Scotland’s latest tourist attraction survey found that the impacts of the pandemic continue to devastate the industry – and it has seen no evidence of a ‘stay boom’.
Conducted on behalf of the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) by the Moffat Center for Travel and Tourism Development at Glasgow Caledonian University, the research highlights that survival, rather than recovery, is the current priority for operators.
Less than half of the area (48.1%) is currently fully open and more than one in 10 attractions remain closed. An additional 40.9% are operating with reduced hours or limited facilities due to the impacts of the pandemic and Brexit.
ASVA Managing Director Gordon Morrison said: âThe pandemic has had a truly devastating impact on Scotland’s tourist attractions and these latest findings provide further evidence that this impact is still very much felt.
âI cannot stress enough that, despite a number of reports to the contrary in the media, there has not been a ‘stay boom’ or widespread economic recovery for our industry this year, and we are facing a very difficult winter period ahead.
“With very few international visitors and restrictive regulations that severely limited viable trade throughout the spring and summer, the window of opportunity to trade successfully has been extremely limited and as a result we are still concerned with the survival, not the recovery, of much of our industry as we enter the offseason.
Professor John Lennon, Director of the Moffat Center, said: âTourism, like many other industries in Scotland, has been greatly affected by the loss of European workers as a direct result of Brexit.
âThe ability to adequately and securely staff operations has become the next insurmountable challenge. “
Just over 180 organizations, representing 353 individual attractions, participated in what was the first attraction survey since the majority of restrictions were lifted across the country and Scotland moved “beyond the level 0 “.
The study showed that more than a third of attractions (34.3%) are not currently operating at an economically viable level.
Revenue is down by more than half at more than a third of attractions (35.8%) this year compared to the same period in 2019, with 5.5% operating on revenue equal to or greater than 2019 levels.
More than one in five attractions have less than three months of cash flow heading into the offseason.
Almost half (47.5%) of the sector saw a drop in the number of visitors of more than 50% this year, compared to the same period in 2019.
In terms of attraction prospects and future recovery, the survey found that just under 45% of attractions report less or no investment in new facilities and infrastructure in 2021/22.
An additional 42% also saw less or no investment in staff development, with 45% reporting a significant reduction in investment in leadership development.
Recruitment is one of the many significant challenges holding back the sector’s recovery.
Just under half of the attractions (48.6%) have difficulty recruiting staff. Almost one in three attractions are currently operating with reduced hours due to staff issues.
Respondents said recruiting and retaining staff is currently the fourth biggest obstacle to the industry’s short-term recovery.
However, the three main challenges hampering the recovery were the lack of international visitors, the restrictions and regulations in place, and the lack of domestic visitors.
Consumer nervousness also persists as the virus continues to spread, raising serious questions about when a full recovery will be possible.
Over 90% of Scottish attractions are currently operating with Covid mitigation measures, although the majority of these are not required by law.
Morrison added, âDespite the economic challenges they face, the number one priority for attractions continues to ensure the safety of staff and visitors – they have maintained the highest safety standards throughout the pandemic; this has not changed even though the restrictions have been relaxed.
âNow more than ever, our sector desperately needs the continued support of government and the public to survive and get through what will be a very difficult winter period.
“We know that many attractions will be extending their seasons into winter this year in an effort to recoup lost income, and I urge Scots and the rest of the UK to get out there and explore the wonderful and varied experiences that they offer. “
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