SCOTLAND’S cities are safe and ready to welcome back tourists from the UK and internationally, VisitScotland has said.
The national tourism agency was responding to research suggesting travellers are booking rural and coastal holidays instead of city breaks.
“There are many people who are keen to travel but are still what we would call Covid cautious,” VisitScotland marketing director Vicki Miller told The Herald. “The perception is that cities are going to be busier, although the reality is, they’re not.”
Monthly data shows that Scotland remains one of the top destinations for UK visitors, Ms Miller said. But towns and cities have been significantly quieter than rural and coastal destinations. Scotland’s seven cities are Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth and Stirling.
City centre hotels are reporting low occupancy rates through the summer months, with little mid-week business and a trend towards last-minute booking behaviour, insight from VisitScotland’s monthly UK study shows.
“Scotland absolutely is a safe destination and businesses have invested significantly to make their experiences safe,” Ms Miller said. “They’ve taken all the right precautions and invested in very robust cleaning and sanitisation measures. They’re also making sure people can socially distance and are complying with the rules around face coverings and other measures. So businesses are doing all the right things.”
More than 7,000 businesses in Scotland have signed up to ‘We’re Good to Go’, a UK certification scheme for tourism and hospitality businesses that have worked hard to follow government and industry Covid-19 guidelines.
VisitScotland has launched a new campaign to support Scottish cities with targeted marketing and digital support across channels where visitors were looking and booking.
This includes highlighting that Scotland’s open spaces are in urban as well as rural areas.
“What you can do in Scotland is enjoy the outdoors,” Ms Miller said. “Our cities have got wonderful gardens and cycle paths. You can be in the city and also enjoy beautiful coast, beaches and countryside in the same day.”
Scotland was seeing real growth in travel by 18 to 35 year olds, Ms Miller added.
“Typically they would maybe be enjoying a European city break, but are thinking – now’s the time to go and do something closer to home. And then they’re realising they can do all the sightseeing and outdoors adventure they would’ve done on their European break.”
Staycationers across Scotland and the UK were really doing their bit to support local tourism, Ms Miller said. The domestic market is very important to Scotland and accounted for 13m overnight stays a year before Covid. International visitors account for 3.5m overnights. But they stay longer – and spend more than twice as much as domestic tourists, especially in cities and visitor attractions.
“We need international visitors into Scotland,” Ms Miller said. “They are very important in value terms and particularly important to the cities – and to many of our visitor attractions and tour operators.”
Scotland’s top three overseas tourist markets – the United States, France and Germany, remain on the amber travel list.
This means visitors from these countries must isolate for ten days on entering Scotland.
“What I hope for is that we see the return of international visitors to Scotland in the last part of the year,” Ms Miller said.
VisitScotland’s insights also found that many businesses were finding it hard to fill their vacancies and allocate staffing because visitor numbers were unpredictable.
“At the moment I would say there’s a bit of a recruitment crisis for the industry,” Ms Miller said. A campaign recently launched with support from the Scottish Government aimed to raise the profile of a career in tourism and hospitality, with a specific focus on 18 to 30 year olds.