers.

    But she adds that there has been “a loss of trust in the ferries”, so there is more caution from visitors about using CalMac to travel.

    Adam McMaster, manager at the Clansman Hotel near Drumnadrochit on the banks of Loch Ness, also maintains that the weakness of sterling against the dollar has had a clear effect on bookings.

    “There’s been a fairly frustrated international travel market in the last couple of years,” he explains.

    “Now, we’re seeing freedom of travel again. These trips take fair bit of organising, so a couple of months back, when the pound was particularly low against the dollar, we saw these bookings flooding in, and that gave us a good idea this was going to be a very good year.”

    Whisky remains the top attraction for those who go to the Highlands, says Mr McMaster. At Loch Ness, “not everybody comes here monster hunting, but it’s still infectious”.

    He adds: “It’s a bucket list destination for a lot of people, planning this trip for many years. So when people come here, it’s to make the most of it, and that’s a good thing for the Highlands.”

    Claire Spencer, from Massachusetts, says she was influenced in her decision to visit Scotland by the TV series Outlander.

    “I became a huge Outlander fan, and I said I’d really like to see that place. We planned a trip three years ago which got by the wayside because of Covid, and I re-planned it. So here we are.”

    Image caption,

    Shane Hunt and Nancy Duvalle came to Scotland to celebrate his 50th birthday

    Shane Hunt and Nancy Duvalle who live near Seattle, came to Scotland to celebrate his 50th birthday.

    “My wife gave me the trip,” he explains.

    “We’ve always loved the country. I’m a golfer. This is a golfer’s paradise.

    “And whisky’s another good thing. She’s a castle and Outlander fan, so it made it easy for us to enjoy.”

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