The latest insights into how COVID-19 has impacted tourism and the events industry across Scotland
Explore below results from research carried out with the tourism industry since March 2020 and the outbreak of COVID-19.
In this section:
- Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) COVID-19 Full Industry Survey
- Events industry consultations and feedback
- Tourism industry survey results | March 2020
STERG COVID-19 full industry survey
In October 2020, STERG requested that a full industry survey be undertaken to ascertain the following:
- To establish the effect of the past seven months on businesses within the Scottish Tourism Industry;
- To discover what has worked well and what could have been better in terms of support offered;
- To understand what the current issues are and what further support is needed over the next six months;
- To establish what sectors / parts of the country may have performed better than others since re-opening after lockdown;
- To discover what future plans individual businesses have for the next six months.
Progressive, an independent research agency, were appointed to undertake the survey on behalf of STERG. 2,974 responses were received to the survey which ran from 19 November to 6 December 2020.
STERG COVID-19 full industry survey - November 2020 | Results overview
Responses by sector
It can be seen below that the Self-Catering, B&B/Guesthouse and Hotel sectors responded most strongly to the survey with Visitor Attractions, Tour Operators and Tour Guides also responding well. 97% of businesses responding had been in operation for more than one year with 3% being new start-ups.
Size of business / number of staff
Half of businesses responding (50%) were owner / proprietor run businesses pre-Covid with a further third (33%) being businesses employing 1-10 staff.
In terms of business turnover pre-Covid, the graph below shows that responding businesses had a wide range of turnover figures in a more ‘normal’ tourism year ranging from 16% of businesses with turnover of less than £15,000 to just over a tenth of businesses who were turning over in excess of £1M.
Region (where most of their business is based)
Businesses in the Highlands responded most strongly (23%) with businesses in Argyll & the Isles (10%), Perthshire (7%) and Edinburgh (7%) also responding well. 6% of businesses were national operators.
Businesses were asked how the re-opening of tourism in July 2020 affected their business. 19% of respondents reported that their business did not re-open. 5% of these respondents stated that their business had now permanently closed with the majority (79%) stating that they would re-open when conditions improved. A further 16% were unsure what the future would hold.
35% of businesses claimed to do worse than expected with encouragingly 25% of businesses stated they had done better than expected.
Of those businesses who said that they had done better or worse than expected, 13% stated they had done better than the levels seen in 2019 with the majority (78%) stating that levels were below those of 2019. 9% thought their business levels were similar to those seen in 2019.
Businesses were asked how much revenue they had lost so far this year due to COVID-19. More than half of all business responding (58%) claim to have lost up to £50,000 with more than 6% of respondents claiming to have lost more than £1M.
Of those businesses employing staff, 76% of respondents have reported a reduction in staff numbers. 35% stated they have made redundancies with 69% putting staff on furlough. Almost two thirds stated that they didn’t employ staff that they normally would.
Businesses were then asked how likely it was that staff numbers would have to be reduced further with two thirds stating that it was fairly or very likely.
Of those stating they are likely to reduce staff numbers further, the majority (77%) have stated this is primarily because of the effects of the pandemic.
Businesses were asked a series of questions around how they were surviving the crisis. It can be seen below that many businesses are in a difficult situation with limited or no cash reserves to last over the winter period.
Businesses were also asked whether they had changed their business model in any way with a third (33%) stating they had already made changes to their business with a further 17% planning changes.
When asked what changes these were, targeting new markets (60%) was a popular response as well as looking at new ways at which to market and sell their product (67%).
Businesses were asked about their future going forward into 2021. It can be seen below that 15% of businesses plan to continue trading as they are during the next 6 months, however more than half of businesses will continue trading but on a reduced basis either due to COVID-19 (27%) or due to both Covid and normal seasonal reductions in trade (26%). 17% plan to close until the Spring of 2021.
In terms of surviving the crisis, it can be seen below that the majority believe they will get through the current situation (73%) albeit with some changes (45%). However, 10% of businesses (in addition to the ones who have already ceased trading permanently) believe their business may not survive with a further 17% unsure of what the future holds.
Respondents were asked which financial support packages they had accessed so far during the crisis. Both the Furlough scheme (accessed in both time periods) and the Business Support Grant Fund were the most accessed support mechanisms alongside the Coronavirus Bounce Back Loan and Self Employment Income Support Scheme. However, 18% of businesses stated they did not qualify for any financial support.
STERG were also interested in awareness levels for non-financial support that public sector and industry organisations were offering to businesses during the crisis. The graph below shows a varying level of awareness of the support options available with advice and support from public agencies (65%), Industry initiatives such as Good to Go (66%) and lobbying of government by industry bodies (60%) having the highest levels of awareness. Only 11% claimed to be unaware of any support options.
Respondents (who were aware of the particular support option listed) were asked to rate it as to its usefulness. The top scoring aspects were: sector specific guidelines (mean score 4.04 out of 5); followed by lobbying of government by industry bodies (mean score 4.0 out of 5); results from industry surveys (mean score 3.9 out of 5); and communications from public sector and industry bodies (mean score 3.7 / 5). Other aspects were scored slightly lower and will be detailed in the full report.
