Where next for the Scottish tourism sector? Notes from our first tourism and hospitality webinar

I was really looking forward to 2020. It was a ‘big birthday’ year for me and so I had a few holidays planned with friends and family. As it turned out, my trips to Venice, Lisbon and our family holiday to Spain were replaced with a self-catering holiday on Arran, a weekend camping in Perthshire, and a hotel break in Pitlochry which, under the circumstances, we were very grateful for. It certainly made us appreciate how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful country.

It seems that I sum up the typical consumer at the moment; keen to get out and get a change of scene now that we can, but being careful to make sure the places we visit enable us to keep to social distancing rules and keep my family and others safe.

So as the Scottish tourism sector begins to navigate its way out of lockdown, we were pleased to be able to welcome a host of our clients and contacts from across the industry to join us for the first in a series of webinars focusing on the sector. We were especially privileged to have Andy Roger from Cameron House Resort leading the discussion and sharing his experiences and sage advice.

There’s no doubting just how hard this sector in Scotland has been hit by the global pandemic, and the topic at hand was resilience and recovery – how can the industry now adapt to the ‘new normal’ and get back on its feet?

Clearly every business and organisation has its own unique sets of challenges to deal with. Within our own client base we have seen demand increase dramatically for self-catering providers in more rural locations, even now starting to exceed 2019 booking and revenue figures.

However, city centres, and those reliant on corporate and international markets, will find it tough to bounce back, with wide acknowledgement that it will take several years to get back to pre-covid levels.

With the summer season having been all-but lost, the sector faces entering a ‘third winter’ – actual winter following lockdown and the end of furlough –  and there is concern that government support is being withdrawn just at the time when the industry needs it the most.

What did come through strongly was the importance of building confidence and good communication. Whether talking to customers, stakeholders or your own team, a well thought-out and clear plan to keep people safe is key. And once you have that plan it needs to be communicated clearly and honestly.

As a glass-half-full type of girl, I always latch onto the positive voices, and we definitely heard some of those. What shutting down does do is give you time to think, reassess and make changes. For the first time it’s easier to start thinking further ahead. The next one to two years are very hard to predict. But start thinking about 10 to 20 years and it gets a little clearer.

There’s no doubt there is a long road ahead, and that’s why we are already planning another Scottish tourism webinar in early October. If you missed this one keep an eye out for the details coming soon and we hope you’ll be able to join us.