New survey of Scotland’s tourism sector published as national tourism conference enters second day

While nearly three quarters of Scots have been taking holidays in 2022, they are still taking fewer than pre-pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis is now really biting into consumer holiday intentions for 2023.

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FROM Covid to the cost of living, Scottish tourism faces unrelenting challenge with the new tourism tax proposals adding to uncertainty and risk at the worst possible time. It is vital that any resource raised is channelled back into the sector.”

– Marc Crothall MBE, CEO Scottish Tourism Alliance

A major two-day national tourism conference concludes today at the EICC in Edinburgh as more than 500 delegates from all sectors within Scotland’s tourism industry gather to discuss the state of the industry, the threats it faces and what opportunities may lie on the horizon.

The STA has partnered 56 Degree Insight in the study, the results of which are revealed this morning at the event hosted by Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) and HIT Scotland (Hospitality Industry Trust).

Key Findings:

·         While nearly three quarters of Scots have been taking holidays in 2022, they are still taking fewer than pre-pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis is now really biting into consumer holiday intentions for 2023.  58% felt their holiday choices were still being impacted by the pandemic.

·         However in 2022, the biggest impacts have been caused by rising costs of living – three quarters of Scots said this affected their holiday choices and decisions (74%), further driven up by rising fuel costs for 60% of Scots. The result – fewer holidays, if any in 2022 for some, and for those who did holiday, less spend on the trip. 

·         More positively however, there is a latent desire amongst Scots to increase their holiday taking in 2023; 38% hope to take more holidays than this year, although 20% expect to take fewer, this is a potential net increase of +18%. 

·         Tourism tax brings a clear division of opinion amongst Scots who would oppose its introduction (48%) versus those who would support it (44%). Support was highest among Edinburgh residents (57%).

·         Although 29% would be against paying anything at all, some 22% would be willing to pay up to £1 per night, 24% would pay £1-2 and 13% would pay more than £2, averaging out at just over £1 per night overall.  However, this is lower than the levels currently being considered. 

·         And if tourist taxes were in place throughout Scotland, 46% claim they would be more likely to consider other parts of the UK instead if such taxes were not in place there: only 9% would be more likely to consider Scotland. 

Commenting on the results and their implications, Marc Crothall MBE, Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said:

Our industry is key to the recovery and growth of the Scottish economy as a major export earner, employer and contributor of revenue to every one of our communities.”

“The latest survey demonstrates both resilience and fragility. People need a break and want to do that at home and abroad, however the cost-of-living crisis is biting hard on a sector which has not yet recovered from the impact of the pandemic. For many, Covid continues to be a concern and a major factor in their travel choices.”

“From Covid to the cost-of-living, Scottish tourism faces unrelenting challenge with the new tourism tax adding yet more uncertainty and risk at the worst possible time. While opinion is broadly split on whether this tax is a good thing, appetite for anything over £1 per visitor a night is negligible. These findings assume the money raised goes to help the sector; it is simply vital that it does if the tax proceeds.” 

Jim Eccleston, Managing Partner at 56 Degree Insight, said; “Whilst 2022 has provided some continued recovery for the Scottish tourism industry, this research has confirmed that the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis are introducing new uncertainties for next year.”

“This is backed up in our recent ‘Mood of the Nation’ research undertaken in partnership with The Union agency which showed that almost half of Scots (46%) were delaying any decisions about holidays in 2023 because of the uncertainties around the economic situation.”

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