TOURISM leaders admit they have given up on visitors coming to Scotland before or after a trip to the London Olympics – but are convinced the nation will benefit from a “displacement” effect away from the sporting extravaganza.
Research by VisitScotland has found that almost half of those planning a main holiday in the UK this summer are thinking of coming to Scotland.
The tourism body’s chief executive, Malcolm Roughead, suggested a combination of an exodus of Londoners and people from elsewhere in Britain trying to avoid the city during the flagship event was set to pay off.
However, he said there was little evidence to suggest many people would “tag on” a trip to Scotland, despite hopes that Games crowds would flock to events like Edinburgh’s festivals.
VisitScotland has been awarded an extra £30 million over the next three years to help boost The Winning Years is aimed at capitalising on events including the Olympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the staging of the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup in Scotland, and the second Homecoming.
The Scottish Government has also agreed to bankroll a £7m campaign to help the tourism industry capitalise on the launch of Disney Pixar film Brave, due to be released in June, which is set in the Highlands.
And at least £10m is being spent on projects being staged across the country as part of the Year of Creative Scotland and the Cultural Olympiad, inspired by London’s staging of the Games.
Mr Roughead said VisitScotland’s latest research found the economic climate was putting people off going on holiday, with four out of ten people planning fewer trips.
However, he added: “More and more people are substituting holidays abroad for breaks in the UK, which supports evidence of the ‘staycation’ trend.
“There is an impression that London is going to be booked out solid and we think there is definitely a displacement factor at work. There is a great opportunity to get people to Scotland this summer.
“Initially, people thought that we were going to get people coming here before or after they have gone to the Olympics, but that does not appear to be happening. I don’t think it is realistic to expect that. People are going to fly into London and fly back out again. We are instead looking at people who want to get out of London or are put off going on holiday there.”
The European Tour Operators Association warned that it has seen a 95 per cent downturn in bookings from members – more than half of whom offer visits to Scotland – in July and August due to a shortage of accommodation in London. However, online travel firm Expedia last month revealed a 32 per cent jump in summer bookings, saying the popularity of “staycations” was helping to fuel growth.
Earlier this week the UK government announced a £3m campaign, which will see discounts for hotels and from leading visitor attractions and restaurants.
More details are expected to be unveiled today.