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  • The Scottish Tourism Observatory aims to make data for tourism in Scotland easy to find and to use, and to enrich the data available.
  • The project was born out of the national strategy, Scotland Outlook 2030: Responsible Tourism for a Sustainable Future. It was recognised that a robust evidence base is crucial for planning and decision making.
  • We delivered the project with the support of the Scottish Government, the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, and South of Scotland Enterprise. We currently fully adopted the project in order to secure its future development.

1. What does the Scottish Tourism Observatory do?

The observatory presents data on tourism in Scotland, focussing both on visitors and the industry. This includes topics such as seasonality, employment, and the visitor economy. It also provides data on the wider context with sections on UK tourism and global tourism.

Interactive dashboards and visualisations provide ready-made analyses of data. Downloadable data tables are offered to allow users to create their own analyses. Information on the data and the analyses is provided to help people use the data.

The website also signposts related data sources and research through links on each page. Where “big data” sets exist, links to their online sources are provided, e.g. the Office for National Statistics.

The data currently shared on the website is existing and available but has been analysed and made accessible in new ways. This data is "open data" from publicly available sources so it can be used and shared as necessary.

The website also includes case studies and project updates to show how people are using tourism data. This is to help encourage and inspire others on how data could be used to support their own business.

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2. International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories (INSTO)

INSTO is a UN World Tourism Organisation initiative that's made up by 31 tourism data observatories around the world.

These countries all provide relevant and useful data to aid sustainable tourism in their destination. As an affiliate member, we have proactively worked with INSTO to gain insight and identify global best practices on the role and on the impact and development of tourism observatories.

4. Understanding data needs

To ensure the development of the Scottish Tourism Observatory was firmly based on the needs of people involved in Scottish tourism, the project has involved research, feedback, and consultation throughout.

The project has received invaluable support from stakeholders across the industry through their responses and from the Industry Advisory Group which was set up to guide and advise.

The Industry Advisory Group was made up of around 25 people from across our stakeholder groups (such as businesses, organisations, Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) and local authorities)

The project team also reached out to data experts in other sectors and the Scottish Government for advice, to learn from the existing data initiatives and expertise. Current members of the UNWTO International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories were also consulted.

  • Responsible tourism data

    We will start to build the Observatory data resources relating to Responsible Tourism, to support the national strategy, Destination Net Zero and other activities. This will also follow the framework of the UNWTO International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories, of which we aim to become a member.

  • Regional data

    We know robust data at a regional level is a crucial requirement for many, but one not fully being met by available sources. A project will be set up to examine possible solutions to improve regional data.

  • Forecasting to help planning and decisions

    Forward-looking data, such as forecasts, is also a key demand. Again, a project has been set up to investigate data and methodologies to enable this.

  • Mapping tourism assets

    Another objective is to build a clearer picture of tourism assets across the country using data. A pilot project is underway which will provide learnings on which to base further activity.

  • Improving data quality

    We will also develop an action plan for improving data quality overall, guided by the work of colleagues in the Scottish Government who are already active in this area.