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In March 2021, the First Minister announced a new £25 million tourism recovery programme.

The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) developed the recovery proposals. This was in collaboration with members of the Tourism Task Force.

The project represented initiatives over and above the scope of existing public agency funding.

The proposals were designed to accelerate recovery in the short term. This allow tourism to once again contribute to communities and to the economy of Scotland.

They were also aimed at providing the foundation for a sustainable recovery of Scottish tourism in the medium to long term. That set us back on track towards the ambitions of Scotland Outlook 2030.

The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) coordinated the delivery of these projects.

The 10 recovery proposals are detailed on this page.

1. International demand building

This project was designed to keep Scotland top of mind for when travel restrictions eased. 

The campaign and fund activity was delivered as a result of STERG's international demand building recovery investment. This gave Scottish tourism businesses a head start in recovery once travel restrictions eased.

International visitors spend up to five times more than their UK equivalents. They were also more likely to visit multiple regions of Scotland, meeting our responsible tourism objectives.

The project led to the Scotland is Calling campaign. This was a huge success. Campaign videos were viewed over 100 million times in our priority international markets with a high level of engagement.

Traffic to increased by 44% during the equivalent seven-month period year on year. During the same period, SEO searches for Scotland increased by 16%.

2. Destination & Sector Marketing Fund

This fund was vital for destination and sector groups at a time when they had been focused on providing vital support to members and businesses. Thus, the fund provided help to support their survival beyond coronavirus (COVID-19).

It also gave them the opportunity to re-focus on marketing and look towards a post-COVID world.

Recipients were asked to position their destination or sector in a way that translated into a consumer experience. These experiences were entirely driven by consumer insights and responsible tourism principles. For a lot of groups, it was the first time that they had to do something thusly.

Overall, the fund supported 73 destination organisations and sector groups. Because of the fund, they could develop and promote unique visitor propositions to a domestic audience.

Across the main award and the subsequent top up the Destination & Sector Marketing Fund distributed a total of £4,531,648 across the three tiers.

This has meant that 50 destinations were supported. These destinations represented 30 of the 32 local authorities, as well as 23 regional and national sector groups. This ensured that the funding had an impact nationally.

3. ScotSpirit holiday voucher scheme – social tourism

The scheme paid for unpaid carers and low-income families to take a holiday. Vouchers were used for overnight accommodation and admission to attractions.

VisitScotland managed the promotion of the scheme to the tourism industry for sign-up. We also catalogued tourism businesses participating in the scheme.

We worked with charities and bodies, such as Shared Care Scotland, local care centres, and The Family Holiday Association. Together, we distributed the availability of the vouchers to people in the greatest need.

Destination related benefits:

  • boost to the regional investment (accommodation, retail, transport, hospitality, attractions, cultural sector)

  • promotion of a destination’s tourism potential to the wider public

Social benefits:

  • increased citizenship awareness and participation in community life

  • physical and mental health benefits

4. Days Out incentive fund

The project supported the recovery of tourism businesses following the pandemic. It encouraged visitation to attractions and experiences across Scotland in the off-season.

The fund was established to provide funding to visitor attractions, experiences and day tour operators. This enabled and facilitated a consumer-facing incentive (up to 50% off).

The offers were collated on They were then promoted under the marketing campaign umbrella “Great Days Out in Scotland”.

  • 144 visitor attractions, activity providers, and day tour operators saw £1.6 million in grant award funding

  • Over 240 individual days out offers promoted on

  • Our Scotland targeted marketing campaign reached over 1.1 million views across national and regional media (this included paid social, press, radio, and digital ads, plus owned channels promotion)

  • Over 143,000 pageviews of the Great Days Out campaign page on

  • 37,000 referrals generated to participating businesses

5. Visitor management strategic infrastructure planning and delivery

The Strategic Tourism Infrastructure Development Fund is a pilot initiative. It was set up to support more extensive and collaborative projects from visitor hotspots across Scotland.

These hotspots were facing immediate and damaging pressures on their infrastructure. Or they faced negative impacts on communities as a result of significant increases in visitor numbers since the summer of 2020.

