The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs meets the United Kingdom culture and tourism minister regularly, when that is possible. Most recently, she had meetings in June and August to discuss a number of issues, including the potentially damaging impact of any Brexit on our tourism industry, in Scotland and in the UK as a whole.
Visitors from the European Union are vital for Scotland’s tourism industry and wider economy, so we will continue to raise awareness of our serious concerns. Six of our top 10 markets for overseas visitors are in the EU. Those markets accounted for 44 per cent of our overseas overnight visitors and for spending of more than £800 million in Scotland in 2018.
The Scotland is open campaign, which ran in March and early April this year, was an important step in reaching out to key markets in Europe to remind people that Scotland’s doors are open. It has been our best-performing marketing activity to date, reaching more than 80 million people—some 27 per cent of the population in key tourism markets.
There is no doubt that continuing Brexit uncertainty poses a threat to Scotland’s tourism industry. Figures for the year to March 2019, which the Office for National Statistics published, showed a 3 per cent decrease in European visits to Scotland and a related fall in expenditure, and a recent study that VisitBritain published earlier this year indicated that 44 per cent of European respondents expressed concern about the uncertainty around travel arrangements, due to the on-going negotiations.
Scotland and the Scottish Government did not choose to leave the EU, and we continue to oppose Brexit. However, as a responsible Government we will continue to do everything that we can to prepare and to support Scotland’s tourism industry.