THEY were the long car journeys up north, the breezy beach days on the Ayrshire coast and the days out exploring the Borders that turned out to be surprisingly good.
With international travel mostly scuppered, this has been the year of staying at home and finding out just what so many international tourists
see in Scotland.
And it turns out the staycation experience was far better than expected.
Research suggests the pandemic’s enforced staycation holidays have opened the eyes of Scots to the nation’s diverse attractions and whetted appetites for more.
According to research by tourism agency VisitScotland, young people and families – the group that might typically be expected to jet off in search of adventure, summer sun and beach breaks on the Costas – have emerged
as the group most likely to opt for
a post-Covid holiday in Scotland.
The research says the first five weeks since tourism re-opened in late April, saw some 15 per cent of adults north of the Border pack their bags for a short break or longer holiday in their native country. Most of them were young independents and families.
It also found that those described as typically taking “occasional” holidays in Scotland are now 39% more likely to plan a short break here next year.
While those who are ‘lapsed’ – who had previously enjoyed Scottish holidays but changed their focus to other destinations – are now 34% more likely to take a break in Scotland in 2022.
The research, published by The National Tourism Organisation, also suggests three in five residents in Scotland anticipate taking at least one short break in Scotland in 2021, while just under a third see themselves taking at least one longer holiday.
The findings are being seen as positive signs that Scots may be weaning themselves off international or even cross-Border travel within the UK in favour of enjoying the delights of their own country.
At the same time, the rush to enjoy
a “staycation” has helped reboot Scotland’s battered tourism and hospitality sector, bringing hopes that next year will see even more people exploring their own country.
The research was carried out at a time when international holiday travel was restricted, however, it has raised hopes among the tourism sector that Scots’ attitudes to holidaying at home are changing.
The findings are echoed by other research by independent holiday cottage rental agency, Sykes Holiday Cottages, which says July saw a 70% increase for staycations in Scotland compared to July 2019.
The agency, which represents more than 19,000 holiday homes, says there has been a 54% increase in family bookings at its Scottish properties, while 24% of respondents said they would consider a skiing holiday in Scotland.
Sykes Holiday Cottages chief executive Graham Donoghue said: “Although this staycation boom in Scotland has undoubtedly been fuelled by international travel restrictions this year, our research suggests that even beyond the pandemic Scotland will remain a first-choice travel destination for many.
“There’s no sign of demand slowing any time soon.”
Nicola Wardhaugh, husband Chris and sons Aubrey, aged eight, and Vincent, 10, are among the staycation converts. The family normally holidays in France, but instead spent a week in Tongue and a second week in Orkney.
Mrs Wardhaugh said: “The boys had a brilliant time. We had paddle boards with us, we explored the Kyle of Tongue, we went to beaches, the boys loved mucking around looking for seaweed and checking under rocks. It was beautiful.
“Orkney was amazing, there was so much wildlife. We had oyster catchers, we saw otters, puffins. It was incredible and we loved it. I would be happy to do the same next year.”
At the Melvich Hotel in Thurso, Jo Wyke said domestic holidaymakers have helped offset problems brought
by the pandemic last year.
She said: “We are pretty much booked out for September and the October school holidays are busy too.
“We had a lot of people visiting who would not necessarily have done this kind of holiday before. Some have been converted.
“People have been surprised by what they have been able to find here. We might have gained new fans of this style of staycation holiday.”
Although holidays are back on the agenda for some, the report warns that others had held off booking a break amid lingering concerns over the pandemic, with anxieties rising the further away from home.
Chris Greenwood, senior tourism insight manager at VisitScotland said: “Coronavirus has had a devasting impact on tourism and events and this research confirms it is going to take time for consumer confidence to return, even after restrictions lift.
“There are some positive signs many Scots are discovering all their own country has to offer for the first time or rediscovering it, particularly among young people.
However, he warned: “It’s too early to say if these are longer term shifts in attitudes will continue after international travel returns to business as usual.”