‘Tough’ year ahead for Scottish tourism amid Ukraine war jitters and cost of living crisis

Optimism in Scotland’s Covid-ravaged tourism industry about better prospects this year could be dented by the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis and a further wave of the pandemic, experts have warned.

Despite “very healthy” levels of bookings in rural areas, those in cities such as Glasgow are said to be lagging amid cancellations from North American travellers in the wake of the Russian invasion.

Professor John Lennon, director of the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “At the first indication of tremours, the US and Canada are notoriously nervous, and we have seen cancellations.

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"War creates significant and illogical anxiety in travel markets.

Tourists take photographs in front of the newly-restored Ross Fountain in Princes Street gardens in Edinburgh. Photo: Andy Buchanan
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“It does not mean that tourism will collapse, but I think we are going to see reliance on a predominately Scottish and UK customer base this summer if the war continues.”

Scottish Tourism Alliance chief executive Marc Crothall said: "Up to two-thirds of visitors to Scotland are from the UK but spending is far higher among international guests, so if we lose that it’s a big dent in local economies.

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"2022 is going to be a tough year and we are going to have to work hard for our money.

"Early signs were that things were very healthy in popular rural destinations, but there is still a lag in cities like Glasgow.

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Caravan holidays are increasingly popular. Photo: Getty

"Edinburgh is returning reasonably well but nothing like to the levels it needs to be.”

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Crothall said the rising cost of living was making people consider cutting back on the duration and number of holidays they took.

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He said: "They might also go to fewer visitor attractions or order house wine rather than more expensive bottles when eating out.”

Campervans are seen parked up in Portree, Scotland. Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images
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Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers chief executive Fiona Campbell, said: "We’re facing a really mixed picture, with some operators reporting being busier than others, but our concerns remain for the industry as a whole.

“Rising fuel and utility prices, the prospect of additional restrictions caused by Covid variants and the global impact of the war in Ukraine are among the issues that are currently having a negative impact on us, especially on the supply chains we rely upon.”

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Sheila Gilmore, chief executive of VisitArran, said: “Bookings here for self catering are generally very good and in line with 2019, while hotels and B&B bookings are more last minute.

"Staffing is the main issue with some hospitality businesses having to close certain days of week to allow staff time off.”

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The impact of the Covid pandemic on Scottish room occupancy rates for hotels (blue), guesthouses/BnBs (red) and self-catering (green). Picture: Moffat Centre

A confident Geoff Ellis, chief executive of DF Concerts, said he hoped to sell a record number of tickets at an unprecedented number of major events this summer, including at Bellahouston Park and Hampden Park in Glasgow, and the Royal Highland Centre at Ingliston in Edinburgh.

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He said: “There is a pent-up demand to go to live music and ticket sales are rocketing back.”

The Caravan and Motorhome Club reported “buoyant booking numbers for people wanting to stay and tour around Scotland, which have significantly increased compared to 2019”.

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A VisitScotland spokesman said: "So far, the outlook appears far more positive in comparison with 2021.

"Anecdotally, we have heard of stronger bookings in the months ahead.”

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A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “There are positive signs of consumer confidence strengthening within the domestic market.”

Scottish occupancy rates for hostels (green) and camping pitches (purple) were affected differently by Covid. Picture: Moffat Centre
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