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International tourism worth £17 million to Oban’s economy

Image Credit: Kieran Duncan

Oban ranked 50th most popular UK town

The latest results from the Office of National Statistics show that in 2018, international tourism was worth £17m to Oban's economy, placing us as the 50th most popular UK town or city.

The results released yesterday highlight that international tourists enjoyed 72,000 visits and 169,000 nights, with just under half the visits from Europe but the majority of spend £8m from North American tourists.

Our North America visitors stayed an average of 2 nights, spending £291 compared to European's who stayed for 2 nights but spent £172.

The purpose of their visits was primarily holidays and inclusive tours but visiting friends or relatives also contributed a significant number with approximately 20% (19,000) visits to Oban.

Wild About Argyll

The importance of Oban as a tourism destination to Argyll's economy was also highlighted as the 'Seafood Capital of Scotland' contributed 60% of the international visits to mainland Argyll, and 45% of the spend within the region.

Outdoor Capital of UK

Oban's performance was dwarfed by our near neighbours in Fort William, which ranked number 28 in the table of most popular UK destinations. The Lochaber town benefited from 173,000 visits, 433,000 nights and a massive £44m in 2018.

Trends for North America visitors were very similar to Oban's, with an average 2 night stay and spend at £298, whereas Europeans stayed 3 nights and had an average spend of £230.

West Highlands of Scotland

These results are positive news, and suggest Oban and Fort William are bustling with visitors in the main season, but clearly more work can be done in Oban to appeal to international markets.

Oban is a traditional coastal destination with plenty to see & do, and also benefits from the many international visitors who make their ferry connections to the Hebridean islands. Yet, it is important to develop and promote our world class attractions, tours and events to grab a bigger share of international visits to UK.

Fort William has Ben Nevis, the Harry Potter railway (Jacobite Steam Train) and nearby Glencoe but 2020 - the Year of Coast & Waters, presents the perfect platform to collaborate with others to develop 'west coast' propositions.

  • Cycling - Oban to Fort William cycle route 48-mile route.
  • Whisky - Oban, Ben Nevis, Ardnamurchan and Ncn’ean distilleries
  • Cruising & Sailing - 'Must Sea Scotland', is a campaign designed to show off Scotland's waterfront hotspots
  • Events - in comparison to Lochaber, Oban must aspire to have the number and frequency of events that appeal to UK & International markets.

The View Oban

Our facilities are unique to Oban, and quite possibly the west of Scotland, as we are perfectly located to watch the ferries come and go - to enjoy a beer, live traditional Scottish music or a ceilidh, whisky tastings and we're a flexible events space.

Here's to 2019/2020!

About the author

Daniel MacIntyre

Daniel MacIntyre


Daniel is an experienced business development consultant, digital marketing manager and director of The View, Oban’s live music venue and bar.

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