This time last year our industry was in crisis mode with the threat of business rates hikes sending waves of anxiety through our tourism businesses. 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).
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, particularly the costs of doing businesses for the tourism industry.
As we look ahead to 2018, the STA agenda remains firmly focused around creating opportunities for positive policy change to support the growth and competitiveness of Scotland’s tourism industry and create the best possible conditions for your business to grow.
In January, the STA Board had the opportunity to meet with the First Minister to discuss the opportunities and challenges ahead for Scotland’s tourism industry.
Our agenda focused around three main areas:
1. Investment in infrastructure – fundamental to the growth of tourism
2. Developing the future tourism workforce and improving the positioning of our industry as an ‘industry for a career of choice’
3. APD and the opportunities to grow Scotland’s tourism economy through a reduction of APD by 50%
We discussed the challenges and opportunities and are delighted to have a commitment from the First Minister to meet with us on a bi-annual basis to discuss progress and changes.
The meeting was hugely positive and marked an important step forward in strengthening our collaborative relationship with the Scottish Government and Tourism Department.
We look forward to sharing news of the work we do to shape and influence current and future policies which we believe will enable Scotland to fulfil its potential as a global destination and operate more competitively.
The STA is currently undertaking an exercise with an external agency to consolidate its positioning; our organisation’s mission, vision and values and as part of this we are looking more closely at the main issues which affect the growth and competitiveness of Scotland’s tourism industry.
Within the next few months, we will have a very clear agenda on these issues, the campaigns we will activate around these issues and our asks of the Scottish Government, Westminster and tourism businesses.
This exercise will effectively streamline the work we do to bring about the positive changes needed at policy level to make our industry more competitive and sustainable for the future.
We look forward to bringing you more details of the outcome of the project in due course.
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.
Scottish Tourism Month has evolved from the traditional Scottish Tourism Week held annually in March. The event had grown in size and popularity with an increasing number of events taking place all over Scotland under the umbrella of Scottish Tourism Week and it had become challenging trying to fit all of these in under the one banner in the one week.
So, a bold decision was taken to extend what had become a nine-day week and March will see the first ever Scottish Tourism Month take place, kicking off with the Scottish Tourism Alliance Signature Conference on 1 March and running right up until 31 March with tourism events taking place the length and breadth of the country under the umbrella of STM2018.
Thought leaders from the world of finance, economic policy, technology and innovation, food tourism, hospitality and the political world will headline the speaker line up for Scottish Tourism Alliance Conference 2018.
This year’s event will be focused around the ‘Next Generation for Tourism’, looking at the future challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for Scotland’s tourism industry.
STA Conference 2018 will examine the political, global and economic outlook, offering insights into our fast paced and rapidly changing world with information and inspiration on how to lead for the future and of course attract, develop and retain our next generation of employees.
Conference sessions have been built around themes such as innovation, entrepreneurship, meeting the expectations of the future traveller and connecting with and winning new audiences in an increasingly competitive digital marketing world. The food tourism opportunity will be explored in the context of the quality, authentic experience which lies at the heart of the Tourism Strategy and we will welcome international and home grown speakers to share all the latest insights and trends on our conference themes this year.
The event will take place at the SEC in Glasgow on 1 March. Delegates will also have the opportunity to attend a variety of Business Advisory Workshops and a special Civic Reception on the afternoon/evening prior to conference to celebrate the start of the very first Scottish Tourism Month. Click here to visit the dedicated Scottish Tourism Month to book your place at the STA Signature Conference and to find out more about how to get involved in the most important month in the calendar for our tourism industry.
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.