Wednesday 18 November 2009

Findings From Tourism Matters Survey

October/November 2009 Tourism Matters Survey Responses

The overall survey polled around 235 businesses from across Scotland and whilst we never claimed that the survey would provide definitive answers it certainy questions some of the ideas that this has been a bumper year fro Scottish Tourism. The comments received from almost one hundred of the respondents indicate that there is a passion for the industry and a desire to communicate. A lesson to be learned in this world of social media!

A PDF summary of the Tourism Matters Survey findings can be downloaded and printed. The comments below are supplementary to the attached PDF of the results from the objective study. If nothing else we hope that it will increase the knowledge and stop perhaps just one of the blasé remarks being made about the buoyancy of our tourism markets.

If you prefer to print these comments download the Summary Comments Document

It was out intention to summarise these responses more fully but on reading them almost as an easy there are many issues which recur and become common. It has been decided therefo0re to leave them pretty much untouched...

Individual Comments

Customer looking for bespoke short courses in outdoor activity. Water sports popular. Golf dropping off. Events and tournaments big attraction towards 2010 & 2014 Games. More work on this needed for sports tourism.

Overall little from 2008, change but the mix of client nationalities has changed. More European business has offset less N American business. Overall similar numbers to previous year. Lead in time is a lot less .

Advance inquires look up slightly from N America but too early for European numbers.

2010 viewed as lower due to General Election, which always has a negative impact for the few months after, from the UK Market, which will have an impact over peak Season. However, the weakness of Stg vs other currencies, could see some positive impact to counteract some of the losses.

We are usually let between 40 and 44 weeks in the year which just allows for spring cleaning, maintenance and improvements and so it is not easy to improve on occupancy levels! We are extremely worried about the impact of the new tax changes due to affect self catering in the spring. We estimate that should they go ahead as planned it will cost us 25%. (or mean that to achieve the same income we would need to raise our rents by 25%)This is not feasible, at least not instantly, and so will lead to less maintenance and other economies which will not be good.

We on Bute have had a torrid time this year - whilst much of the West coast has had a decent year. Much of this I believe is due to a downturn in local (ie UK resident) tourism which this island is more dependent on than most.

Whilst occupancy has held up quite well, we have seen a significant decrease in sales of food and beverages indicating that whilst people are still keen to take holidays, they are being very careful about how they spend their money once there.

This year it's all been down to what you offer and at what price. To that effect we've decided to keep basic B&B prices for next year at same price as this. We've worked to market ourselves at what we see as our "niche" markets - and it's worked!

Definitely more UK tourists this year - lots who "usually go to the alps to mountain bike" and found Scotland offered just as good if not better facilities and the accommodation that we offer was just what they wanted.

Although in Question 4 I stated the overall levels were slightly up on 2008, this has only related to July, August, September and October.

Jan and Feb the same, March and April down, May and June the same.

This will be a very interesting and worthwhile survey though, and I look forward to seeing the results!

A number of apparently contradictory trends: The number of guests is down but we've had a significant number of longer stays. The conversion rate of enquiries to bookings has been down - probably price related. We have resisted cutting prices and standards of service. We have also noticed a much lower spend on wines and other extras.

There have been many more campers and camper vans holidaying on the cheap and not interested in a £35 dinner.

We have noticed a significant increase in bookings from Switzerland and a slight increase from the Netherlands and Belgium. We have also had greater interest from Australia/New Zealand than in past years. The Italian and Spanish families have not visited us this year as before.

"Homecoming" has apparently been a complete flop. "Homecoming? I don't believe anyone outside Scotland has even heard of it"...(a US visitor). This sentiment has been repeated by a number of our overseas guests when asked about it.

Increased VAT in 2010 won't help.

This year has been patchy - one good month and then one bad month, Although august was excellent July and September were well down. We are usually fairly full in august so it did not do a lot for our business that the area was very busy. We have a hotel and self catering chalets. The chalets did well in June and September which boosted the poor performance in the hotel. Repeat guests have saved us this year !!
Not quite the bumper summer as reported.

