No sign of summer loving for Scots tourism sector
Summer bookings have slumped across the Scottish tourism sector as the cost of living crisis and cheap foreign holidays leave many businesses on the brink of failure.
Half of businesses told the Scottish Tourism Alliance that bookings for the June-August peak months are lower compared to pre-pandemic May 2019.
The same proportion say it will take at least another year to recover, while 6% said they are “unlikely to make it” as the much-vaunted staycation phenomena struggles to make an impact. Almost 40% of businesses have reported a decrease in spending since May 2021.
The main causes of the fall in trade are the cost of living crisis, the appeal of outbound international travel, Scotland’s inability to compete internationally on price and value for money, and people taking late decisions on holiday destinations.
Top the list of demands for UK government help are a cut in VAT and a relaxation of Visa rules to allow more immigrants to fill staff vacancies, while the Scottish government is urged to extend business rates relief.
More than 700 tourism businesses took part in the STA’s survey from 17 May to 8 June, with responses coming from all 32 of Scotland’s local authority areas and 15 core industry sub-sectors, predominantly self-catering, hotels, bars and restaurants, bed & breakfast, visitor attractions, guest houses and tour operators.
STA chief executive Marc Crothall commenting on the survey said; “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.
“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.
Malcolm Roughead, CEO VisitScotland said: “We know that the move towards recovery is not consistent and businesses are experiencing a shortage of workers, while the cost of living is also a concern.
“There are, however, some encouraging signs with the return of international visitors and consumer research which shows more UK residents expect to take an overnight domestic trip between June and September than in 2021.”
The findings contrast with a survey published yesterday suggesting four in five (80%) Scots will holiday in Scotland instead of going abroad this year – with more than two in five (42%) stating that it will be their main summer holiday. It said the Highlands, Moray and Dumfries and Galloway were particularly popular. The survey was sponsored by Sykes Holiday Cottages which has a number of properties in rural Scotland.
Scottish Tourism Alliance survey: key highlights
Staffing and Recruitment
- 60% of hotels, 43% of visitor attractions and 45% of bars, pubs, restaurants, cafés and takeaways say they are unable to trade effectively with the level of staff they’re currently operating with.
- The top three barriers to retention of staff are business seasonality, other sectors being perceived as being more attractive, and an inability for business to pay more competitively. Additional workload on staff due to the recruitment crisis is also a notable challenge.
- More than 50% of businesses say it will take them at least 1 year for the financial recovery of their business, if at all.
- More than 30% of businesses are not confident or unsure how they feel about their long-term recovery and survival over the next 1-3 years
- More than 60% of businesses have adapted, changing their business model to give them the best possible chance of commercial viability in the current business climate.
- A lowering of VAT relief, the energy price cap being extended in October and a change to UK Immigration rules/visa requirements were listed as the most effective policy changes that would support businesses at a UK Government level.
- At a Scottish Government level the extension of business rates relief beyond June 2022 and greater investment in tourism promotion were listed as being the most effective policy commitments to support businesses.
- Only 14% of respondents had not made any investment into transitioning to a greener business with the majority having installed energy saving measures (69%), followed by sourcing locally (67%), and making improvements to business energy consumption (46%).
- Affordability and other priorities were listed as the top reasons businesses haven’t yet invested in transitioning to a greener business.
- Improved infrastructure and transport, removal of policies which seek to impose further tax business and on tourists, and improved quality of the visitor experience were the top 3 things that businesses listed that Scotland needs to do, to be a more globally competitive tourist destination.
- Businesses say they need more staff and the ability to invest and develop product to be more competitive in the marketplace.
- 57% of businesses report fewer bookings than normal for the period of September-December in comparison to reviewing this period in May 2019.
- 55% of businesses report that their international bookings for June-August are lower in comparison to May 2019.