THE £6 billion tourism industry is looking east for its next key market, it has emerged.

Currently Indian visitors are worth £12 million a year to the Scottish economy. An average of 29,000 Indian travellers holidayed here annually between 2013 and 2015, with the country’s scenery, history, culture and whisky all proving particularly popular.

However, efforts are underway to grow the market and convince more wealthy travellers to swap their country’s sun for Scotland’s more changeable weather.

Specialist holiday firms have reported an increase in Indian demand for tours of Scotland and a trade mission is preparing to travel to the western city of Pune to tap into the their taste for foreign adventure.

National tourism body VisitScotland will lead a two-week business development mission in the emerging market.

The event will allow firms such as specialist tour firm Go2 UK Travels, which has seen a 200 per cent increase in Indian holidaymakers to Scotland in recent years, the chance to hold face-to-face meetings with as many as 400 key tour operators in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.

Khushboo Shah, director of Go2 UK Travels, said: “The modern Indian traveller is looking for natural beauty, untouched landscapes, luxury hotels, great food, great whisky and friendly, welcoming people. This makes Scotland an ideal destination for Indian travellers.

“We’ve seen a growth of over 200 per cent year-on-year in Indian tourists travelling to Scotland. Whether it is corporate events, luxury travellers or everyday travellers, the demand is just growing for tours to Scotland. Our best-sellers this year have been whisky trails and golf tours with luxury stays.”

The holiday body will partner with luxury airline Etihad for the push, which runs in conjunction with the group’s attendance at the three-day Destination Britain India event run by VisitBritain.

In addition to the main schedule, representatives from VisitScotland and the other companies will also conduct meetings with key partners in Pune and Ahmedabad.

Participating firms include Edinburgh-based Cashel Travel, luxury serviced apartments The Spires, which operates in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, and Kandala Travel, which works from Glasgow, London and Hyderabad.

The first overseas development mission of the year, it will be the eighth such trip since September, following delegations to the Netherlands, France, Spain, Germany, North America, China and South Korea.

The activity is part of overall efforts to grow tourism revenues by £1b by 2020.

Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “India is an important emerging market for Scottish tourism and this business development mission, our first of 2017, will allow tourism businesses to meet face-to-face with tour operators.

“It will provide our partners with an excellent platform to showcase their products and we look forward to welcoming more Indian visitors to Scotland as a result.”

A year-long programme of events to promote the tourism sector is currently beginning as the country steps into its official year of history, heritage and archaeology.

Last year focused on architecture and design and previous programmes have centred around food and drink and the Scottish diaspora.