GOVERNMENT-funded tourism agencies need to work more closely with smaller firms, according to a business body.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said small firms that identify themselves as tourism businesses - such as restaurants, bistros, activity centres and bus, coach and taxi firms - should seek extra help to grow their businesses.
Scotland aims to grow annual visitor spending by £1 billion, from £4.5 billion to £5.5 billion, by 2020 and the FSB says that smaller businesses are key to meeting this target.
The FSB surveyed more than 500 businesses, 30 Scottish councils and a range of other public bodies over 12 months for the report, entitled Eating, Sleeping, Shopping, Doing - Small Businesses and the National Tourism Strategy.
Andy Willox, the FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said “If Scotland wants to boost tourism spending we must tap the potential of our smaller tourism businesses. Their diversity should be regarded as a strength - not an inconvenience.”
The FSB said Scottish Enterprise, Visit Scotland, councils, Business Gateway, the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Destination Management Organisations (DMOs), Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Tourism Intelligence Scotland and Skills Development Scotland need to pool their resources to engage with small businesses.
Mr Willox said: “While of course it’s up to businesses to look for the help they need to get the edge, publicly-funded bodies need to work more closely together and deliver a consistent joined-up message to busy, hard-pressed local tourism businesses.”
Energy costs and poor digital connectivity are also holding tourism businesses back, FSB said.
Enterprise Minister Fergus Ewing said: “Scotland’s small businesses play an crucial role in driving growth in the lucrative tourism sector, which is helping to enhance Scotland’s reputation as a leading tourism destination.
“£8.4 billion is currently invested in Scotland’s tourism industry, the number of overseas tourists has increased by 13% to 2.5 million in the year to March 2014, and spending by overseas tourists by 14% to £1.6 billion in the same period. The domestic tourism market is also performing strongly.
“2014 is the year Scotland welcomes the world. Recently voted by Lonely Planet the third best country in the world to visit, our Year of Homecoming, the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and the MTV Europe Awards are all putting our country on the international stage.
“With Scotland being showcased around the world, there has never been a better time to capitalise on this increased awareness looking towards 2015 and beyond. It is important that we assist our small businesses to capitalise on our enhanced profile to build a bright and secure future for our tourism economy.
“Whether it’s our world famous Festivals and events attracting thousands of visitors or an inn on the eastern shores of Loch Ness being included in Lonely Planet’s Top 50 European Secret Spots, every tourism business, right across Scotland, has a part to play in enhancing Scotland’s reputation as a must-visit tourism destination.”