Hotel occupancy levels in Scotland are now higher than at any point in the past five years, the country's tourism minister has said.
Patricia Ferguson revealed to delegates at Scotland United, the annual conference of the hospitality industry in Scotland, that occupancy rates for hotels during September were running at 75%, compared with 69% in September 2000.
B&Bs and guesthouses were also doing well, up by 10% to 62% compared with the same period, although increases for hostels and self-catering accommodation, caravans and camping were less spectacular.
"Tourism is a crucial industry for Scotland. It is one of the largest contributors to the economy and employs a significant proportion of our workforce," she told the conference.
"In the first six months of this year, our overseas visitor numbers increased by 12% compared with last year. We have seen a 25% increase in visitors from Western Europe - that is enormously encouraging," she added.
• British Hospitality Association chief executive Bob Cotton used the conference to launch a broadside against planners who claim to welcome tourism, yet restrict developments by hoteliers, restaurateurs and others in the tourist trade.
Cotton said it was essential that planners took a more positive approach to new developments rather than constantly trying to restrict the way the industry operated.
"It's no good the politicians wanting more facilities and amenities to attract more people to Scotland, and then planners denying hospitality businesses permission to create them," he said.
by Nic Paton
Buy this week's Caterer magazine for more industry news and analysis