A new report released today by Visitscotland highlights the economic importance of Scotland's two National Parks, which last year earned £243 million from domestic visitors alone - who numbered one million.
Timed to coincide with National Parks Week (29 July - 4 August) the Scottish National Parks Sector Review: 2012 reveals that last year as well as attracting thousands of overseas tourists the parks between them received one million visiting 'staycationers' from the UK and Ireland, with the Cairngorms National Park accounting for 570,000 visitors and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park 'generating' a further 482,000.
The home crowd alone contributed £243m to the Scottish economy during National Park visits - a 25% increase on the previous year.
So the two parks are clearly worth a lot to the economy.
According to the report the majority of domestic visitors to Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park will stay for between 1-3 nights, and they spend an average of £255 per visit, or £83 per night.
The greatest numbers of overseas visitors to Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park are from Germany, France and Spain; in the Cairngorms visitors from the USA are most numerous, followed by Norwegians (interesting, since they've probably got more Cairngorm-like country of their own than anyone else in Europe) and then Germans. Overseas visitors tend to spend more per trip - perhaps because they stay longer?
The report gives a detailed breakdown into the activities and origins of visitors.
Going for a 'long walk, hike or ramble' (of at least 2 miles/1 hour) topped the top 10 activities among visitors to Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park in 2012, followed by sightseeing on foot. In the Cairngorms the popularity of these activities was reversed, with sightseeing in the top slot and 'long walks' just behind; but 230,000 people still managed to prefer walking.
Statistics suggest that the Cairngorms is more geared towards younger consumers and larger parties, with more active pursuits in the top twenty activities for the area.
Both parks have been majoring on the ongoing Year of Natural Scotland 2013 campaign, embracing projects such as the search for Scotland's Big 5 animals, as well as holding their own events.
Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland and former Convener of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, said:
'Our two National Parks play a vital role in the Scottish tourism economy, and our domestic visitors contribute hugely to this. This year's celebrations for the Year of Natural Scotland have provided a fantastic opportunity to promote these treasured idylls, and we hope that these tremendous figures will grow even further.'
Fiona Logan, CEO of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, who recently raised eyebrows by suggesting there should be a much greater private sector involvement in the park, said:
'We are committed to providing a high quality visitor experience for the millions of people who come and enjoy the rich and diverse landscape Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park has to offer.'
'We have worked hard to raise the quality of the National Park as a destination and have invested in visitor infrastructure such as piers and pontoons, water bus services and our National Park ranger service. These latest visitor figures are credit not only to the stunning natural beauty of our National Parks but also the quality service provided by our tourism businesses.'
And Grant Moir, Chief Executive of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, added:
'The Cairngorms National Park is an outstanding holiday destination with fantastic scenery, an abundance of wildlife and great facilities available all year round. Whether it's action and adventure or peace and tranquillity that people are looking for, it's all here. Scotland's National Parks are very young compared to others in the UK and across the globe – the Cairngorms National Park celebrates its 10th birthday this year, a mere youngster – yet it's making a significant contribution to the Scottish economy. It has certainly proved a very popular destination with the rise of the "staycation" in recent years and with the weather we've had recently, why go anywhere else.'
To celebrate National Parks Week and the Year of Natural Scotland, VisitScotland is supporting the Get Active event at Loch Lomond Shores of Friday 2 August and Cairngorms Bike Festival on Sunday 4 August.
For more facts and figures you see the Visitscotland report here.