VisitScotland (Marketing Strategy)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Education and Young People, Tourism, Culture and Sport – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 2nd December 2004.

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Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

VisitScotland's marketing strategy is key to the ambition of increasing the value of tourism revenues in Scotland by 50 per cent over the next decade. We have made available a 28 per cent increase over three years in VisitScotland's marketing budget to support that ambition. VisitScotland will use that extra money—most of which will be matched by the private sector—to broaden its United Kingdom and United States marketing campaigns, to extend its European campaigns and to strengthen the marketing of the many new direct air links to Scotland from international and UK markets.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

I thank the minister, who is standing in to answer questions. I acknowledge that there have been recent successes in attracting new tourists to Scotland and I hope that such success continues. However, concerns are expressed, particularly by people in the industry, that the projected shortfall of between £2 million and £4 million might have a damaging effect on local funding. How will the expected 10 to 15 per cent redundancy across the network be paid for? Will VisitScotland take on the pension liabilities of the 14 area tourist boards?

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

I am blinded on any potential shortfall. I mentioned the substantial increase in VisitScotland's marketing budget and VisitScotland's overall budget is £43 million per year, which is a considerable sum of money. VisitScotland's results are impressive; this year there was a 12 per cent increase in visitors to Scotland and a 25 per cent increase in visitors from the European Union, which indicates that we are on the right track. Work is going on to refine our efforts even further to ensure that we are up to date with the best possible practice in the management of our tourism assets and with the most effective techniques of promoting this country in the UK and around the world. I am sure that in any changes that are made, VisitScotland will follow the best human resources practice, but discussions on the matter are going on and as far as I am aware have not yet reached a conclusion.

Photo of Susan Deacon Susan Deacon Labour

I am sure that the minister is aware of Edinburgh's crucial role as a driver of Scottish tourism and a gateway to Scotland. Indeed, I am sure that he is aware that 54 per cent of overseas visitors and 21 per cent of UK visitors to Scotland route through Edinburgh. Will the minister provide an assurance that the new arrangements and marketing plans for the VisitScotland integrated network will continue to maximise the capital's gateway role and build on successes such as the Edinburgh convention bureau, and in so doing ensure that not only Edinburgh but the wider Scottish tourism industry and the wider Scottish economy reap the maximum benefits?

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

I am happy to endorse the efforts that have been made in Edinburgh not only to improve tourism in the city but to allow the effects of increased tourism to be spread across Scotland. That is to be commended in every possible way. More and more, we realise the benefits of co-operation rather than competition between areas of Scotland, to ensure that there is the maximum transition from one area to another; that we gain the maximum possible spend from visitors to Scotland; and that through those efforts and exposure to the maximum number of attractions that Scotland has to offer we encourage even higher numbers of repeat visitors.

Edinburgh plays an important role in business tourism. In both Scottish and UK terms, it is an iconic place. In our previous home and here, we have seen how many people are attracted to Edinburgh and find it a welcoming place. I am glad that Edinburgh takes a lead in Scotland and that other areas are learning lessons from what has been put in place in this city.