Financial losses as a result of the pandemic, the prospect of having to self-quarantine for 14 days and a desire to avoid “tourist hotspots” are said to be fuelling demand for a holiday at home.
More than two thirds of Scots suggested they were keen to show support for Scottish tourism businesses by taking a staycation as soon as possible. Just eight per cent of Scots surveyed by travel industry analysts ruled out staying overnight away from home until the country is free of coronavirus cases.
Four in every five Scots said they willing to go “off the beaten track” to avoid the crowds in Scotland, with beaches, visitor attractions and cultural venues set to be snubbed in favour of wilderness areas and the “great outdoors” this year.
However the findings also raised the prospect of increased traffic on the roads in rural areas compared to previous years.
Half of Scots are said to be more likely to use their own car for a holiday in Scotland, while nearly two thirds of Scots said they were planning to avoid public transport if they did go on holiday.
However nearly two thirds of Scots said they were likely to avoid flying to mainland Europe, with three quarters ruling out long haul travel in the near future.
The Scottish Government is yet to give the go-ahead to hotels, self-catering establishments, guest houses, campsites and caravan parks to reopen, despite pressure from industry bosses warning that businesses are already on the brink of financial ruin.
However they are all in phase three of the “route map” out of lockdown, which could be implemented as early as 9 July if the number of coronavirus cases and the infection rate continues to fall.
Travel restrictions, which are currently limited to five miles unless visiting relatives, are also due to be relaxed at that stage to allow Scots to travel more freely.
However they are widely expected to remain in place for longer on ferry services amid concern about the need to protect communities from the virus and ensure social distancing on board vessels on popular tourist routes.
One in three Scots say they have suffered significant financial losses related to Covid-19, according to the poll of more than 500 Scots, which was conducted earlier this month, after the easing of a number of lockdown restrictions, for the study by Edinburgh-based research company 56 Degree Insight, which is carrying out monthly “trackers” on Scottish tourism intentions in the face of the pandemic.
It said it had found there was “a willingness among Scots to discover new parts of the country, off the beaten track and to travel outside of the summer season,” but added that the tourism industry was likely to find that desires for a 2020 holiday in Scotland “will be built on a new set of parameters.”
One in three Scots said ensuring social distancing and avoiding busy places would be “vital” for them if they went on holiday in Scotland this year. Three quarters said they planned to avoid busy place such as transport hubs and beaches for the foreseeable future.
Recent images of packed beaches south of the border are also said to be deterring Scots from travelling to England for a break over the next few months when travel restrictions ease.
The new report states: “When it comes to planning a Scottish holiday, some key elements are critical to Scots.
“Most important is to know with certainty that the places visited, particularly accommodation, were definitely going to meet high cleaning and hygiene standards.
“In general feeling safe, away from crowds and being able to travel safely and away from strangers were also important. Also, with much of the population suffering financially, the price of a holiday was of most importance to many.
“There is little ‘appetite’ for eating or drinking out on holiday, with a greater desire for takeaways but, especially buying and cooking your own meals – the tourist industry will need to find creative solutions to address these concerns.”
Jim Eccleston, managing partner at 56 Degree Insight, said: “A third of Scots claim to have been significantly impacted financially by lockdown and this forms important context for their potential holiday choices and considerations.
“Also underpinning their views is an increasing concern about how they will travel around. Transport considerations will have a major impact on the types of trips they might consider – and where they will go.
“Four in 10 Scots will not set foot in a plane for the foreseeable future and a further 27 per cent said will try to avoid unless they have no other options. This illustrates the difficulties the air industry will have in its road to recovery.
“The prospect of travelling overseas has very limited appeal for most Scots at this stage – with the new 14-day self-quarantine introduction a major barrier. Seven in 10 Scots would completely shun foreign travel to avoid a 14-day quarantine on their return– and a further 20 per cent would have major concerns and would be unlikely to put themselves in that situation. These prospects of quarantine are dampening desires to travel abroad generally.
“But this could paradoxically provide some opportunities for the domestic tourism industry as it is encouraging even more Scots to focus on home holidays rather than trips overseas.
“Recognising that a traditional ‘summer holiday’ may not be possible in Scotland in 2020, there is a willingness to consider taking Scottish holidays and breaks later in the year – three quarters would consider an autumn or winter break, whilst only 30 per cent would only consider a summer holiday.
“The Highlands, rural parts of the south of Scotland and the islands all have higher levels of appeal than has been the case over recent years – this will require careful management to ensure honeypot sites in these areas do not become overwhelmed.
“Choosing what to do on a Scottish holiday is also being changed by Covid-19 with an increased desire to visit the natural outdoors and take part in more active pursuits. Visits to arts and cultural venues, and purpose-built attractions, will have reduced appeal.”
More than 25 different bodies representing visitor attractions, accommodation operators, tour guides and transport groups last week called on ministers to cut the existing two-metre social distancing rule in half to avoid Scotland being left behind other countries.
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