Tourism blow

Holidaymakers dash hopes for staycation boom

Marc Crothall: domestic decline is ‘most concerning’ (pic: Terry Murden, DB Media Services)

Hopes that the lockdown would prompt a post-pandemic staycation boom have been largely dashed by new data showing holidaymakers are unwilling to give up their foreign trips.

A survey shows that 26% of respondents would not be willing to give up their overseas holiday in favour of one in Britain, exactly the same as in pre-pandemic 2019.

Another poll from 56 Degree Insight showed that visitor numbers from within Scotland fell by 16% and by 20% from other parts of the UK.

The survey found overall business had held up because of an increase in visitors from overseas, mainly Europe and North America.

Even so, almost half of businesses (48%) are reporting decreased profits, while total bookings have slumped by nearly a third (31%) since last year and by 18% since the pandemic.

About nine out of 10 tourism and hospitality businesses reported experiencing higher energy and supplier costs, while staffing costs has increased for 69% of respondents.

This is having a knock-on impact on investment in building maintenance and improvements, marketing and promotion and staff training and development.

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, told its autumn conference: “The growth of the international inbound market is very welcome news.

“However, the UK domestic market accounts for around 65% of tourism in Scotland and our industry is dependent on this tourism spend. The decline in domestic visitors, both from Scotland itself and other parts of the UK is most concerning. 

“With factors such as the higher cost of living, inflation and increased energy and fuel costs influencing consumer choices and holiday decisions, we can no longer rely on our domestic market as a key driver for Scottish tourism.”

With Scottish tourism minister Richard Lochhead attending the event to deliver the keynote address, Mr Crothall appealed for more government assistance.

“The Scottish Government can support our businesses through business rate relief which will go some way to improving profitably and inward investment, particularly in relation to recruitment, staff training and development,” he said.

“Many businesses across the sector continue to operate at a reduced capacity, simply because they can’t fill vacancies.

“A holistic review of regulation and taxation by the Scottish Government is essential in order to pave the way for the New Deal for Business Group to improve Scotland’s economic conditions and performance and to create a better environment to do business.”

Jim Eccleston, managing partner at 56 Degree Insight, said: “There’s been some good news for the Scottish tourism industry in 2023 – particularly some strong recovery in the North American and key European inbound markets.

“However, we also need to recognise that the bedrock of Scottish tourism has always been our domestic markets, and tourism businesses are reporting declines in these markets this year compared to a year ago.

“With living costs remaining high, more and more of us have been protecting our holiday budgets for overseas trips seeking the sun. The overall result has been a negative impact on the bottom line for many businesses, particularly in the serviced accommodation sector and in pubs and restaurants.

“The immediate future remains bleak for many businesses who see these trends continuing into 2024, although welcoming overseas visitors back to Scotland has given the sector a renewed feeling of optimism concerning the inbound tourism market.”

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