Graham Blair: Scotland's tourism sector is thriving

With the Edinburgh Festival season now in full swing, and a swell of people on our streets, the city has become an international hotspot, attracting visitors from across the globe.

Festival season is in full swing in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Festival season is in full swing in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson

We continue to see Scotland’s tourism and world-renowned events industry thrive as its global reputation goes from strength to strength. The most recent Scottish Government figures indicate that the sector generates around £12 billion of economic activity across the wider Scottish supply chain and accounts for around 7.7 per cent of employment in Scotland.

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The Scotsman’s Edinburgh Festivals coverage

Music tourism continues to be a key growth sub-sector as, thanks to venues like the SSE Hydro and festivals such as T in the Park and Belladrum Tartan Hearts Festival, the economic value of live music for Scottish communities’ continues to increase. According to figures compiled for UK Music’s Wish You Were Here, in 2015 an estimated 920,000 music tourists visited Scotland to attend a live concert or music festival, generating £295 million for the local economy and supporting 3,230 full-time jobs.

These big-ticket events can have a huge ripple effect and offer a great opportunity for the surrounding communities in terms of hospitality, retail and food and drink, as well as tourist attractions when visitors decide to prolong their stay.

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To maximise these opportunities, we are seeing more tourism businesses collaborating within their own communities, with other regional operators and with other sectors including food and drink. This is paying dividends as regions reap the benefits of pulling resources together to provide a united offering to attract more visitors.

We work with a number of agencies and industry bodies, such as chambers of commerce, VisitScotland, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise, to develop strong private and public sector relationships. We believe that this fosters a more informed understanding of how we can all better support tourism and hospitality businesses as they look to fund growth and manage cashflow in what is a very seasonal industry.

For example, using financial solutions such as invoice finance or asset-based lending, tourism businesses can secure funding against the company’s inventory of stocks or assets. Using these alternative sources of finance can streamline borrowings and provide useful headroom to fund future projects as well as the underlying growth of the business.

On a national level, through public sector partnerships, the Scottish tourism industry has also fostered proactive and innovative campaigns over the years to give businesses a springboard for growth. VisitScotland’s ScotSpirit 2016 campaign and the Scottish Government’s “Year of” initiatives give the industry a superb focus and lots of opportunities to take advantage of.

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During this “Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design”, there is a lot to celebrate. My recommendation is to surround your business with good advisers and benefit from industry body memberships while deepening relationships within your local community to continue your success into 2017 and beyond.

• Graham Blair is regional director for SME banking at Bank of Scotland