The majority of surveys stating that tourism has had an extremely good year do not relate to small businesses providing accommodation. There have certainly been a lot of tourists about, but they have been staying in Self Catering, camping and mobile homes. The Scottish tourist who normally would stay 3-4 nights has been staying at home and doing day trips. The only increase in business has been from America, Canada and Australia and obviously Europe because of the Euro. We feel it is the tourist attractions that have benefited this year particularly from those taking days out instead of staying away from home.

Most bookings which we received were last minute and looking for large discounts

2009 saw a reduced visitor budget compared to 2008 however actual exceeded budget by 2%.

We will continue to spend a large amount on marketing to market ourselves through the recession.

We do not appear to have a problem with demand - our problems revolve entirely around the difficulty in sourcing finance in order to expand our business. Banks, especially, and other lending institutions are making it unreasonably difficult to borrow money.

Your survey lumped together Canada and USA I think there were very few Americans travelling this year but many more Canadians. also your Europeans were lumped into Italy and Spain. Lots from Italy and very few from Spain.

I saw many more from Belgium and Netherlands this year. Also Norway and Sweden.

Excellent season so perhaps I could give your hotelier a tip or too

Hotels have struggled because of their inflexibility to the traveller and their inability to lower costs at peak season. The cash strapped traveller this year is looking for value for money. Customer service is falling in hotels due to poor staff training. The B and B and guesthouse will jump in both those gaps.

This is a personal opinion and based on a few occasions I have stayed in hotels this season and from customers comments. It is hugely brush stroke but on the whole I believe you will find that the smaller establishments have prospered in 2009.

In 2008 we had exceptional occupancy ( 99%)

Much harder work this year to achieve excellent booking levels. Because people are booking later they look for discounts, which I have had to give several times - if I still have availability 2 weeks before arrival. So our income is reduced this year, though published rates similar. Too many new self-catering properties mushrooming and supply is outstripping demand. Because we are well established, a Thistle Award winner 3 times, have a very good reputation and repeat business, a range of three 3 - 5 Star properties on the farm , all very different, we are in a good position to buck trends.

Visitor attraction numbers are up but is this due to real staycations where the people stay put AT HOME and make day trips?

So I tend to agree with your hotelier re. hype about Scottish Tourism doing well. Homecoming probably helped. But the bubble on that burst a bit this last week with the news of all the losses and unpaid creditors!

Trading for 13 years so no novice. Last 2 years worst on record (this year worse than last). I intend to hold off on planned, green-related investment for at least a year.

We find that because we are in a small village setting that the local town based tourist information srvice tend to forget about us, and we generally only get the over spill once the town is full.

The fact that the exchange rate is not good has not really had any impact on bookings in fact we think that money every where is tight and would argue the fact that bookings are up.

Looks like another flat year. Hopefully the North American market will rally a little.

Angus area is very poorly marketed in general. Tourist footfall is low. Booking received by visit Scotland very poor - one all season. Rates are down as hotels are offering deals that B&B can't compete with. People in general are visiting but staying less nights making overhead costs higher due to one night stays.

Good until August. Dip in September. Fewer enquiries and confirmed bookings Nov and Dec

Visit Scotland is NOT serving its Self Catering Customers. Potential visitors have been angry with Visit Scotland web site as they were unable to find us and had to do a web search and telephone. This went on for almost 9 months regardless of advising Visit Scotland.

Additionally the grading scheme does not appear to be the same area to area with lots of discrepancies in what is permitted for four star. I have established this while staying in assorted premises with the same grading as myself.

Furthermore self catering providers are losing out if they offer homes as points appear to be lost due to the officers looking for external facilities with credit being given for leisure facilities, e.g. swimming pools, gyms, etc. This will certainly not help Scotland’s Self Catering providers achieve good quality awards as if this nonsense which is more for larger providers and hoteliers continues many will stop investing in their business and sell up...

I let self catering accommodation.

There was no demand for weeks in June and July.

From the last week in July to the first in september I have been fully booked.

Have had refurbishment in 2008/09 so this has affected result.

Strong Euro and dollar has seen an increase in north European and American guests.

