THE strong euro, health concerns over foreign travel and looming air traffic control strikes on the continent should boost tourism in the UK this summer, according to a new survey.
KPMG, which commissioned the study, said an opportunity has been created for Scottish tourism to make up ground on overseas holidays which have surged in popularity in recent times.
But the research also showed the industry has to convince the travelling public that the UK was cost effective. Seven in ten Scots said holidaying at home did not offer value for money.
"The strong euro gives the industry the chance to fight back on the value of the pound in a way that it has hampered them before," said KPMG’s Martin Ross. "UK holidaymakers are the largest single group of visitors to France, and the threat of a long hot summer of strikes could see a backlash from tourists who see little pleasure in being delayed at airports.
"With Americans also less likely to visit France this year, Scotland is well placed to attract a larger share of the reduced number of US tourists."
Meanwhile, separate figures showed a big dip in the number of overseas visitors to the UK in April 2003. Foreign tourists made 1.83 million visits in April 2003 - 15 per cent fewer than in April 2002, the Office for National Statistics said.
Visits by North Americans fell 18 per cent to 250,000, while western European visits slumped 14 per cent to 1.32 million. The amount spent in the UK by foreign visitors in April 2003 also went down - dipping 15 per cent to £740 million.
VisitBritain said the decline was due "in large part to a combination of the SARS outbreak around the world and the war with Iraq depressing long-haul travel and particularly affecting visits from North America".
Despite the April dip, the number of overseas visits to the UK for the first four months of this year, at 6.76 million, is up 1 per cent on January-April 2002. But the number of North American visits is down 12 per cent.