We started the year almost in crisis mode with the threat of business rates hikes sending waves of anxiety through our industry. The STA mounted an intensive campaign, gathering evidence over a five-week period which culminated in us presenting a well-articulated case to the Scottish Government along with our counterparts, the British Hospitality Association (BHA) and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA).
We have since been applauded by Scottish Government on how we approached and communicated with them on the rates issue which subsequently led to the announcement of a rates increase cap of 14.75% for the majority of the businesses within our sector.
Not only a triumph in terms of our campaign, but it has further cemented our position as the lead voice of industry and enhanced the relationship we have with Scottish Government and politicians across all parties. We now have bi-monthly meetings with Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Derek Mackay and fellow Cabinet Secretaries and continue to work closely with Scottish Government and its agencies on a range of issues.
2017 also saw the launch of what was undoubtedly one of the most important independent research projects undertaken within the tourism industry in Scotland. The STA’s four-month research project explored the variety of factors affecting the future growth of tourism businesses.
‘Tourism businesses – confident or concerned? Report on the factors affecting tourism businesses in Scotland’ provides an analysis and evaluation of the current level of confidence within Scotland’s tourism sector around future profitability and investment. It also highlights the factors that are expected to have the greatest impact on the sustainability and growth of tourism businesses over the next three years.
We announced the findings at our Autumn Conference and created what may have been our biggest media story to date. The STA and a number of industry leaders presented and discussed the research findings with Scottish Government Cabinet Secretaries Fiona Hyslop and Derek Mackay and we’ve established that there is a clear appetite from Scottish Government to work more closely with tourism businesses to gain more clarity around the factors which have the potential to affect growth.
It is largely down to your support of the STA that we were able to dedicate the time and resource to challenging the proposed business rates increases at the beginning of the year and save many tourism businesses all across Scotland a significant amount of money, much of which we now see being invested back into the STA through our membership renewals. It is also your time, support and contribution that enables us to embark upon research projects like this and ultimately, for our voice to be heard (and listened to) at the highest levels. By supporting us, we can support your business in saving money, growing and becoming more profitable.
After the enormous success of Scottish Tourism Week (STW) 2017, the STA made the decision to take things up a gear. Next year, we will be co-ordinating a month long programme of industry events as part of a bigger celebration of Scotland’s tourism industry.
Over the last few years, STW has continued to attract more and more destinations, businesses and individuals to attend and participate in events that have been staged up and down the country. It has now become increasingly challenging to fit all the tourism industry events under the umbrella of a single week, and whilst this year’s annual event spilled over into a 9 day ‘week’, events were in fact taking place through to 29 March.
There is clearly an appetite for industry events to be staged and a desire by industry colleagues to attend, network and learn. We therefore felt that a solution was needed which presented greater opportunity for more people to attend a multiple of events, taking a full month approach as opposed to a week. In 2018 the aim will be for industry to stage and promote a month long series of tourism industry events taking place all over Scotland kicking off on 1 March with the STA National conference in Glasgow at the SEC. We look forward to bringing you more details in due course on what will be the biggest event in the calendnar for Scotland’s tourism industry.
If you haven’t booked your early bird ticket, please do so at the earliest opportunity. We have only released 150 discounted tickets for the event and many have already been snapped up! Register your place here.
As your membership organisation, the Scottish Tourism Alliance has never worked harder to bring the big issues which affect our industry to the attention of policy makers and Scottish Government and we know there will be lots more to do in the months ahead.
The voice of the tourism industry has been amplified, our big issues elevated and the work we do acknowledged and publicised by our media and our government. Never before has our position and voice been so strong and we have you to thank for this.
Our overarching aim remains to act as the voice of industry to influence outcomes and bring forward benefits, so that businesses like yours can grow and be more profitable.
We continue to campaign on the issues that affect the growth and sustainability of our tourism industry such as tourism VAT, infrastructure, digital and skills. It is your voice that gives us a voice so please share your thoughts and experiences with us as this gives us a stronger voice to influence future policy in a range of areas.
In 2016 we introduced the Big 5 Questions campaign to support your tourism business by giving you access to the right tools and resources to grow. We've come together with a number of key partners to offer you the most relevant advice to help you do business better and throughout 2017 more resources and learning opportunities have been added to the mix. There's lots of help and advice out there, and much of it is free.
The STA’s communications are now recognised as being the ‘must read’ for the industry and we remain committed to bringing you right up to the minute news, features, interviews and insights in The Talker. Please sign up here if you are not receiving our communications and wish to do so.
In order for the STA to be your voice, we need to hear from you, so interact with us as best you can on social media, by phone or by attending events and keep us posted on how your business is doing as we use a lot of your Industry news stories and messages to keep the sector and the media informed.
Busy times are ahead for all and 2018 is looking like it may be our busiest to date. Rest assured, the STA team will continue to engage directly with the political world, being your voice and representing the big issues that are impacting optimum growth. We will continue to ensure that the importance of tourism to the economy is understood and sits firmly on every national and local politician's agenda.
The STA looks forward to continuing to work with your business, representing your voice over the coming year.
Thank you again for your continued support and giving us a stronger voice for our industry.