Between May and end of September 70% of our B&B rooms were occupied by overseas guests compared with approx. 60% in 2007 and 2008.

I realize that this may not be very representative as we have just 3 rooms. However, local accommodation businesses in Glen Spean and the Great Glen report a very bouyant season - the best for a number of years.

Self catering has not seen the same increase, but remains at about last year's occupancy levels - although we have had more overseas enquiries.

No reference to visitors from Benelux (loads of Netherlanders and Belgians come to the Highlands) or Australia - definitely up this year.

We suffer a Tourist Authority that lost touch with the trade and market many years ago and is too 'head in the sand' to listen to those of us who have been in the industry for many years.

The fundamental fault is the compulsion imposed by the Quality Grading Scheme which has seriously split the industry. Take the compulsion out of it, make it voluntary, add a category for 'Ungraded' and then set about attracting EVERY tourism business to join their ATB. An industry where 100% are contributing to the forward direction will show infinitely greater success than has been the experience of the Tourism Industry in recent years.

The exchange rate benefit was not felt by us with foreign guests lower than the previous year. UK guest numbers held up reasonably well but mainly among empty nesters. Although we do not normally take children under 12, the number of bookings/enquiries from families was way down on last year. The strong performance of self catering I think demonstrates that they found it cheaper to travel from a hub than tour this year.

We are members of Wolsey Lodges for marketing purposes and bookings were so low from this source that we are not renewing our membership.

For the first time in 14 years I had a week available in august

To date bookings have held up well - though there does not seem to have been the predicted bonanza from more people holidaying at home.

I think this has been seen in the camping and caravanning sector.

I think we may well be going to feel the down turn in getting less off season short breaks. But as last minute is such a strong trend I will wait till the time is actually passed before commenting!!

Occupancy up to 31st August was much the same as 2008, but occupancy for the autumn months is way down. The should months which are usually filled by retired people are down as they have less investment income to spend.

Our biggest concern is that we live on one of the islands that hasn't benefited from the RET and this has contributed to the downturn in visitor numbers to the island and our own occupancy levels. Our increase in turnover has been because we were upgraded to 4* at the end of last summer and we have been able to counter the drop in occupancy level with a small rate increase. However this is a double edged sword as we believe that we haven't achieved the same occupancy levels in previous years because the last minute 'staycation' tourist has opted for the 3* accommodation instead of 4*.

We also feel that because our local council has massively and woefully failed to invest in the infrastructure on the island over the past 2-3 decades, this has become a significant contributing factor in deterring and discouraging visitors to the island due to the vehicle repair costs. The under spend is likely to continue indefinitely well into the future and we don't see how this will be resolved.

Would it be worthwhile looking at how the cost of accommodation has affected occupancy rates? In all the surveys I've completed I have never seen this aspect included in the statistics. I know several places where their business is down on previous years and they are often those with the higher charges.

We are a tourism training consultancy and we have traded for 23 years now. This last year has been our worst ever! This I believe reflects the old adage, 'in a recession the first two things that our industry cuts are marketing and training!'. Generally if the trade is doing well they are happy to invest, through training, in their people. Perhaps our business is a barometer for the trade!

I would have thought more people will fill this in if they have had a good year as no one wants to admit they are not doing so well - we find this verbally with fellow accommodation providers so I would have thought it would have been even more pronounced with a questionnaire......

Also although we have found the spring and summer very good ( the 'staycation' really took place) autumn ( October) and winter so far seem it could be that people are taking their one big holiday in the UK but them not doing as many out of season breaks.

We hope that the new Visit Scotland website will be an improvement and attract more visitors to the \highlands.. Would be very helpful if bookings could be faxed to accommodation owners.

Best season ever but we have recently completed a development and we market strongly and pro-actively.

26yrs old established family business with unique visitor experience and strong customer loyalty.

It's noted the negative comments come from an hotelier. We in self-catering have enjoyed good figures for a number of years and we already have 30 individual weeks booked across our three lodges for 2010. We have noticed our guests are not eating out as much these days, prefering to "self-cater" but because they are making economies in that area, they are able to afford other "bolt-on" items such as wildlife safaris and boat trips. Because B+Bs have raised their game over recent years, hotels now struggle to compete so this may be why the person concerned made their negative remarks.

