Tourism industry struggles with spend and bookings

New Scottish Tourism Alliance survey highlights the scale of the challenge for the sector


SCOTLAND’S tourism industry is struggling to overcome a series of issues as it tries to recover from the effects of the pandemic, according to the latest report by the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA).

The survey found that almost 40% of businesses have seen a decrease in spending since May 2021, with 50% of tourist businesses reporting that they have fewer bookings for June to August this year compared to 2019. Half of businesses polled said they have seen a decrease in customer spending in comparison to the same period in 2019.

Business owners revealed that they believe revenues are down due to a combination of factors including the current cost of living crisis across the UK and Scotland’s inability to compete internationally on price and value for money.

With more than 700 businesses taking art in the survey, 34% described their business as currently in steady recovery, 50% of respondents stated that it would take them at least a year to recover and 6% said they are unlikely to recover.

The top three current challenges in the industry were identified as rising energy costs, an increase in supplier costs and staff recruitment.

Barriers to recruitment were identified as the lack of available staff wanting to work, the current UK immigration visa policy and a negative perception of the industry.

STA chief executive, Marc Crothall, said: “The results of what has been one of our most robust surveys to date in terms of number of respondents and depth of data confirms very much what businesses have been telling us for many weeks now: recovery is happening albeit at a much slower pace than anticipated and certainly not across all tourism sectors.

“The cost-of-living crisis is hitting Scotland’s tourism sector very hard on many levels.  “People are hesitant about committing to booking a break due to household financial challenges and uncertainty, consumer spend is down and with the rise of energy prices and supplier costs, many businesses are finding that the level of recovery is almost static.

“This impacts the ability for our tourism industry to remain competitive globally; we struggle to compete on price and we’re unable to retain and attract the quality of staff required to deliver the level of service demanded by today’s consumers.

“The majority of our businesses cannot move beyond running to stand still, despite the fact that we’re now almost into the main tourist season.

“The transport disruption and rail strikes only make the challenge that much harder.

“The market is still fragile and businesses are finding it increasingly hard to trade their way into a place of sustainable recovery.”