Friday, 22 January 2016 15:37

SCOTLAND “Punching above our weight” in tourism

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The devolution of APD is a “golden opportunity” to boost Scotland’s thriving tourism industry, the SNP said today, after figures revealed that tourists spend more per head in Scotland than the UK average.
 Scotland’s tourism sector continues to grow, with figures released this week showing a 7% increase in total visits in the past year. There were 15.5 million overseas and domestic visitors to Scotland in the year to September 2015, with total expenditure exceeding £5bn for the first time – a rise of 8%.

 Meanwhile, new figures compiled by the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre (SPICe) show that each overseas visitor in Scotland spends more money than visitors to elsewhere in the UK.
 Overseas visitors spent £1.84bn in Scotland in 2014 – £681 per visitor compared to a UK average of £635 per visitor.
 A report by Edinburgh Airport estimated that a 50% cut in Air Passenger Duty would create nearly 4,000 jobs and add £1bn to the Scottish economy by 2020.
 Commenting, Colin Keir MSP said:
 “It’s highly encouraging that tourist numbers continue to grow, with both domestic and overseas visitors coming to Scotland in huge numbers.
 “Scotland is punching above our weight when it comes to the economic impact of tourism – the fact that tourist spend per visitor is higher in Scotland than the UK average underlines the golden opportunity for Scotland’s economy by increasing tourist numbers further.
 “Yet the Scottish tourist industry continues to operate with one hand tied behind its back, with Air Passenger Duty putting us at a competitive disadvantage compared with other European destinations.
 “The SNP are committed to reducing and ultimately abolishing APD when we gain the power to do so. Labour, in contrast, want to continue this tourist tax and in doing so lose a potential windfall for the Scottish economy and Scottish jobs.”
 Willie Macleod, Executive Director of the British Hospitality Association Scotland, said:
 “International tourism is highly competitive and consumers are seeking new destinations and experiences as well as having increasingly high expectations of what they want in the destinations they visit.
 “Customers are demanding value for money and compare what we offer with other destinations.”
 Gordon Dewar, Edinburgh Airport’s Chief Executive, said:
 “This new data showing that overseas passengers spend considerably more money per head in Scotland than they do in the rest of the UK is a further incentive to halve Air Passenger Duty as soon as possible – it would attract more tourists to boost spending here, generating 4,000 jobs and bolstering the economy to the tune of an additional £1 billion.
 “Cutting the travel tax by 50 per cent is also vital for Scotland’s international ambitions by increasing direct flights, and of course would make holidays abroad more affordable for families.
 “The case against freeing up Scotland from this regressive tax is flimsy – it is one dimensional and completely ignores the economic benefits of more spending and more jobs."