In our area it was very busy during the main summer period (that doesn't affect us much). Our own back-end of season has been slightly busier than the average year but enquiries for next year have been slightly slower than last year.

With business and building projects on hold. We are anxious as to the business tourism bookings from now through to Easter.

Having increased tariffs due to upgrading facilities, this reflects in our sales against business costs, such as the utilities increase. Occupancy has generally been good this year, however, I have kept rates at the same level as 2008 and many people tried to barter down prices. People really self catering in our properties too. Previous years they tended to eat out more in local restaurants. I hope that good occupancy rates will continue, however, I am aware that I am keeping rates down, despite energy costs etc rising. Lower profit margins.

Although the downturn is mainly due to the world economy, swine flu and the release of the Lockerbie bomber. We are also hampered by the almost total failure of visitscotland We are a small hotel yet I have a couple of dozen adverse comments made to me about the dealings our guests have had with visitscotland.

This organisation is now totally disconnected from the actual tourist industry and in my mind exists only for its own benefit. Until the government wake up to this and do something serious and effective to the organisation charged with promoting tourism in Scotland it will continue to decline.

I have only had 4 weeks empty between 1sty April and 30th October, This is better than last year. Also Jan - Mar in one unit was very well filled.I am delighted with occupancy this year and see the new year developing well.

Much will depend on the impact of tax rises, the increase in VAT and the government's general desire to rake back their borrowing. The healthy UK market this year has been driven by lack of money to spend abroad and the rate of exchange. This market could drop further if people cut back more and don't holiday next year.

The European market will, I think still be ok for 2010 but I still fear for the US market which continues to be very weak. Whilst room occupancy and rates have been very strong , food and beverage spend has dropped particularly beverage ,as people maybe have 2 beers at £6 rather than say a bottle of wine at £12 - 14 .

We will continue to watch and cut costs wherever possible.

We will withdraw completely from Visit Scotland as they do nothing to assist small seasonal businesses in rural locations.

How can we compete when other EU countries only charge between 5% and 7% VAT on food and accommodation? If the UK VAT goes up to 20% which is expected this will close hundreds of hotels. The UK Gov fails to support small accommodation providers which are the backbone of the Tourism Industry.

Pound for pound for every pound invested by the trade the UK Governments return over £50. E.G. vat on spirits food and accommodation, rates, NIC, fuel taxes.

Although they say tourism is an economic priority putting £ms into sports facilities e.g Olympics is not going to help the tourism industry.

We are too newly established to be able to offer sensible comparison. However, after a busy summer we have had two dead month with bookings and enquiries just beginning to pick up now (late October).

This year is only our second year, it has been better than last year, considering we have no passing trade

Business is up slightly on last year but the big difference was in the number of advance bookings compared to those within 6 weeks of the start date of their holiday

We had a slow start to the season this year

- Then in May, June & July we had an increase in the number of guests

- Second half of season - Aug. Sept Oct. occupancy has fallen away.

Sadly, at the moment we do not see any encouraging features for recovery in 2010.

Let's hope that there won't be a double recession.

Visit Scotland and Visit very weak.

Had to spend more money on advertising to achieve the same results.

Visit Scotland need to reduce their prices so many B & B/ Guest Houses return to the Grading and Classification scheme. The inspectors all need to start singing from the same hymn sheet. There are too many inspectors with different ideas about certain things. VS also need to restart printing information to give to guests on arrival. Guests do not always sort out on the net what they want to do before they arrive. The prices for entrance to historic site and various attractions is far too expensive.
Visit Scotland are not prepared to repair the information boards that they erected for the Clyde Sea Lochs Trail, they now say these information boards are not theirs. This is a great loss to this area.

We mainly cater for a home based market - You are correct in that it is very difficult to make sweeping judgements of the Scottish tourist industry as each town or city is different. Thankfully in Ayr we have many different revenue streams mainly Robert burns, Ayr racecourse, golf and a tradition of holidaymakers coming from Glasgow.

