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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 August, 2004, 17:33 GMT 18:33 UK
Fewer tourists going to Scotland
Tourists in Edinburgh
Many tourists to Scotland visit Edinburgh
The number of tourists choosing Scotland as a holiday destination has seen a surprise fall, new figures show.

For the first quarter of 2004, the number of visitors from EU countries dropped by 14,000.

The number of US visitors saw a drop from 58,000 to 55,000 - at a time when similar figures for England and Wales showed a rise.

The figures have shocked the industry and have led to calls for a rethink of the Scottish tourism strategy.

'Great concern'

While there is no disputing that Edinburgh will see a record number of tourists for the festival month of August, the figures for the first three months of the year tell a very different story.

In the first quarter of 2003, the number of tourists from other EU countries reached 82,000, whereas this year there were only 68,000.

The Scottish National Party's Kenny MacAskill said the figures were worrying.

He told BBC Scotland: "The fact of the matter is we have an unrivalled product here in Scotland and why we are under performing has to be a matter of great concern."

Tourism minister Frank McAveety was unavailable for comment, but the chief executive of Visit Scotland, Philip Riddle, said the industry should not be too alarmed.

He said: "We are working to increase the size of the economic contribution of the tourism industry in Scotland by 50% within 10 years.

"We believe it is a very achievable target but there's a lot to be done."

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