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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 13:10 GMT
Taking flight to attract tourists
Tourists at Callanish on the Isle of Lewis
The inquiry into tourism lasted eight months
A report on the future of Scottish tourism has called for greater efforts to attract new direct air services into the country.

MSPs on the Scottish Parliament's enterprise committee have urged tourism body VisitScotland to mount a "vigorous campaign" to exploit and develop the potential for new budget air routes.

The report also calls for an investigation into whether the fact that a single company owns Scotland's three largest airports is a cause for concern.

If Scotland is to keep pace then it needs to respond quickly to this dynamic new tourism

Alex Neil
Committee convener
The committee has published more than 40 recommendations following an eight-month inquiry.

Committee convener Alex Neil said tourism had been in decline for a number of years.

"We commissioned research and discovered that the global tourism market is changing at a speed never seen before," said the Scottish National Party MSP.

"If Scotland is to keep pace then it needs to respond quickly to this dynamic new tourism."

No frills air travel has been expanding, with new airlines being set up to offer cheap flights from Scotland.

Ryanair plane
MSPs want to see more cheap flights
Now MSPs are urging a more proactive approach to encourage visitors.

The report called for a "vigorous" campaign by VisitScotland to exploit the potential of the Scottish Executive's new Route Development Fund and develop new budget airline routes into Scotland.

MSPs said that the private finance initiative for Inverness airport should be re-negotiated because the existing contract discouraged the development of new routes.

The report said there should be an investigation to establish whether BAA Scottish Airports' ownership of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports limited effective competition.

Other recommendations include:

  • The creation of a Scottish presence in British Tourist Authority (BTA) offices around the world

  • More private sector representation on the boards of VisitScotland and other key bodies, along with a stronger lead by the industry

  • More specific evaluation and target setting by VisitScotland

  • An independent evaluation of the impact of the 4.75m allocated to combat the effects of foot-and-mouth disease on tourism.

The report also said that the merits of a compulsory registration scheme for tourist accommodation, such as guest houses, should be considered.

And it said that the roles of the various public bodies involved in tourism should be set out more clearly.

However, Scottish councils complained that MSPs had not asked them to comment on or respond to the report's recommendations - even though councils are Scotland's biggest provider of visitor attractions.

'Substantial' recovery

George Purcell, vice president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), said: "Local government was here long before the parliament and yet as they approach the end of their first term, this is how we are treated - with complete disdain."

BAA said it was comfortable with any inquiry looking at its ownership of airports.

A spokesman said it would become clear that BAA as an international group was best placed to invest in the Scottish airports.

The report said tourism contributed up to 5% of Scotland's gross domestic product and employs 9% of the total workforce.

It said parts of the industry had started to make a "substantial" recovery from the impact of the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak.

See also:

18 Nov 02 | Scotland
13 Nov 02 | Scotland
12 Nov 02 | Scotland
14 Oct 02 | Scotland
12 Aug 02 | Scotland
31 Jul 02 | Scotland
24 Jul 02 | Scotland
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