This year is a golden year for VisitScotland as we turn 50 on Thursday 25 July 2019 - the date when the Scottish Tourist Board was created.
Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop reflects on our journey over the last 50 years as we approach our golden anniversary.
VisitScotland – Scotland’s National Tourist Organisation – celebrates its golden anniversary this week. They’ve come a long way in that time and this is an appropriate point to reflect on their journey.
It was on the 25 July 1969 that the Development of Tourism Act 1969 passed in to law, leading to the creation of an official Scottish Tourist Board as a statutory body. And throughout this 50th anniversary year, VisitScotland is celebrating the achievements of Scotland’s tourism industry through a series of dedicated activities which look back at the development of tourism over that period.
It’s fair to say that over the last 50 years, Scotland’s tourism industry has grown to become a powerhouse of the country’s economy. Tourism has gone from a value of an estimated £100 million (£1.6 billion in today’s money) to now being worth £11 billion to the Scottish economy.
That’s a staggering £9.4 billion increase over 50 years. And while 58,300 people were employed in tourism in 1969, there are 206,000 people working in the industry today. Overall visitor numbers have tripled in that time, with 15.3 million visiting in 2018 compared to 5.12 million 50 years ago – the number of overseas visitors in that period has increased fivefold.
Our tourism industry continues to flourish, acting as a magnet for visitors from around the world who are drawn to our first-class attractions and unrivalled scenery.
That expansion has not happened by chance. Today’s success owes much to the vision of pioneers within this resilient and resourceful industry. Throughout its existence VisitScotland has given help and practical assistance to millions of visitors and businesses and has increased Scotland’s profile internationally.
Crucially, VisitScotland has improved the quality of the industry and visitor experience thanks to a range of accreditation schemes.
The strong sense of social responsibility is apparent in much of what VisitScotland does, for example its work with the Family Holiday Association on ScotSpirit Breaks which has helped more than 1,000 families to get a holiday when they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do so.
The continuing efforts of VisitScotland and its hard-working staff is vital to the economic sustainability of communities right across the country. It contributes to the success of one of Scotland’s most important industries and it also plays an important part in building our international reputation – in ensuring that Scotland is seen as an open, welcoming and friendly country.
With the support of VisitScotland in raising our profile, Scotland has been able to secure a series of major events in recent years, not least the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and the upcoming Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in September.
However, whilst we celebrate these 50 years, we must recognise that some of the greatest challenges the tourism industry has ever faced will be in the next six months.
With the on-going uncertainty of EU exit and the end of freedom of movement, coupled with rising costs for both businesses and individuals, we must not take the successes of recent years for granted.
That is why the Scottish Government will continue to work with VisitScotland and the industry to support the sustainable growth of the sector as it creates jobs, boosts the local and national economy and builds on our strong international reputation.
I congratulate VisitScotland in reaching this milestone and look forward to seeing it progress even further in the years to come.
Take a look at our infographic outlining some of the changes in the tourism sector in Scotland over the last 50 years.