An ambitious new strategy to ‘awaken the giant’ of Scotland’s marine tourism sector and bring even more visitors to the nation’s coastlines and canals has been unveiled.
The five-year plan, launched by Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing and ocean adventurer Mark Beaumont today (5th March), aims to boost Scotland’s reputation as a world class marine tourism destination by improving the experience of visitors, building facilities and skills within the sector, and promoting the huge range of events and activities available on and around the nation’s sailing grounds. The strategy hopes to grow the total value of the sector by 25%, from £360 million to £450 million, by 2020.
Scottish Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said: “I’m delighted to launch the Marine Tourism Strategy. This is a time when Scottish tourism is in the global spotlight like never before, and the marine and coastal tourism industry can help convert that exposure into an increase in business. Working with other tourism sectors will help bring additional business, jobs and prosperity to communities around the entire coastline of Scotland – and along our internal waterways too.
“‘Awakening the Giant‘ is an exciting strategy which is well timed to take advantage of a growing and healthy Scottish tourism industry which is seeing excellent leadership and growth.”
Boasting the longest coastline in Europe, varied wildlife, rich heritage, breathtaking scenery and some of the world’s most beautiful and varied sailing waters, Scotland’s marine tourism sector already attracts visitors from all over the world, with the boating sector alone generating more than £100 million in visitor expenditure and directly supporting almost 3,000 jobs. The new strategy aims to grow that figure to £145 million – an increase of more than 40% – in the next five years.
The strategy, titled ‘Awakening the Giant,‘ looks to build upon those strong foundations, promoting and growing the vibrant sector to offer visitors, whether they’re sailing the majestic waters of the West Coast, dolphin watching in the Moray Firth or kayaking through the Great Glen, a world-class experience.
The strategy, the first of its kind, was developed in consultation with a wide range of industry groups including British Marine Federation Scotland, Sail Scotland, Scottish Canals, The Crown Estate, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and Royal Yachting Association Scotland and shaped by input from a public consultation.
Professor Lorne Crerar, Chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), said: “We are delighted to be supporting the Marine Tourism Strategy which is being launched today. Sailing tourism brings in very high spending to many of the remote and fragile communities in the Highlands and Islands. Our region is already gaining recognition internationally as a world class sailing destination. Given the massive growth potential and impacts on communities right across our region, we are delighted to be supporting the industry whose actions will deliver growth in this sector over the next five years.”
Whilst sailing sits at the core of the strategy, the plan challenges perceptions of marine tourism as purely boat-based, looking at everything from scuba diving and water skiing to sea angling and wildlife watching to realise the potential of the entire sector.
Simon Limb, Chairman of British Marine Federation Scotland, said: “The marine industry is a leading and valuable contributor to the tourism sector. We believe that from this foundation so much more can be achieved. This strategy creates a framework and a path for growth; it seeks to work in collaboration at every level and is relevant to all marine and coastal businesses. The industry must grasp the opportunity to move forward in partnership and unlock the future success of our industry and promote its important contribution to Scotland’s tourist economy.”
From building on the success of large-scale events such as the Commonwealth Flotilla and utilising new technology to better communicate with customers, to improving links between the marine tourism experience and Scotland’s wider visitor offering, the strategy sets out a variety of long-term aims across its three key themes.
The first strand of the plan, ‘Providing Authentic Experiences,’ seeks to build on the nation’s considerable strengths and highlight the incredible visitor experiences Scotland has to offer on its coasts, canals and beyond. From creating themed journeys that explore the country’s history, scenery, visitor attractions and experiences on land and water to organising and promoting local, regional and national events, the strategy will showcase everything marine tourism in Scotland can offer.
‘Improving the Customer Journey,’ the second theme of the strategy, aims to ensure that visitors’ experiences, whether they’re kite surfing at Troon or sailing around the Outer Hebrides, is truly world class. From streamlining the planning and booking process and training businesses to deliver exemplary customer service – and recognising those who do – to utilising social media and digital technologies to add value to the marine tourism experience, this theme will help those within the sector to better understand what visitors want and equip them with the skills and infrastructure to provide it.
The final strategy theme, ‘Building our Capabilities,’ looks at coordinating the entire sector to develop its strengths and grow its capabilities in everything from facilities and skills to marketing and sustainability. This coordinated approach aims to make the most of the incredible marine experiences the nation offers, boosting visitor numbers, bringing economic benefits, and creating lasting positive change within the sector, the communities at its heart and Scotland as a whole.