Scotland has seen an influx of British holiday-makers in 2020 as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and international travel restrictions continues to see people holiday at home in the UK.

During July and August, 11 per cent of UK residents that took a domestic holiday chose to do so in Scotland, according to Visit Scotland. Scotland has always had a strong domestic tourist draw, with 66 per cent of Scotland holidaymakers living north of the border.


With travel restrictions ongoing, data from Visit Scotland suggests Scotland is the number two destination for UK residents for a holiday or short break in autumn and the winter months, behind the South West. Scotland remains the number one domestic holiday destination for Scottish residents.


Scotland’s tourist hotspots include the West Coast and Islands, namely Oban, Isle of Skye and Mull, with holiday-lets witnessing unprecedented demand and many hotels at full occupancy. Following months of extremely poor trading in the height of lockdown, the flurry in demand that followed the initial easing of restriction measures came as extremely good news for the tourist industry and local economies.


While Scotland’s rural locations have proven the most popular with holidaymakers, demand for accommodation in the major cities is also creeping up to pre-lockdown levels. Research from STR shows that immediately after lockdown restrictions were put in place, overall hotel occupancy levels in Scotland dropped to just 10 per cent. When comparing this with more recent levels now that the majority of hotels have reopened, occupancy in the last week of August was at 65 per cent in Edinburgh, 46 per cent in Glasgow, and 88 per cent in Inverness.


The popularity of UK staycations has seen demand extend beyond traditional peak tourist months. For the remainder of the year, the UK tourist market could benefit from ongoing international travel restrictions. Local lockdown measures may see some regions perform better than others. Meanwhile, limitations on the number of people who can meet indoors could lead to a positive impact on hotel occupancy numbers, as travellers seek individual accommodation that respects these measures.


Comment piece by Steven Fyfe


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