11 Strategic Tourism Infrastructure Development Plans were approved for funding from the £500.000 for phase 1 delivery. Using underspend from the Better Places Fund, a further 13 were approved for development. Our total support for these plans came to £775,542.

Of the first batch of 11 STIDPs, eight local authorities have submitted completed plans. Although one did not provide costs at this stage, the total value of the other seven plans came in at over £23 million for the first three years. The remaining three are due for completion in the next three months.

Those authorities which completed their STIDP submitted an extra 24 applications for further detailed development grants. These applications were to work up the projects ready for implementation by 1 April 2023.  Of these, 16 were approved in March 2022.

There were a further 13 new strategic development plans still at the initiation phase. There was strong evidence of a pipeline of projects for the next 3-5 years. These projects will address the strategic priorities and key infrastructure issues across significant tracts of rural Scotland.

6. Tourism and Hospitality Talent Development Programme 2021/22 (phase two)

This programme was designed to give the future leaders of our industry the skills, knowledge, and networks to make an impact.

The National Transition Training Fund Programme (Tourism and Hospitality Talent Development Programme) delivered:

  • online supervisory training

  • management training

  • leadership training

This training was delivered to 1556 tourism employees. Around 532 businesses took place. Participant feedback showed 87% of participants were satisfied with the programme.

Funding addressed the following topics:

  • head chef training

  • collective labour-saving technology research and pilots

  • complete storytelling training programme

  • climate emergency training

  • disability / inclusion programme

  • mental health and wellbeing programme

  • talent attraction programme

  • tourism induction toolkit

7. Leadership development to boost product innovation

An innovation fund was a positive opportunity to stimulate collaboration across the industry. This is one of the first times that a three-agency approach to developing innovation across the tourism industry has been taken.

A total of 216 additional tourism leaders are now active in the visitor economy across Scotland. They have skills in areas, including:

  • destination development and management

  • responsible tourism and net zero

  • community tourism and destination governance

These tourism leaders join an existing network of more than 500 destination, community, and rural tourism leaders.

Ten innovative recovery projects were created and delivered. These were led by destination and community leaders. The delivery was done in collaboration with industry, public, third sector, and academic partners.

Outputs include:

  • A community calculator. This allows the business events sector to record and measure the impacts of conferences to the host community. This provides data to positively influence conference bids and manage community impact.
  • Improved visitor management in fragile rural communities using IoT (internet of things). This facilitates safe and sustainable tourism, including engagement with local communities. This ensures responsible tourism is delivered
  • The joint development and implementation of innovative digital solutions within Scotland’s visitor attraction sector. This enables increased revenues and greater resilience whilst encouraging sustainable management of attractions.
  • A community wealth building approach that's led through the creation of a Scotland Community Tourism Network. This generates revenues across this growing element of the tourism supply chain.
  • Robust and sustainable commercial business model for Scotland’s agritourism sector lead body.
  • A framework to drive collaborative product development. This features small and medium enterprises in the visitor economy who use local assets and work with existing and emerging leaders.

8. Destination Net Zero

Destination Net Zero is an excellent example of joint agency working in a complex and evolving policy area.

The project set the conditions to create a greener tourism sector. This demonstrates commitment through the delivery to Scotland’s Net Zero agenda and Tourism Outlook 2030 aims.

It created a robust, globally recognised evidence base against which industry ambitions will be developed, monitored, and supported.

The project developed a framework for a sector which invests in its people, businesses, places, and communities. This confirms Scotland’s position as a responsible tourism destination.

It positioned Scotland as a global leader in the development of policy, strategy, and actions to enable a transition to a net zero visitor economy.

The project supported the sector to have the capacity, capability, and innovation ability to invest in low carbon initiatives.

It increased business resilience. But it also set the scene across Scotland within all business sizes for the adoption of carbon reducing strategies.

The project pump-primed tourism destinations and communities. This let them collaborate around low carbon initiatives. It also provided exemplars to inspire further action.

Specific outputs include:

  • 19 infrastructure investments were delivered. These showcased carbon reduction measures and development approaches which can be replicated.

