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Tourism in Scotland

Scotland is a country of great natural beauty and strong heritage, with world-famous warmth and generosity. This makes Scotland a must-see destination. If you have a sustainable business or leisure tourism project in mind, we'll help you invest, set up and succeed in Scotland.

Photo credit: VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

Did you know?

Scotland consistently outperforms the rest of the UK in attracting visitors to its tourist attractions. New draws such as the North Coast 500 and the 'Outlander effect' join established attractions, putting Scotland on the world’s bucket list.

  • Destination Net Zero

    Scottish Government is supporting tourism businesses and destinations in Scotland as they transition to a greener, more sustainable, net zero future.

  • £1 billion Dundee Waterfront project

    An investment opportunity to transform the waterfront in one of the world’s coolest, aspirational cities.

  • £185 million Diageo investment

    This investment is the biggest ever in the whisky tourism sector. Diageo aims to transform its Scotch whisky experience and improve sustainability across its visitor centre network.

Scotland welcomes you

Scotland offers its visitors a unique tourism menu, with a mix of ingredients. Think rich heritage and history, diverse leisure, sporting and cultural attractions, delicious food and drink, stunning areas of natural beauty and vibrant, cosmopolitan cities. 

And once visitors experience Scotland, they can't wait to come back. Watch our video for a glimpse of what Scotland has to offer.

Tourism opportunities in Scotland

Global leader in mountain biking and cycling

Did you know Scotland has twice been named the best place in the world to mountain bike? Or that Fort William is the home of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup?

Scotland's facilities and trails are in constant demand by thousands of businesses and consumers each year. From families who enjoy a leisurely ride to adrenaline junkies performing stunts, tourists are drawn to explore the country’s trails, tracks and purpose-built trail centres. And with easy access to a network of exhilarating, challenging terrains and wild, untamed landscapes, Scotland’s untamed back country, hills, glens and forests offer a spectacular background to rival any country in the world.

Scotland is a four-season destination, providing year-round opportunities, so visitors come for more than the mountain biking and leisure cycling. The experience is interwoven with the Scots’ warm welcome, a rich culture and heritage to explore and a vibrant food scene to complement our national drink, whisky.

Growth of whisky tourism

Whisky is Scotland's national drink and our biggest export, enjoyed across the globe as well as right here in Scotland. Skilled distillers take pure water from crystal-clear streams and plump, golden barley from the fields and transform them into a precious spirit, which is then poured into oak casks and tucked away to mature.

Many of our 100 active distilleries, spread across five whisky regions, offer fascinating tours and ‘whisky tourism’ has now hit an all-time high, with distilleries welcoming over two million visits from tourists in 2018. Indeed, distillery visits have grown by 56% since 2010, and this is quickly becoming a key leisure sector in Scotland.

Diageo has committed £185 million investment to transform its Scotch whisky visitor experiences in the biggest programme ever seen in Scotland’s whisky tourism sector. The centrepiece of the investment will be a new state-of-the-art Johnnie Walker immersive visitor experience opens in a new window bringing to life the story of the world’s most popular Scotch whisky and creating a unique welcome for millions of Scotch fans around the world.

The home of golf

With a legacy that spans six centuries, there is no finer place to play a round of golf than the country that gave the game to the world. Tourists in Scotland are spoiled for choice with over 550 fantastic courses to play, including links, parkland, and heathland courses, and everything else in between.

Scotland also offers the perfect opportunity to see some of the world's most prestigious tournaments being played out. Scotland regularly hosts The Open Championship and the Ricoh Women's British Open, among many others.

Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus – among scores of other top golfers – have all played here and many of Scotland's most prestigious courses were designed by golfing legends.

Would you be surprised to know that business events currently represent 20% of all tourism expenditure in Scotland, with delegates typically spending more than leisure visitors? This is indeed big business, particularly in the life sciences sector, as Scotland is home to Europe’s largest cluster of scientists working in life sciences. Our bio-revolution is attracting unprecedented numbers of international meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) to Scotland.

