£6 billion…. According to Scottish Government statistics, that’s how much money the tourism sector contributes to Scottish Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is a substantial amount of money which represents 5% per cent of total GDP. In 2015 the sector supported more than 217,000 jobs, accounting for around 8.5% of employment in the country. In other words, tourism is one of Scotland’s most important industries.
This week sees the start of Scottish Tourism Week (from 15-23 March), an 8-day celebration of the success that is Scottish tourism. The Scottish Tourism Alliance will be holding the ‘Signature Conference’ of this years’ Scottish Tourism Week in Glasgow. The conference will not only look at the success stories that have built Scotland’s reputation as a global destination of choice, but will also look to the future: beyond 2020.
Since 2012 the tourism industry has been geared toward meeting the aims of the 2020 tourism strategy, including to grow the visitor spend by £1billion within that period. Scotland has seen the success of establishment of new attractions based on changing visitor trends within the industry, for example, North Coast 500 taking advantage of road-trip tourism, or dark skies in Galloway Forest Park appealing to those seeking silence and wellbeing.
Private estates have already helped drive the success that Scottish tourism has become and they have a big part to play in sustaining that success into the future, beyond 2020. Whether it is creating a whole new attraction, developing an existing site, or establishing/hosting a new event to attract visitors, landowners have played a significant role in establishing a robust tourism economy in Scotland and promoting the country around the world.
Take, for example, the Carwick Multiverse. The Duke of Beccleuch committed £1 million to the Crawick Artland Trust to turn the derelict former open cast coal mine into a world-class artland, visitor attraction and local amenity. The site was designed by globally-renowned landscape artist Charles Jencks who used the site to develop themes of space, astronomy and cosmology, creating a truly inspiring landmark that will appeal to visitor from around Scotland, the rest of the UK and beyond. The visually stunning and intellectually stimulating landscape was launched in June 2015 with a spectacular week of events including sculpted costume, dance-theatre, poetry and over 30 performers.
Attracting around 5,000 visitors in its first year, the Royal Deeside Speed Festival held at the Kincardine Estate will host the festival of for the second time this August. An estimated 1,500 cars descend on the conservation village of Kincardine O’Neil and park on the grounds of Kincardine Castle where a range of high quality trade stands and motoring attractions complement the main speed hillclimb event. The event has already established an enthusiastic spectator base, with additional non-motoring attractions and a ‘local food market’ area making it an occasion for all the family.
There are many more examples of how land owners have been working to deliver tourism benefits in their local communities – some of which can be found on our Helping It Happen website. From glamping to golf, from shooting to shopping, there are a huge variety of activities catered for by private owners – all of whom are contributing to the diverse and vibrant tourism sector that we now have in Scotland.
Tourism faces challenges like any other industry – particularly in the context of recent political and economic upheaval. But there are also opportunities. Knowing that Scotland will always have its people, places and famous hospitality as assets, and with statistics and examples like these already in its favour, I think tourism more than deserves its 8-day-week in the limelight.
Gavin Mowat, Policy Officer (Communities & Rural Development)