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"Transport and Tourism" by Iain Herbert, Chief Executive, Scottish Tourism Forum - Edinburgh meeting of 20 January 2010

Tourism provides 200,000 jobs in Scotland, including 14% of all employment in the Highlands, and sustains 20,000 diverse businesses. The Scottish Executive's 2005 target sought 50% growth by 2015, but with the recession UK visitors fell - however the 2009 Year of Homecoming was good, with EU visitors up 14.7% offsetting a decline from the USA and visitor attractions reporting an 11% rise in August on the previous year.

Tourist projects can be a catalyst for the regeneration of infrastructure in whole corridors. The arrival of the Royal Yacht Britannia was strongly associated with the revival of Leith. Until the Falkirk Wheel, tourists had rarely visited Falkirk, but now the Helix Project will include two kelpie statues taller than the Wheel at an improved entrance to the Forth & Clyde Canal, whose revival had been one of the Millennium's most successful achievements, with a canal linking Loch Lomond with the Clyde now a future possibility.

A review of the industry showed the need for a step change in the product, with growth from the grass roots where engagement and ownership should lie. A proliferation of as many as 450 marketing groups caused fragmentation and confusion, but tourism's role was being written into Single Outcome Agreements and a manifesto for the industry would be launched in March 2010.

With 85% of visitors from elsewhere in the UK, a particularly warm market was affluent Southern explorers unaccompanied by children seeking walking and opportunities to visit attractions. Road Equivalent Tariff had been successful in boosting passenger numbers by 14% and cars by 21% on routes to the Western Isles.

A successful tourist sector should offer a product that is affordable, available at a one-stop shop, picks up from all access points, has integrated ticketing., is flexible, sustainable, accessible to all, has a 24/7 timetable, reaches all points, is multilingual and easy to purchase. We should use and celebrate Scotland's assets, create experiences and learn to view Scotland as the tourist does. Scotland is no 7 but the UK no 11 in the tourism customer service league table, which is topped by Canada where the country has united behind a single development programme.

Report by John Yellowlees.


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