Appeal made to new First Minister as shock survey lays bare dire levels of business confidence in Scotland’s £1bn self-catering industry

Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers Chief Executive, Fiona Campbell

A NEW survey from a leading trade body has laid bare the “precarious situation” facing the self-catering industry in Scotland.

The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), which represents over 1,700 professional self-catering businesses, has published troubling new data on the state of the business environment that this £1bn per annum industry finds itself in.

Businesses face a tough set of circumstances, with existing and contemplated government regulation like that for short-term lets, changes to the Furnished Holiday Letting (FHL) tax regime and the proposed visitor levy, combining with cost-of-living pressures.  

In a poll of over 600 self-caterers (622), representing over 7,200 bed spaces and nearly 2,000 properties, there is a notable decline in business confidence:

  • Nearly half (47%) express little optimism about their business performance over the next 24 months, compared to 34% for the next 3-6 months, signalling a real apprehension about the future trajectory of self-catering in Scotland; 
  • Around a third (30%) say guest numbers are down in 2023 compared to the previous year, with a similar percentage (29%) noting that their turnover had declined;
  • Nearly half (48%) say bookings in 2024 are down compared to 2023; and
  • Just 54% intend to stay in business beyond 2024 as a self-catering operator.

These figures were shared with the Regulation Improvement Advisory Group (RIAG), set up by the Scottish Government to assess regulations that no longer support their intended purpose, under the drive for a New Deal for Business. Sadly, the RIAG chose not to act on these worrying findings in another instance of industry concerns being brushed aside. 

That is despite the significant economic contribution these very same businesses make to communities, especially in rural Scotland. By remaining operational year-round (75% operate all year), with high occupancy rates during peak seasons, self-catering units play a vital role in sustaining local economies, providing employment opportunities and supporting local businesses.

However, the ASSC believes the incoming First Minister can deliver on the spirit and letter of the New Deal for Business through genuine engagement with industry. As such, they have welcomed John Swinney’s pledge to “operate with courtesy and patience to pursue respectful dialogue and achieve common ground with others” and are hopeful that the new First Minister will live up to these words.

Fiona Campbell, CEO of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, said:

“Our polling demonstrates the precarious situation self-catering businesses find themselves in with plunging levels of business confidence. However, the problems we face are not intractable as mutually beneficial solutions are readily available. 

We believe there is a real opportunity for the new First Minister to turn the page and work with business to put things right so these businesses can get back to doing what they do best in providing unrivalled hospitality and memory-making stays for guests. 

The ASSC looks forward to working constructively with the new minority Scottish Government in an atmosphere of respect and courtesy to protect our country’s £1bn self-catering industry which is so vital to many local communities.”

The latest stories