Scotland’s tourism industry must “work together as one” and focus on key growth priorities if it is to achieve ambitious targets to increase visitor spend over the next four years.
That was the message from the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) as it published a mid-term review of the Tourism Scotland 2020 national tourism strategy at the annual STA conference at the EICC in Edinburgh earlier this month.
The review concluded that, based on existing activities, the sector may fall short of reaching the £5.5 billion visitor spend target by 2020 by £0.3bn. Tourism Scotland 2020 was launched four years ago with the aim of increasing visitor spend by £1bn by 2020.
Despite the warning, the review stated that by focusing on key priorities the sector will be able to “close the gap” in the next four years and “lay the foundations for sustained growth” going forward.
Four key growth priorities have been identified: to strengthen digital capability, to strengthen industry leadership, to enhance the quality of the visitor experience and to influence investment – including flight access and transport connectivity, digital connectivity and business growth finance.
The review also stated that collaboration across Scotland’s tourism sector has been “one of the main achievements to date and needs to continue”.
Speaking after the publication of the review, Stephen Leckie, chair of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: “Our findings have reinforced what we already knew; that despite Scotland’s high profile over the last two years, the industry cannot rest on its laurels.
“Growth will not come to us, we need to go out and find it and localising the strategy to ensure that industry understands and responds to key messages at a local level through their own destination and sector strategy is going to be key to the delivery of our ambitious but achievable growth ambition.
“Collaboration with industry working as one will be the glue which bonds businesses in Scotland together to leverage tourism as the most important driver to Scotland’s economy.”
Tourism minister Fergus Ewing said the strategy has already delivered “significant progress”.
“The successful completion of the mid-term review will allow us all to renew our focus on the key priorities that will only accelerate this growth,” he said.
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said collaboration within the industry will be “key to its success”.
“Tourism is the heartbeat of the Scottish economy and remains strong in the face of a difficult economic backdrop and uncertainty in travel,” he said.
“In the last 12 months there has been a 7% increase in visitors and an 8% increase in spend, while new direct air routes are strengthening connectivity, but we cannot be complacent.”