£1million investment heralds increased support for Scottish tourism

A £1million investment in a new visitor attraction and a predicted drop in the value of the pound are just two factors forecasted to help boost the future of Scottish tourism.

Professional mountain biker Ruaridh Cunningham in Glentress and Innerleithen.

Photograph by: Kenny Lam / VisitScotlandMountain biking at Glentress

At the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) Autumn Conference in Edinburgh First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the industry as “one of the most important, vibrant and successful sectors of the Scottish economy”.

In an address to members of the Alliance, which represents around 75 per cent of the tourism sector either directly or indirectly through association, the First Minister underlined the government’s support for the industry.

“The on-going success of our tourism sector reflects the talent, dedication and creativity of the estimated 207,000 people who work in it, and as a powerful voice representing the sector the Scottish Tourism Alliance deserves a huge amount of credit for its success,” she said.

“This conference is an opportunity to discuss the very real challenges and the significant opportunities the sector faces and to set out the Scottish Government’s determination to support tourism in all parts of our country.”

Ms Sturgeon also announced details of a £1 million investment into the development of a new forest tourism attraction that is expected to leverage more than £10.7 million of private sector funding and bring thousands of new visitors to the south of Scotland.

Scottish Government funding to Forest Enterprise Scotland will support plans for 16km of new mountain biking trails, multi-use paths and other infrastructure improvements which are part of a wider 56 eco-cabin development at Glentress Forest.

The overall £11.75 million tourism development is being managed in a partnership between Forest Enterprise Scotland and Forest Holidays which is providing the private sector investment.

The investment has the potential to generate an extra £1 million into the local economy each year, employ up to 60 people and increase visitors to Glentress Forest from 300,000 to 330,000 by 2022.

“Tourism is one of our most important industries, showcasing Scotland as a great place to live, work, study and invest in so I’m delighted this support will draw thousands of new visitors to the south of Scotland,” said Ms Sturgeon.

“This project highlights the potential of private and public sectors working together. This fantastic new forest attraction will increase tourism and potential for overnight stays, create new jobs and boost the local economy.

“Our investment builds on the range of support we’re providing the sector through the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, Scotland is Now campaign and the work we will undertake over the coming year to encourage fair work practices and promote tourism as a career of choice.”

Sallie Bailey, regional manager with Forest Enterprise Scotland described the announcement as great news for the Tweed Valley and the Scottish Borders as a whole.

“Work is now in progress to take forward these exciting new developments at Glentress and in the next two years we will see a real step change in what we offer visitors to the area,” she said.

“This has been an excellent partnership project right from the very start, involving local stakeholders in its development. We are thrilled at the prospect of raising the game of forest tourism in the Scottish Borders.”

The STA annual tourism industry event also heard from Caroline Bremner, Head of Travel Research at global market intelligence publisher, Euromonitor International, who shared her analysis and insights into what the long-term outlook looks like for Scotland’s tourism sector.

Sunset over Glentress for professional mountain biker Ruaridh Cunningham at 7stanes, Innerleithen

Photograph by: Kenny Lam / VisitScotlandSunset over Glentress

Under a No-Deal Brexit scenario, Caroline said: “The UK is expected to witness a further depreciation of the pound by 10 per cent, making the UK more affordable to key source markets from North America and Europe. However, there is still a great deal of uncertainty regarding the UK and EU’s position on vital areas such as air travel regulation, visas and European workers.”

Talking future trends, she said: “It’s vital that the tourism industry taps into the consumer desire for experiences created by people for people, new business models such as the sharing economy that allow visitors to get to the heart of a destination, exploring local neighbourhoods and discovering hidden gems”

Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive of UKHospitality, talked about the very real risk of tangible and long-term damage to the sector in relation to the shortage of workers, the skills crisis, economic uncertainty and the acute concern from industry around the introduction of a new migration system which could, according to the trade body, undermine a major part of the UK economy.

She also called on the UK Government to provide decisive support for hospitality businesses through a cut in VAT, outlining the cost pressures that continue to squeeze many businesses.

Dr Richard Swannell, Director of WRAP Global delivered a ‘wake up call’ for food producers, consumers and tourism businesses in the context of waste management and sustainability

The newly launched Food Tourism Action Plan was the focus for the afternoon with former President of Virgin Galactic, Will Whitehorn wrapping up the day with his personal thoughts on bringing more innovation and creative thinking into our tourism industry.

“Our Autumn conference has always been a sell out event due to the ‘state of the nation’ focus of the day and of course the sharing of insights and analysis that paint a clearer picture of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for Scotland’s tourism industry,” said Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance.

“We are delighted to have welcomed Scotland’s First Minister to deliver the keynote address and the much welcomed announcement of support to industry, with the £1million investment into the development of the new forest tourism attraction which will bring thousands of visitors to the south of Scotland.

“It is clear there is a shared ambition to create a strong, sustainable industry with a world-class reputation for delivering the quality, authentic experiences that are at the heart of Scotland’s Tourism Strategy.”