Scottish tourism faces ‘unprecedented’ challenges

A major research project has been launched in Scotland, as the country’s tourism industry faces the “perfect storm” of business costs.

The project has been unveiled by the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), the industry body for tourism businesses in Scotland, and accountancy and business advisory firm French Duncan.

Marc Crothall, STA chief executive, said: “Tourism has been acknowledged by the Scottish government as being ‘Scotland’s most important industry’.

“However, what the industry is facing in relation to actually doing business and staying in business is unprecedented.

“The past 12 months have seen huge political and economic change for the UK, for Scotland and all industries, the outcome of which is still to be felt as we move closer to our EU exit date.

“There are many unknowns that have the potential to challenge Scotland’s tourism industry in ways we have never experienced.”

The research aims to provide greater clarity about the costs facing the industry, such as the National Living Wage, pension auto-enrolment, business rates, apprenticeships, immigration and insurance premium levies, and inflation.

The STA said that the tourism industry is currently facing the “perfect storm” of business costs and the research is expected to paint the picture of a “complex and challenging time” for Scottish tourism.

Ian Bremner, hotel accounting director at French Duncan, added: “Our research will seek to establish a baseline that quantifies and highlights the factors which are having the most detrimental impact and identify mitigating measures to drive future growth.

“The utilisation of real-time data will enable businesses to better understand and rapidly respond to market conditions.”

The project has been unveiled at the STA Signature Conference in Glasgow at the start of Scottish Tourism Week.

The conference has been opened by Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.

She announced that the business rates increase cap will now be extended to other accommodation including self-catering, guesthouses, bed-and-breakfast accommodation, timeshare units, hostels, camping and caravan sites, subject to confirmation in the forthcoming legislative instrument.

The STA, the British Hospitality Association (BHA) and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) have campaigned to bring about a reversal in the proposal to increase business rates.

Last month, the Scottish government said there will be a 12.5% business rates cap for one year for hospitality and licensed trade businesses, such as hotels, pubs, restaurants and cafes.