Associate feature: Supporting tourism through to a brighter future
Since the start of the pandemic the focus for VisitScotland has been on supporting the tourism industry in every way we can.
Examples include reconvening the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group; delivering a staycation campaign through the summer of 2020 and a love local campaign in the autumn; and our involvement in delivering vital funding to events and tourism businesses.
Right now, getting money into the bank accounts of businesses remains our priority. VisitScotland’s chairman and I were involved in the Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce.
The taskforce reported at the end of October on areas that the Scottish and UK governments should continue to support tourism and events. A key outcome from the recommendations was the announcement, just prior to Christmas, of a targeted support package of £104.3m.
VisitScotland is finalising arrangements, with others, to deliver this funding. Support will be allocated to tour operators, coach companies, hotels, self-catering businesses, outdoor tourism operators, B&Bs, visitor attractions, hostels, ski centres, sector and destination groups amongst others.
These funds can help safeguard the future of the tourism and event industries and visitor economy, ensuring that when we can begin to welcome visitors back, the same high-quality experience will be on offer.
This also means that jobs across the country can be protected. Ours is an industry which employs 217,000 people; supporting families and communities in every part of Scotland.
Other recommendations made by the Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce will be taken forward by the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group.
They provide the building blocks for the recovery of Scottish tourism and will require the collaborative efforts of national and local governments and industry leaders to succeed, through funding and long-term infrastructure and skills programmes.
VisitScotland will play a lead role in delivering across a number of these areas. As shown throughout this pandemic, there’s no lack of interest in the Scottish tourism product from across the UK or internationally.
Prior to the pandemic, international overnight visits accounted for a quarter of all stays in Scotland but almost half of visitor spend. When the time is right, VisitScotland will focus on regaining the confidence of those key international markets, for business, events and leisure visitors. Key will be work with Destination Organisations and trade associations on marketing plans.
Work is already in hand to address the recommendations on digital support. To build on previous work, VisitScotland and Business Gateway are working together on a £20m digital fundamentals package.
The extension of the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund is essential to improve and enhance visitor facilities. It is also an important element of the investment strand of the visitor management activity being led by VisitScotland, involving partners from across public agencies, including NatureScot, Police Scotland, NGOs and the National Parks.
The Scottish Government’s route development/recovery work continues apace. Transport Scotland, in partnership with VisitScotland and SDI has been successful in working with airports to improve Scotland’s connectivity in recent years.
The immediate objective is to help ensure that the most important routes come back for the summer 2021 season (restrictions permitting) with a particular focus on our global hub connectivity such as Heathrow, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Dubai. Along with our North American connectivity and European cities, which are important for tourism and Scotland’s wider business community.
Work also continues supporting the delivery of City Deals and Regional Economic Development Partnerships.
At this point it is vital we keep our industry intact. Visitors will return and together we can build the industry back to its world leading position.
This piece was sponsored by VisitScotland