Small tourism businesses must be at the centre of efforts to grow the industry, a new Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) report suggests.
However, the study shows that while two-thirds of Scotland’s tourism enterprises want to grow, most are not looking to the public or private sector for support.
As a result, the FSB is arguing that organisations such as Scottish Enterprise, VisitScotland, councils, Business Gateway and the Scottish Tourism Alliance need to pool their resources to get the message through to hard-to-reach small businesses.
Andy Willox, the FSB’s Scottish policy convener, said: “There’s no doubt that there’s some good public-sector support on offer for Scottish tourism businesses, but our report shows that businesses are confused about who does what.
“While, of course, it’s up to businesses to look for the help they need to get the edge, publicly-funded bodies need to work more closely together and deliver a consistent joined-up message to busy, hard-pressed local tourism businesses.”
Based on contact with more than 500 businesses, 30 Scottish local authorities and a range of other public bodies over 12 months, the report confirms that the country’s tourism industry is not just about providing beds.
It found that about half of Scotland’s small tourism businesses provide accommodation, but many restaurants, bistros, bus, coach and taxi firms, activity providers and retailers also identify themselves as tourism businesses.
Scotland aims to grow annual visitor spending by £1billion by 2020, from £4.5-£5.5billion, and the FSB says smaller businesses are key to meeting this target.
However, the report identified that energy costs and poor digital connectivity are holding businesses back.
Mr Willox said: “Governments at Westminster and Holyrood say that they’re tackling the problems of spiralling energy costs and poor digital connectivity, but small Scottish tourism businesses say that big bills and bad broadband are holding back their plans for growth now.”