HUGE numbers of American tourists visited Scotland this year, thanks to Outlander, the value of the pound tanking after Brexit, and low cost transatlantic airlines, tourism bosses say.

Official figures released yesterday show there were more than 707,000 visits from North America in the year to the end of June, up 38 per cent on the previous 12-months.

And when they were here, the visitors from the US and Canada took advantage of the exchange rate giving them more pound for their dollar.

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Spend jumped to £732m, up from £495m, a hike of 48 per cent.

Across all international markets visits to Scotland were up 11 per cent, and spending increased by 19 per cent to more than £2 billion.

Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The continued rise in overseas tourists is encouraging. They are spending more too, particularly those coming from North America.

“It is great news for our economy. Scotland offers an memorable visitor experience for people that choose our country as their holiday destination.”

VisitScotland Chief Executive, Malcolm Roughead said the growth could be attributed to “targeted marketing activity in key North American and European countries, favourable exchange rates, increased capacity on flights and the Outlander effect, which has taken the country by storm since the release of the popular TV series.”

“Of course with great numbers comes great responsibility, and it is imperative the country’s tourism industry remains sustainable. This includes looking at how we can share the tourism windfall with lesser known parts of Scotland and outside of peak season, alongside ensuring that infrastructure meets current and future demand.

“VisitScotland is committed to working in partnership with the government, businesses and communities so that Scotland remains a must-visit destination for future generations of holidaymakers. Tourism is more than a holiday experience, it is integral to sustaining communities across Scotland by generating income, creating jobs and stimulating social change.

However, in figures looking at the second quarter, there was a huge decrease in business travel. The number of people coming to Scotland on business trips dropped by 46.8 per cent. In 2016, business travel brought £319m into the country, this year it’s just £152m.

The tourism bosses also announced a restructuring of the services they offer on the ground, with almost two thirds of their tourist centres to close in the next two years.

Instead of 65 shopfronts in towns and cities across the country, the body would have 26 “high impact regional hubs”.

The organisation said this was because more people were getting information off the internet, rather than coming into the centres. VisitScotland said there had been a 58 per cent drop in footfall in the last ten years.

Sites at Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports, and Dunfermline, Stonehaven, Drumnadrochit, Braemar and Falkirk, are among those likely to close.

Meanwhile, figures from the ONS sshowed there were a record 19.2 million visits to the UK in the first half of 2017, up 9 per cent compared to the start of 2016.

Inbound visitors spent £10.8 billion between January and June 2017, up 14 per cent on the same time last year, a new record.