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Visit Scotland | Alba

In March 2021, the First Minister announced a new £25 million tourism recovery programme. The recovery proposals were developed by the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) 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, allowing 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, setting 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
  2. Destination and sector marketing fund
  3. ScotSpirit Holiday Voucher Scheme – social tourism
  4. Days Out incentive scheme 
  5. Visitor management strategic infrastructure planning and delivery 
  6. Tourism and Hospitality Talent Development Programme 2021/22 (phase two)
  7. Leadership development to boost product innovation
  8. Destination Net Zero 
  9. Scottish Tourism Observatory 
  10. Investment models to support Scottish tourism recovery

1. International demand building

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

Campaign and fund activity delivered as a result of STERG's international demand building recovery investment 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 and are 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 with campaign videos being 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, and SEO searches for Scotland increased by 16%.

2. Destination and sector marketing fund

The Destination & Sector Marketing Fund provided a vital source of funds for destination & sector groups at a time when they had been focused on providing vital support to members and businesses that they work with to help to support their survival beyond coronavirus (COVID-19).

The fund gave them the opportunity to re-focus on marketing and look towards a post-COVID world. For a lot of groups it was the first time that they had been asked to position their destination or sector in a way that translated into a consumer experience that was entirely driven by consumer insights as well as responsible tourism principles.

Overall, the Destination & Sector Marketing Fund supported 73 destination organisations and sector groups to 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, representing 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 and the catalogue of tourism businesses participating in the scheme. VisitScotland worked with charities and bodies such as Shared Care Scotland and local care centres and The Family Holiday Association to distribute the availability of the vouchers to people in the greatest need.

It had a number of benefits.

Destination related:

  • Boost to the regional investment (accommodation, retail, transport, hospitality, attractions, cultural sector)
  • Promotion of a destination’s tourism potential to the wider public



  • Increased citizenship awareness and participation in community life
  • Health & mental health benefits

4. Days Out incentive scheme

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

The Days Out Incentive Fund was established to provide funding to visitor attractions, experiences and day tour operators, to enable and facilitate a consumer-facing incentive (up to 50% off).

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


  • 144 visitor attractions, activity providers and day tour operators benefited from £1.6 million Grant Award funding
  • Over 240 individual days out offers promoted on
  • VisitScotland’s Scotland targeted marketing campaign reached over 1.1 million views across national and regional media, including 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 designed to support more extensive and collaborative projects from visitor hotspots across Scotland that are facing immediate and damaging pressures on their infrastructure or negative impacts on communities as a result of significant increases in visitor numbers since the summer of 2020.

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

Of the first batch of 11 STIDPs, eight local authorities have now submitted completed plans.  Although 1 has not provided costs at this stage, the total value of the other seven plans comes 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 have completed their STIDP submitted an additional 24 applications for further detailed development grant to work up the projects ready for implementation by 1 April 2023.  Of these, 16 were approved in March 2022.

With a further 13 new strategic development plans still at the initiation phase, there is strong evidence of a pipeline of projects for the next 3-5 years which 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 when the green shoots appear.

The National Transition Training Fund Programme (Tourism and Hospitality Talent Development Programme) delivered online supervisory, management and leadership training 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, Climate Emergency training, mental health and wellbeing programme, Tourism induction Toolkit, Complete Storytelling training programme, Talent Attraction programme and Disability/inclusion programme.

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 with skills in areas including destination development and management, responsible tourism and net zero; community tourism and destination governance are now active in the visitor economy across Scotland. They join an existing network of more than 500 destination, community and rural tourism leaders.

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

Outputs include:

  • A community calculator allowing the business events sector to record and measure the impacts of conferences to the host community – providing data to positively influence conference bids and manage community impact
  • Improved visitor management in fragile rural communities using IoT (internet of things) to facilitate safe and sustainable tourism including engagement with local communities ensuring responsible tourism is delivered
  • The joint development and implementation of innovative digital solutions within Scotland’s visitor attraction sector enabling increased revenues and greater resilience whilst encouraging sustainable management of attractions
  • A community wealth building approach led through the creation of Scotland Community Tourism Network – generating 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 with small & medium enterprises in the visitor economy using local assets and working with existing and emerging leaders

8. Destination Net Zero

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

The Destination Net Zero project set the conditions to create a greener tourism sector which demonstrates commitment through 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 confirming 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 and set the scene across Scotland within all business sizes for the adoption of carbon reducing strategies. The project pump-primed tourism destinations and communities to collaborate around low carbon initiatives and provided exemplars to inspire further action.

Specific outputs include:

  • 19 infrastructure investments were delivered – showcasing carbon reduction measures and development approaches which can be replicated
  • Additional leverage of £3.73 million investment from other sources as a result of a £1.9 million DNZ infrastructure investment in 19 projects
  • Innovation and community wealth creation projects delivered in remote rural locations with long-term assets including community owned EV and e-bike infrastructure
  • Support provided to circa 310 businesses to undertake carbon reduction activities including 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), and 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 including, 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, supporting tourism businesses and organisations to grow the visitor economy.

The launch of the initial website provides a tangible launchpad for further developments – improving existing data, creating new data to meet unfulfilled needs, and 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 consisting 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 drawing from available data and intelligence.

Through stakeholder engagement and consultation, information was also gathered on the investment funding options currently available to tourism businesses and 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 support required from Scottish Government in 2021-22. 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: 2021/22     Resource Capital Total


International Demand Building     £8 million   £8 million
2 Destination & 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: 2021/22 £20.4 million £4.6 million £25 million


Phase two

A package of recovery proposals 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 and are 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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