In fact, Scotland's eight cities currently attract 410,000 international business tourists every year, beating off competition for MICE business from the likes of Vienna, Barcelona and Sydney.

Glasgow has a great track record for hosting high-profile international events, including the United Nations global COP26 climate summit in 2021 - the biggest international summit the UK has ever seen.

Picking the right destination is key to planning successful (and memorable) events and the good news is that Scotland has lots of fantastic destinations to choose from.

Outside our cities, you’ll find show-stopping venues, such as castles and country estates in glorious surroundings, which are perfect for incentive activities. Add to that sumptuous gala dinners and places of industry and academic learning, such as Stirling, which are pioneers in many industries.

Invest in Scotland and you’ll find a strong, growing accommodation sector which continues to attract leading brands and operators from across the globe. Scotland has attracted some of the largest global hotel groups such as Hilton, Marriott, Accor, IHG and Radisson hotel group.

These internationally recognised hotel chains have seen long-term success in Scotland and have announced ongoing expansion schemes to launch new brands across the country, such as the UK’s second W Hotel in Edinburgh. With announcements from international Operators new to Scotland, such as Europe’s first Virgin Hotels, Hyatt, Yotel, Dalata and many more, Scotland is certainly open for business.

Scottish cities are building on the success of world-class events and major infrastructure projects. The strength of the business and leisure tourism markets in Scotland’s cities drive year-round occupancy and high room rates. The demand for additional accommodation presents significant opportunities for providers, developers and investors. 

From Edinburgh’s year-round tourism economy, to Glasgow’s UK-leading MICE market, Inverness' new hotel boom and Dundee's £1 billion investment in the waterfront area, Scotland’s cities offer a diverse range of options for development. 

Edinburgh saw the highest level of investment in hotels of any city outside of London in 2021, with 11 deals worth around £260 million.

Source: Knight Frank, UK Hotel Capital Markets Investment Review 2022 opens in a new window  

Why Scotland is the ideal home for your tourism business or development

An award-winning destination

Whether you’re heading to Scotland from London, Europe or the rest of the world, you'll find us well-connected for business and leisure travel and you'll receive the warmest of welcomes. In fact, Glasgow was recently voted 'friendliest city in the world' by Rough Guide opens in a new window  readers. And Edinburgh was voted second in the world for quality of life, in a recent Deutsche Bank study opens in a new window .

Glasgow has been crowned the world's leading festival and event destination by the World Travel Awards opens in a new window , beating competition from London, Singapore, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney and Cape Town. The European Commission crowned Glasgow the UK's top cultural and creative city. It's a city bursting with energy, passion and creativity - brimming with artists, designers, creators and innovators. 

Access the skills and talent you need

Over 50% of our working population has further education giving Scotland a high-quality talent pool with the right skills and experience you need to grow your business, both now and in the future. 

Language and communication capabilities are one of Scotland's strengths with our strong multilingual workforce speaking 170 languages, allowing you to access the language skills you need.

Scotland is committed to creating a fairer society for the benefit of our business base, the economy and for long-term sustainable growth. Your business operations in Scotland will run smoothly thanks to notably low staff turnover rates, which will make it easy for you to employ and retain staff.

Scotland is, of course, famous for the friendliness of its people, so you can be sure that your workforce always offers the warmest of welcomes.

More about Scotland's people, skills and recruitment 

Benefit from ongoing support

We will ensure that you are supported before, during and after you locate in Scotland. We aim to make it quick and easy for your business to settle in Scotland. We will help you to identify premises, partners and investment opportunities, recruit staff and access funding to upskill them, develop new products and services, and access growth capital.

More on how we can help 

You might also be interested in

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    The transition to net zero emissions opens huge opportunities to innovate and grow your business in Scotland. Discover how Scotland is playing its part.

  • Capital investment opportunities

    Our clear planning, reliable regulation and market-leading rates means Scotland’s commercial property opportunities are open to you.

  • Edinburgh's city centre regeneration

    Built in Edinburgh’s historic city centre, St James Quarter is leading the way as a sustainable destination of choice.

Need help?

If you have a question about tourism opportunities in Scotland, our team of advisers can help.