Can Scottish Tourism Survive 2023?
It seems like we have lurched from Crisis to crisis in recent years. Brexit, the pandemic, cost of living crisis and Short term letting legislation. All of this has impacted Scottish tourism. Guest numbers have been down and business profitability has been hit time and time again. Many have already or are considering giving up. Its tough out there and has been for many years so 'Can Scottish Tourism Survive 2023'?
Of course the answer is yes but at what cost and what will the market look like in the years to come.
Scotland has always been a place where tourism plays an important part in the economy. In the cities the festivals are big draws and in the rural locations the scenery, outdoor lifestyle and stunning beauty attract people from across the globe. Brexit has hit confidence for visitors from Europe and the pandemic has hit the wider Asian and America's markets. But the domestic market both within Scotland and the wider UK has now been hit by the cost of living crisis. The squeeze on incomes has reduced the short term stays with a concentration on longer one off annual holidays.
For Rural Scotland which has a core tourism season of June to September this is a real problem. Guest are booking later, using booking platforms that promote cheapest deals possible. Cost of doing business has risen dramatically due to energy prices. It's a perfect storm. The Short Term Letting legislation delayed until September is actually a positive thing. It will create a level playing field where professional businesses who have always adhered to the many rules and regs are now now not undercut by the unprofessional second home market. Its implementation and cost however is having an impact in the sector. The differences across local authority areas is difficult to understand. Its overtly complex and time consuming and costly. Unfortunately in a sector where profit margins are small then prices have to rise. The uncertainty in the sector is as bad now as when the pandemic first started. I hope that the many wonderful professional operators continue and all others come up to the same level.
So 2023 is looking like a tough one. The big issue for rural communities is how vital a robust tourism market is to so many jobs. From the cafes to pubs and restaurants. Attractions and experiences. And the whole supply chain, cleaners, gardeners, builders, electricians etc. Yes there is now a glut of accommodation providers as many have opened up there second homes to guests. And yes there are too many in certain areas. So a reset of the market is a good thing. My fear is that the sector has become dominated by the big website operators who care little for the sector. Their margins are massive and they have no risk. The number of people I speak to who think certain operators actually own the buildings in which a guest stays rather that a small family business.
We are not giving up but the constant fight to keep going is very tiring. So will Scottish Tourism survive 2023? Yes but in what state and at what cost we will have to see.