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by Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland
19 January 2024
Associate Feature: Tourism: an economic and social powerhouse for Scotland

Associate Feature: Tourism: an economic and social powerhouse for Scotland

Tourism is a cornerstone of our economy and a major success story for Scotland. It not only creates jobs, but spreads wealth and wellbeing to all corners of the country, from cities to rural areas and island populations. 

Undoubtedly our sector continues to face serious economic challenges. The ongoing cost crisis is having a significant impact on both business and individual finances. But, with the right support, tourism and events can boost our economy, benefiting visitors and communities alike. 

It’s well recognised that tourism is one of Scotland’s most important industries. In fact, in a 2021 survey of Scottish residents it was named as the most important. And among those respondents who identified as living in ‘tourism areas’, 84% agreed that locally tourism supports jobs in food, retail and other sectors. 

Despite the current challenges, interest in Scotland has remained incredibly strong. People still want to travel in whatever way they can and Scotland is very much on travel wish lists the world over. 

While we all continue to navigate the difficult economic landscape, VisitScotland’s priority is to use our marketing, events, destination development and business support work to grow appetite for Scotland from all visitors – near and far – and make Scotland a year-round, must-visit destination.

Last year, many of Scotland’s international markets surpassed pre-pandemic levels in terms of visits and, crucially, value. In the first six months of 2023, Scotland recorded the strongest recovery of international visitors compared to the rest of the UK. We’re anticipating news of statistics from the second half of 2023 soon.

Also in 2023, we undertook an extensive piece of research to understand the experiences of our visitors. The results are not yet available, however very early feedback suggests that to our visitors, Scotland’s offering is unrivalled, its people and places offer something truly unique. We will continue to shout about success and excellence in our sector; knowing that doing so does not diminish the difficulties we face.

The year ahead is also showing strong bookings from North American and European visitors. Holidaymakers from overseas tend to stay longer and spend more while they’re here. These visitors make an important contribution to a sustainable visitor economy in every region across the country. And our international visitors are especially important while the domestic market adjusts to cost-of-living challenges. 

There is undeniably demand for Scotland’s world-renowned offering and an opportunity for us to capitalise on such global interest. Regions and destinations across Scotland have featured on must-visit lists for 2024 in global travel publications. We will continue working hard to bring the benefits of this global success to our sector and the wider economy. 

When it comes to change, embracing opportunities and addressing challenges as they emerge, the sector has time and time again showed its resilience. The year ahead will not be easy, but the ambition remains the same; for Scotland to be a leader in 21st century tourism with a thriving visitor economy. 

As Scotland’s national tourism organisation, we’re also adapting to these challenges. We recognise that consumer behaviour and the needs of businesses in both the tourism and events sectors have changed, particularly since Covid and in an increasingly digital world.  

In this new landscape, we anticipate making some changes to the way we deliver some of our activities to be even more efficient and effective. We want the wellbeing of our country, economic prosperity and the development of a sustainable future to be at the heart of everything we do. We’ll continue to work with all our partners, including Scottish Government and elected members, to achieve our goals in 2024 and beyond. 

This article is sponsored by VisitScotland

www.visitscotland.org

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