In terms of sources of support and advice, the following graph shows the proportion of respondents who had used the support on offer from public sector and industry organisations. It can be seen that the most used source is visitscotland.org* (62%), the Scottish Government website (53%) and support offered through Communications from your sector or destination organisation (42%).
* please note that the survey was distributed via a link on the visitscotland.org website which may have influenced this figure;
The following graph shows which of the accessed information and advice sources were felt to be of most use to respondents (who had used them) with Communications from your sector or destination organisation (28%) scoring particularly well, followed by the Scottish Government website (22%) and VisitScotland.org (17%).
Future support needs | Financial support
Respondents were asked about the importance of 3 areas of longer-term financial support to their business i.e. access to cash (from bank etc), access to funding (UK/Scottish government) and investment in their business e.g. from the private sector. These can be seen below. The initial graph below shows ‘access to government funding’ was felt to be most important to businesses with 48% of respondents stating that it was ‘critical’ – scoring it 5 out of 5 (with a further 18% scoring it 4/5). Access to cash was also extremely important to more than a quarter of respondents. Investment in their business was felt to be of lesser importance to respondents.
Future support needs | Non-financial support
It can be seen from the graphs below that ‘continued lobbying of government on behalf of the tourism industry’ (mean score 4.47 out of 5) followed by ‘continued support and advice from industry bodies’ (mean score of 4.34 /5) and ‘support with recovery marketing’ (mean 3.72 / 5) are felt to be the most important aspects of non-financial support required by businesses.
The above represents a summary analysis of the majority of the survey. Analysis of additional survey questions not covered above include the quantity questions concerning increases/decreases in turnover and occupancy (which require a more detailed analysis) together with the themes identified from the open-ended comments. A breakdown of significant results by sector/region will also be available upon full reporting in January 2021.
Please Note: All figures are provisional and subject to revision upon final reporting. The data in this survey has not been weighted and is therefore representative only of those businesses, sectors and regions who have responded. The final report will be produced by Progressive in January 2021.
COVID-19 events industry consultation
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is having a major impact on sporting, cultural and business events.
As part of our continued work to support the events sector throughout this period, we have undertaken a series of virtual forums with more than 120 senior representatives from across the sector to gather insight into the issues and challenges they are facing.
Following on from Event Industry Forums, we asked businesses working closely with the events sector to complete an online survey about the impact of COVID-19 on their business.
The fragility of the events supply chain was identified as one of the key shared concerns across the sector. In response to this, VisitScotland Events Directorate asked businesses working closely with the events sector to complete an online survey about the impact of COVID-19 on their business. The key findings from the survey have now been published.
The forums have provided a wealth of information and the constructive feedback gathered is helping inform and shape a sustainable recovery plan for our very important events industry. Here is a summary of the key themes from the discussions.
In December 2020, VisitScotland’s Events Directorate conducted a second online survey of the event industry supply chain to gather further vital information on the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the businesses working in the sector, and to accurately inform the measures required to ensure Scotland’s events industry survives.
COVID-19 tourism industry survey results
We’re proactively tracking the effects of Coronavirus on the industry. This is a rapidly changing situation and it's important for us, with your valued regular input, to be able to monitor developments.
We’ve conducted two surveys thus far, both have allowed us to see not only the overall impact on Scottish tourism, but also the impact it is having across different regions and business sectors, so that we can consider how best we might adapt our activities. It's also allowed us to inform the Scottish Government and other industry bodies. Thank you to those that took part.
We had 2,243 responses - 62% were accommodation providers.
- 99% of businesses responding have experienced cancellations/decline in bookings/fewer visitors
- 54% of respondents were owner/proprietor run businesses with no employees; a further 33% were small businesses of 1-10 FTE’s
- The largest responding segment with 38% were non-serviced accommodation providers
- 58% of respondents (with employees) stated they have had to reduce staff numbers to date (30 March) with a likelihood of further losses in the future.
- The majority of respondents claim to have lost up to £50,000, with some claiming losses of substantially more than this.
- Average length for survival of business without support is 3 months
- 43% want long term relief from paying business related taxes e.g. VAT
Other key issues raised include loss of income compounded by seasonality, support as grants not loans, business Interruption Insurance not paying out, support needed for self employed including those falling between the cracks in support measures announced i.e. new start-ups, those using their own home and still having to pay existing bills, those renting and those who do not qualify for grant under current rules.
There were 2,200 completed responses from the following business types: Non-serviced Accommodation 30%; Hotel, B&B & Guesthouse 30%; Activities, Attractions and Tours 25%; Food, Drink and Retail businesses 9%; and businesses that classified themselves as ‘other’ 5%.
Responding to questions on the impact to business in the week beginning 9 March:
- 60% of businesses report that they have experienced an increase in cancellations, a drop in bookings, or that they have received fewer visitors in the previous week.
- The biggest impacts were recorded amongst the Hotel, B&B & Guesthouse category, with 72% reporting negatively, whilst 66% of Activities, Attractions and Tours said they have been adversely affected. 55% of Food, Drink and Retail businesses were also affected.
Of those that responded, 55% of businesses were able to quantify what this means in lost revenue. Total losses recorded:
- Total losses for cancellations in this past week, £3,508,807.
- Total losses for future bookings in this past week, £17,534,764.