Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser has expressed his concerns at a “worrying” fall in the number of British tourists visiting Scotland, citing recent SNP legislation as a contributing factor.
He was commenting on recently released data which reveals that British visitors made 13.5 million overnight trips to Scotland in 2022 and spent £3.4 billion in the process. This figure was down from 2019, when 17.5 million overnight trips were made to Scotland, with spending amounting to £5.9 billion.
The trend in falling numbers of British visitors to Scotland has been highlighted by the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) – a body that represents more than 70% of the country’s 14,500 tourism businesses. They have confirmed that their members reported a ‘sharp drop’ in domestic bookings outside the peak summer months.
And just as concerning are statistics produced by the Association of Scotland’s Visitor Attractions (ASVA), which recently published their latest survey results. This showed that attractions across the country that depend on the UK for three quarters of their visitors are experiencing a “startling drop” in visitor numbers from the domestic market. Only three out of 14 areas – Edinburgh and Lothian, Aberdeen and Grampian and Ayrshire and Arran – saw a rise in visitor numbers in June, when compared to the same month in 2019. ASVA stated that there were 10.7% fewer visitors compared to 2019 with small towns significantly below, ranging from a drop of 30 to 40%.
Commenting, Mr Fraser, who is the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Business, Economic Growth and Tourism, said: “These figures are very concerning – there has been a worrying fall in the number of British tourists visiting Scotland. It is understandable that there was a drop in the number of overnight trips to Scotland from British visitors during the Covid pandemic but this is an issue that needs addressed as I know many businesses in the tourist trade that are not happy with legislation passed or planned by the SNP.
“I know there are concerns about the planned Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill, which if passed, will give councils the ability to tax overnight accommodation. However, the biggest worry comes from the Short-term let Licensing scheme, which has caused a lot of anxiety among tourism businesses in Perthshire and Fife.
Mr Fraser continued: “The tourist sector is under an existential threat due to the botched introduction of this licensing scheme for short-term lets. I spoke against this legislation during the Scottish Conservative Motion at Holyrood, which asked the SNP Government to pause the scheme for 12 months, but our pleas fell on deaf ears unfortunately.
“The SNP Government recently claimed to be resetting its relationship with business but this legislation will do nothing to help that.”