Marc Crothall: ‘Good’ growth is key as Scottish tourism recovers

Research published last week by 56 Degree Insight offered a significant degree of optimism for Scotland’s tourism businesses; around 53% of the 1,000 Scots interviewed said that they had planned to take a holiday in Scotland this year.

While the past two years have been unimaginably challenging for Scotland’s tourism industry, we are somewhat fortunate in that a light has been shone on our own assets; it’s so easy to forget what’s on your doorstep until you no longer have the choice but to embrace and experience it.

One of the very few positive things that Covid gave us has been a sense of gratitude for what we have and the reminder to make the most of what’s around us.

With the international market opening up, many of us will of course jet to warmer climes but the fact remains, Scotland will always be a great place to experience a wide range of breaks and holidays.

It is heartening to see that after two years of living with different levels of restrictions around international travel, Scotland remains the preferred choice for more than half of those surveyed who indicated that they would be taking a holiday this year.

The UK domestic market accounts for around 70% of tourism in Scotland and our industry will always be dependent on this tourism spend; however, the return of the international market will be the gamechanger for our industry this year, particularly for the sectors which are so reliant on international visitors.

Scotland must remain a top choice of today’s traveller; it is more important than ever that we continue to ensure that we are globally competitive, not just in terms of our assets and experiences but on cost and value for money.

Our tourism strategy vision remains, Scotland will be the leader in 21st century tourism and after two unbearably difficult crisis years for our tourism industry, it feels like our efforts and focus are naturally returning to delivering this approach which puts our communities, our people, our visitors, our businesses and importantly, our environment at the heart of everything we do.

We are not the tourism industry of two years ago when the pandemic hit, nor are we the tourism industry of three years ago. Responsible tourism is no longer a peripheral phrase; maximising the positive benefits of tourism for all, including host communities and the environment is a vitally important part of Scotland’s tourism strategy.

While we will wholeheartedly welcome the world back to Scotland and encourage domestic visits to all corners of the country, we must acknowledge our collective responsibility to protect the assets which make ‘Brand Scotland’ so globally unique. ‘Good growth’ is key, we are no longer playing ‘tourism by numbers’ and we must minimise any negative impacts to our environment and indeed the wellbeing of the people who live in our destinations.

With recovery looking stronger, we must remind ourselves that we can realise the ambition of our tourism strategy – that Scotland will be the leaders in 21st century tourism.

The STA will continue to influence policy and remove barriers to enable our tourism product to grow sustainably, boost employment within our communities, improve profit across our businesses and ultimately, create economic and social value across Scotland.

We must create and embrace every opportunity to be more competitive and build a strong, sustainable tourism product which is key to Scotland’s economic recovery.

It is within our reach to do so and I am optimistic about the opportunity we have to reset tourism in a responsible way while remaining fully focussed on driving recovery and creating the right conditions for our industry to thrive in the months ahead.

Marc Crothall is chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance

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