Overall I would say there has been no change in my business in relation to occupancy levels. I did not though recieve the deluge of enquiries from British residents in light of the supposed "staycation" which was touted.

Spotting the trend for increased UK visitors we concentrated on cherry picking bookings from longer staying guests & steered away from 1 night stays (3 or more nights), much better for the bottom line.

We also cherry picked UK visitors with a long term view to creating a repeat visitor base through a buoyant period - there were plenty of Europeans & North Americans out there - we chose not too accommodate them.

2 rather pricey hotels close by have not had the same good year as we have had therefore there is definitely a move towards value for money.

We increased prices for this season by 9% & are confident enough to do the same for next year. We have seen turnover this year increase by 40%.

We have also noted an increase in the number of guests staying in high quality B & B's that would normally stay in Hotels.

There has been a marked decrease in lead times for bookings - apart from the summer months which are always busy and booked well in advance, for other months bookings are mostly must shorter notice in 2009.

The weak pound has helped us this year with more foreign visitors however the high cost of fuel has kept visitors down from Southern England. Our energy costs are high due to our remote location and the extra delivery charges this causes - which will rise further over the next few years. Green taxes will also cost the Scottish tourism industry dearly as the UK moves out of recession. Business rates and high energy costs already discourage us from opening all year which does not help the local or wider economy.

I see our industry having a good year in 2010 and maybe 2011 with a gradual decline from there onwards back to levels seen in recent years.

2008 was our first year of trading so this may slightly skew our result. 2009 has been boosted by Staycations which may show business decline further in 2010 if people choose to travel abroad again.

Only time will tell the positive impact that Homecoming Year had on tourism in 2009. Can expect negative impact in 2010, particularly July to September.

Challenges for 2010 –

Higher prices with increase in VAT could reduce demand.

Some European countries have reduced or have low VAT on 'restaurant' food to stimulate consumer demand. We should lobby for same.

Margins will be squeezed by –

Higher energy costs

Increase in Nat Ins

Increase in Min wage

There appeared to be a huge increase in 'do it yourself' tourism this year - self catering, caravan / campervaning, roadside camping, one day visits, etc. This is what the staycationers were doing in the main. Anyone in a position to tap into that would have done well. Other more conventional sectors lost business but were unable to pick up custom from this new market.

I think if the questions were analysed further and folks who said business in 2009 in general was down, were to be asked if there were other large businesses in the area who offered deals in Feb-Jun and Oct-Nov I think a truer picture would come to light. How can a small B&B/Guesthouse that needs to charge £35-40 per double room to break even, compete with a large hotel with spa/leisure club etc that prices themselves down to the £35-40 mark! There will be winners and losers, but the false low prices will rack up the percentages.

Also, the rural areas with the exception perhaps of Skye seemed to be quieter than the larger towns and cities but maybe the general percentage is still higher than 2008 as these cities had events on that drew folks in to them at the smaller towns detriment.

The outlook for 2010 appears to be very good at this stage with a high level of advance bookings and enquiries.

I operate in the Isle of Skye which has had a particularly buoyant year on every level. We have had excellent numbers of visitors from Scotland, from the rest of the UK and an increase in European visitors for the first time for several years. We should concentrate on the European visitors much more, as they love what we have to offer in the way of wilderness, quality and good food.

Homecoming made a difference, but not a hugely perceivable difference in my area. Virtually all of the major events took place many miles from here and this may have made a difference to the number of US and Canadian visitors on the island as they were attracted to well-publicised events elsewhere.

I would like to see the Tourism Industry given much greater credit, publicly, for the difference it has made to the Scottish economy over this worrying economic period and also, that the industry be given every assistance and encouragement to grow in the immediate future. Tourism is King!

Reservations received much later, people leaving to the last minute for deals. I believe that business volumes will remain about the same for 2010, but expect a more positive outlook in the market place, linked to good feel factor of coming out of recession. I am planning on a positive win 2011.

