The staycation saved the summer for many of us in 2020 and with the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 set to continue, it looks like summer 2021 could be a big year for the tourism industry in the UK. Vaccinations should enable restrictions to be eased for many countries during the summer, but with the risk of quarantine and changing international guidelines, it is likely that more people will be holidaying closer to home.
Improving Prospects for Tourism and Hospitality in Scotland
Tourism and hospitality were some of the hardest hit sectors during 2020 but they could soon be leading the way to recovery in Scotland. The social distancing measures that so many businesses have put in place over the last year will enable them to take advantage as soon as the weather warms up and restrictions start to ease. The Scottish government is prioritising tourism in its recovery plans and has a longer term strategy in place for building skills, improving transport, and ensuring sustainability in the sector. Visitor numbers are expected to be up for summer 2021, giving businesses across Scotland the chance to recover from the difficult months we have all endured.
Touring the NC500 in 2021
One of the best examples of how Scotland is preparing for a better 2021 is the North Coast 500 route. The NC500 is a 516 mile scenic route taking travellers in a loop around the Highlands from Inverness. Since its launch in 2015, the NC500 has generated £22.89 million for the Scottish economy and helped to create 179 jobs. Many hospitality businesses along the loop have also benefitted from increased visitor numbers. Businesses can pay to be listed on the official NC500 website, gain access to the initiative’s more than 150,000 social media followers, and are able to take advantage of various marketing and other opportunities. The scheme has been particularly praised for the support it has provided to businesses during COVID-19, with a 90% satisfaction rating from business owners.
The continued support provided by the NC500 this year should help these businesses to make a stronger recovery. In addition to providing advice and marketing opportunities, the NC500 has attracted a large audience and encouraged them to follow the route for themselves. Of those who had to cancel their plans to visit in 2020, about 75% intend to come during this year instead. British tourists are particularly likely to visit due to increased awareness of destinations in the UK and reluctance to plan holidays abroad. Good publicity from The Grand Tour putting the route on TV will help to draw people to the area, but the dramatic changes we’ve been through during 2020 have also had an effect. Being forced to look closer to home has left many people with a greater appreciation of the beauty, culture, and uniqueness of these regions.
Investing in Scottish Hospitality
The expected rise in visitors to Scotland will have a positive impact on many businesses this year and beyond. The ongoing support from the Scottish government and initiatives such as the NC500 will help the tourism and hospitality sectors to bounce back from their most difficult year. As businesses recover and business owners focus on the future, this should help to reinvigorate the market with increased demand. More buyers will be looking to invest in tourism and hospitality businesses in Scotland in order to take advantage of the growing interest in visiting destinations such as Inverness and in touring spectacular regions like the Highlands. The next few years will show how strongly the Scottish hospitality industry can recover.