Calls for licensing exemption as report reveals self-catering sector worth £867m to Scottish economy

The self-catering sector is worth £867 million each year to the Scottish economy, a new report has found.

Tourists visiting Scotland have generated £867m a year by staying in self catering accommodation.
Tourists visiting Scotland have generated £867m a year by staying in self catering accommodation.

The study, Economic Impact of Self-Catering Sector to the Scottish Economy, has shown that in 2019 the 17,794 traditional self-catering properties across Scotland generated £672m in economic activity and encouraged visitors to spend £867m, thereby benefiting other related businesses in tourism and hospitality.

The report, commissioned by the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), also found short-term letting in Scotland supports 23,979 full-time equivalent jobs.

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The ASSC has called for the Scottish Government to exempt the sector from its plans for a licensing scheme, which they say threatens to irreparably damage the vital sector and hamper its ability to help Scotland’s tourism offering recover from Covid-19.

The government has consulted on revised proposals to introduce a licensing scheme in response to problems caused by the growth in Airbnb-style lets.

Local residents in some areas, particularly in Scotland’s cities, have complained that short-term lets are leading to anti-social behaviour and a loss of residential housing for local people.

Figures were taken from 2019 to understand how the sector, which has been battered by the pandemic, performs under normal circumstances.

Self-caterers have faced significant financial problems throughout the pandemic, with many operating at hugely reduced capacity and others facing the prospect of having to close their businesses entirely.

In 2020, due to Covid-19 restrictions, there was a £253m plunge in guest spend and a drop in the total economic contribution the sector made of around a third.

Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers chief executive Fiona Campbell said: “We already knew that self-catering is an essential part of Scotland’s vital tourism industry, but this report goes to show how significant our contribution is.”

She added: "These figures make the Scottish Government’s continued willingness to thrust a damaging, counter-productive, and badly designed licensing scheme onto our businesses even more baffling.

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“One thing is for sure, if the government is to rely on our huge contribution to the Scottish public purse, the last thing they should do is cripple our sector in this way.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We acknowledge the importance of the tourism sector to our economy. That is why we have provided a multi-million pound package of support to help tourism and hospitality businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic as part of a wider £129 million investment in the sector.

“Regulation of short term lets is vital to balance the needs and concerns that residents and communities have raised, with wider economic and tourism interests.”

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