Brexit setback for Scots tourism as businesses fear increase in costs

Almost half of Scotland's tourism businesses expect their costs to increase as a result of the Brexit vote, according to the first major survey of the sector.

There is concern over damage to Scotlands reputation as a holiday destination. Photograph: Steven Scott Taylor
There is concern over damage to Scotlands reputation as a holiday destination. Photograph: Steven Scott Taylor

One in five say they are “unconfident” about the prospects for the next 12 months in the wake of the EU referendum result.

Some 15 per cent of those surveyed by the Scottish Tourism Alliance, the main industry lobby group, said they were planning to put investment plans on hold.

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And 12 per cent of businesses polled say they have suffered cancellations since the Brexit decision.

Among the main concerns were the possible damage to Scotland’s reputation as a holiday destination, uncertainty over the free movement of workers, the impact of Brexit on the UK economy and future exchange rates as major areas of concern.

The findings, which also highlighted the prospect of another Scottish independence referendum as another reason for industry uncertainty, have already been presented to Scottish Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop.

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said the current situation had given rise to “feelings of great uncertainty” within the industry. He highlighted a finding that 57 per cent of respondents felt confident about the prospects for the next year.

More than 400 accom­modation providers, visitor attractions, food and drink operators and event organisers took part in the organisation’s biggest survey, which was conducted throughout last month.

More businesses have reported a boost in bookings rather than a slump since the Brexit poll. And 18 per cent said they were planning to increase investment.

Crothall said: “We were keen to gauge industry feeling during the aftermath of what has been one of the most turbulent political periods in recent years.

“One very clear message came back to us – Scotland’s tourism industry has an inspiring level of confidence. When describing the opportunities, amongst the most frequently used phrases were ‘pound exchange rate’, ‘more visitors’ and ‘removal of EU VAT regulations’.

“The feelings of optimism and determination are evid­ent; however, there is no doubt that the situation we’re living with at the moment has given rise to feelings of great uncertainty.

“Concern around free move­ment of workers and a second independence referendum were high on the agenda for most respondents, in addition to the uncertainty around the economy, all of which have far-reaching implications for Scotland’s tourism industry.”

A spokesman for national tourism agency VisitScotland said: “It is reassuring to see that bookings remain on a similar level, or have increased, while the majority of businesses report that investment plans are largely unaffected by the result of the EU referendum.

“It is still too early to know the full impact of Brexit and we will continue to work closely with our partners and stakeholders.”