The International Passenger Survey for 2004 shows that EU and non-EU visitor numbers are 13 per cent higher than the UK average compared with 2003.
At the launch of VisitScotland's EXPO, the tourism industry's annual trade fair, at Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, tourism minister Patricia Ferguson said:
'Scotland's tourism industry has battled through a difficult period in recent years, challenged by international events and an overall downturn in global travel. However, it has not only survived that period - but is thriving.
'Scotland has unique assets and characteristics to offer the tourist, and I believe we are beginning to reap the rewards of increased marketing activity, increased air and ferry routes into Scotland, and an upturn in the quality of the tourism experience.
'Data from the International Passenger Survey is excellent news for the industry in Scotland. Substantial increases in international tourists in 2004 compared with 2003, demonstrates Scotland is outperforming the average for the UK. In particular, the number of visitors coming from both EU and non-EU countries is considerably higher than the UK average.
'I believe this is in no small part due to continued investment in opening new routes to Scotland from Europe. And data for both North America and the rest of the world shows that Scotland is punching well above its weight.
'Tourism is crucial to Scotland's economy and I am heartened to see that we are competing very well in an increasingly competitive global market. But the work is not done - we must continue to make sure Scottish tourism is the best it can be if we are to realise our ambition of 50% growth in the next decade.
Phillip Riddle, chief executive of VisitScotland, added:
'I am delighted with these figures and the tourism industry can take great credit from them. They demonstrate that our marketing strategies are yielding some excellent results and they present the challenge of maintaining these levels of success.'