  • Additional leverage of £3.73 million investment from other sources. This is a result of a £1.9 million destination net zero infrastructure investment in 19 projects.

  • Innovation and community wealth creation projects were delivered in remote rural locations with long-term assets. These included community owned EV and e-bike infrastructure.

  • Support was provided to circa 310 businesses to undertake carbon reduction activities. These included development of carbon monitoring plans, installation of kit (including EV charge facilities), and food waste reduction measures.

  • Engagement of 231 businesses through a range of events, one to many, one to few and online engagements (workshops, seminars etc). Over 7000 stakeholders engaged through online channels.

  • Installation of 194 new EV charge points in 92 tourism businesses.

  • 170 additional businesses achieving “green accreditation”.

  • Creation and ongoing development of online industry facing resources through dedicated Destination Net Zero space on

  • Delivery of a suite of research and evidence. These included informing on attitudes and industry capabilities around carbon reduction.

9. Scottish Tourism Observatory

The Scottish Tourism Observatory aims to make data easy to find and to use. This way, it supports tourism businesses and organisations to grow the visitor economy.

The launch of the initial website provides a tangible launchpad for further developments, such as:

  • improving existing data

  • creating new data to meet unfulfilled needs

  • creating connections between stakeholders with similar challenges and objectives

The target phase 1 outputs were achieved within the funded period as follows:

  • phase 1 user research

  • phase 1 data discovery

  • identification of technical requirements

  • phase 1 options appraisal

  • phase 1 commission, design and build of an initial product (this consists of development of a website and provision of back-end architecture, and data pipeline for the observatory)

  • a workstream of stakeholder engagement and support from the tourism industry for the project

10. Investment models to support Scottish tourism recovery

The research attempted to present an overview of the financing of the Scottish tourism sector. For this, it drew from available data and intelligence.

Through stakeholder engagement and consultation, information was also gathered on:

  • the investment funding options currently available to tourism businesses
  • the challenges that businesses in tourism faced in obtaining finance to invest

A number of considerations for Scottish Government and its agencies in the development of any future investment options in support of the Scottish tourism sector and a range of possible options were also identified.

The findings of the research included:

  • banks are the most active participants in tourism funding market

  • other participants include lending from other companies, generally from related party entities, or in some limited cases from suppliers

  • other (non-bank) lenders such as asset based finance providers also play a minor role in providing secured lending

Phased approach to recovery planning

A phased approach was taken in order to meet specific timescales set by the Scottish Government.

Phase one

A set of priority recovery proposals which outlined the immediate required support from Scottish Government in 2021-2022. These proposals were over and above the urgent need for ongoing business support to ensure business survival.

On 24 March 2021, £25 million was secured to support the delivery of 10 priority recovery projects.

      Approved funding for year: 2021-2022     Resource Capital Total


International demand building     £8 million   £8 million
2 Destination and sector marketing, and product development fund     £3 million   £3 million
3 ScotSpirit Holiday Voucher Scheme – Social Tourism £1.4 million   £1.4 million
4 Days out incentive scheme £4 million   £4 million
5 Strategic infrastructure plans   £0.5 million £0.5 million
6 Tourism and hospitality talent development programme 2021-2022 £2.5 million   £2.5 million
7 Leadership development to boost product innovation £0.662 million £0.1 million £0.762 million
8 A net zero pathway for Scotland’s tourism industry £0.75 million £3.2 million £3.95 million
9 Scottish Tourism Observatory   £0.8 million £0.8 million
10 Investment models to support Scottish tourism recovery £0.05 million   £0.05 million
  Total costs for year: 2021-2022 £20.4 million £4.6 million £25 million


Phase two

A package of recovery proposals was identified through a comprehensive stakeholder consultation carried out in spring 2021.

The proposals identifying activity up to 2024 were designed to provide a pathway to recovery for our industry and destinations. These were designed to deliver outcomes aligned to Scotland Outlook 2030 at the same time.

STERG submitted the proposals to the Scottish Government in August 2021.

Scottish Tourism | Two-year recovery recommendations

Published November 2021

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