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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 January 2007, 16:13 GMT
Foreign tourist numbers 'booming'
Urquhart Castle
VisitsScotland said the country's attractions are behind the rise
Scotland has received a large rise in the number of foreign visitors, according to official figures.

More than 2m overseas tourists visited the country in the first nine months of 2006 - an increase of 14% on the same period in 2005.

The figures compare favourably with the rest of the UK where the increase was just 8%.

Tourism Minister Patricia Ferguson said it showed that overseas tourism to Scotland was booming.

A total of 2,249,000 visitors came to Scotland from abroad in between January and the end of September in 2006, compared to 1,981,000 for the same period in 2005.

'Enticing destination'

The International Passenger Survey found the biggest increase was in the number of tourists from North America - up 16%.

The number from Europe rose by 13% while visitors from other countries accounted for a 12% increase.

Ms Ferguson said: "In a very competitive global market Scotland is increasingly becoming an enticing destination of choice for overseas visitors.

"I want to work with the industry to realise their ambition of 50% growth in the next decade."

VisitScotland said the increase was down to more direct flights to Scotland, targeted marketing campaigns and the country's many attractions.

Chief Executive Philip Riddle said: "These results are down to the hard work of VisitScotland and tourism businesses across the country."

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