THE number of international tourists coming to Scotland in the past year has increased, with the money spent by visitors up by nine per cent.

North American tourists, in particular, have come in their droves.

In the 12 months leading up to March 2017, there was a 19 per cent increase in visits from North America from the previous year. More than 590,000 flooded in to sample Scottish culture and scenery.

During their stay in the 12 months before March 2017, North Americans spent a total of £641 million – 40 per cent more than in the previous year.

Overall, Scotland welcomed a three per cent rise in the number of visits and a nine per cent rise in spending.

The figures arrived as part of a quarterly report on the number of overseas visitors to Britain, UK residents’ visits abroad, earnings from overseas visits and expenditure of British residents abroad by the Office for National Statistics. For Britain as a whole, the study recorded 8.3m visits by holidaymakers with a total expenditure of £4.4 billion.

Meanwhile, 14.1bn departed the UK for holidays, spending approximately £8.6bn. All estimates were based on interviews conducted when passengers ended their visit, meaning any visits which began in the reported quarter but were not completed until later are not included.

Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Our industry, which employs 217,000 people, continues to flourish acting as a magnet for tourists drawn to our world-class attractions. It is great news for our economy.

“The rise in overseas tourists is encouraging. Visitors are spending generously when they visit Scotland, particularly those coming from North America.

“Everyone involved in Scotland’s tourism industry is focused on offering an unforgettable visitor experience for people that choose our country as their holiday destination.

“2017 celebrates the richness of Scotland’s intriguing history, impressive cultural heritage and fascinating archaeology. There is no better time to come here to enjoy our incredible views, top-class attractions and to spend in our hotels, shops and restaurants.”