The Scottish Government must minimise the “burden of regulation and associated costs” if the tourism industry is to continue to grow.
That was the message from the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) as it unveiled its ‘tourism industry manifesto’ ahead of next year’s Scottish parliamentary elections.
Highlighting that tourism generates an estimated £4.4 billion a year in direct spend from overnight visitors and provides 211,200 jobs in Scotland, the document calls on government to review the current business rates model “with the aim of reducing the level of taxation”; continue to support the Small Business Bonus Scheme; reduce planning application fees; and commit to consult with the STA “prior to changes to future tourism policy, taxation or planned discussion with UK government”.
The STA also urged the next Scottish Government to “recognise the essential role of marketing Scotland” by protecting and increasing the VisitScotland marketing budget; and to “align transport policies, practice and taxation, with the industry’s tourism strategy”.
Policy positions included a call for the Scottish Government to honour its commitment to reducing Air Passenger Duty (APD) – a Westminster reserved power which is set to be devolved – by a “minimum of 50%” by April 2018 and “deliver earlier implementation if possible”.
The STA also called for investment to provide a “better connected transport network” including smart ticketing across the transport network.
Continued investment in Scotland’s digital infrastructure was also flagged in the manifesto, which claimed Scotland has the “worst 3G coverage in the UK” and that 46% of visitors were “unsatisfied with wi-fi availability”.
Marc Crothall, chief executive of the STA, said that although tourism “has come a long way” in recent years, “we have many challenges which prevent Scotland from being as competitive as it could or should be, all of which we have explored and highlighted in our manifesto”.
“International competition is increasingly fierce and as a small country, we need to ensure that Scotland remains attractive, accessible and affordable and offers visitors a consistently high quality experience,” said Crothall.
Stephen Leckie, chairman of the STA, added that the tourism industry is “committed to working with Scottish Government and its agencies to deliver this strategy”.