The rolling out of RET (road equivalent tariff) from the Western Isles routes to the rest of the Cal-Mac network would improve tourism to the other Scottish islands greatly

2009 has not been as successful as the media/government and Tourist Board would have everyone believe. The recession is as bad in Europe as it is here, a point often forgotten.

Self catering and camp sites will have done very well to the detriment of B&B/Guest Houses and small hotels.

Whilst business is marginally up, about 1 - 1.5% and that is patchy across Scotland and the UK it cannot be deemed as a 'Bumper' year as Mr Salmond will have it.

Next the 'Home Coming' great for Edinburgh and possibly Glasgow but was about as bright as a very damp squib in the Highlands. Tourism Scotland means just that 'Scotland' not the bits that make the headlines look good!

Early part of 2009 seemed slightly better than 2008, but tailed off through summer and autumn to a level worse than 2008.

Self-catering better than 2008, but B&B worse. Overall level slightly worse

Damage has been caused by Fire Regulations and licensing laws - increasing bureaucracy strangles small operators. Insufficient understanding of the above by present government.

Apr to Sep 2009 about 9% up on 2008, however, completely negated by the marked downturn in domestic UK business in Oct and forward.

We are a new business and it is difficult to compare with last year as we had all our start up costs. Very disappointed with the number of VS referrals and general support

VS Seasonal marketing campaigns which have cost a lot of money have yielded no results whatsoever so will not be repeated yet Farm related agencies have proved to be both more benficial in terms of sales and also business supportive

Been a difficult season business was good but everyone looking for deals and all our costs and overheads going through the roof, winter period looks to be difficult as well as the business community round this area is almost none existent

We need stronger leisure packages to attract visitors.

I have had more enquiries this year from people who have not booked. I feel uk people are looking for the lowest price.

Visitors obviously cutting corners on spending. We notice fewer kids meals, extra plate instead for some of parents meal, coffee instead of latte, and no cake, 2 course instead of 3, and water instead of wine. Customers haggling over prices, and rates being reduced, yet so many increases in costs, many government led, eg licensing fees. Certainly would not advise anyone to go into tourism industry.

Although our business has seen a pleasing increase this year, it has to be said that in spite of being a member of the tourist board for the past 7years it is hard to define exactly what part they played. As far as I can see the only advantage of subscribing to them ( expensively I may add )is the display of the star system and the link on the website, very little came from the local office. The majority of our business came from other sources.

We are fortunate to occupy a very good location for new business....we have also been here for 11 years with regular repeat business and a formula that will hopefully get us through Winter, others may not be so lucky!

Wonder where the "official" visitor figures come from, since they are never the same as my experience. Glasgow airport says it all!

There are certainly more people about this year. However, the overall spend per head is down with people spending less on food and drink. With costs up and set to rise further courtesy of the government, banks and the utilities industry, I foresee tough times ahead.

Probably the euro/pound parity but we have seen an increase in European visitors, especially Italy/Spain/Holland whilst maintaining good support from Australia & Canada

Apart form North east & mountain bike specifics general tourists from England have been quieter than expected with the stay home tourism expected in the current economic climate but overall we have seen an increase say 15-20% on overall bed spaces this year but this is largely due to our proximity to Glentress for the Mountain bikers which has seen good growth in numbers so is one aspect of tourism little affected by the current economic situation

2010 will be a challenging year. Impacts of recession and redundancies etc will kicking through winter of 2010

Business is 45% down when compared to same period last year. Homecoming had absolutely no effect on business whatsoever and as usual the Borders are at the bottom of the heap when it comes to advertising/publicity

No growth. Less high season but more off season. No business from Australia/NZ this year

My self catering bookings are historically very good from April through to October so hard to judge the effect this year other than some additional interest for winter months.

Since early September there has been a huge downward pressure on demand and hence achieved room rate.

Our area (Kintyre) has been particularly busy and I have personally benefitted from bookings that other places refused to their regular clients. In fact these folk have expressed a wish to come back to me next year and one family has already booked for 2 weeks. I am also now getting more Scottish visitors than I used to.

Perceived value for money is important, as is a quality product. It is also necessary to promote the product in the right place with team effort.

Did not see any benefit to my business from Year of Homecoming.

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